To coin a new word, "superperforming" might be a good way to describe this year's crop of new products. Besides doing their usual tasks, this equipment can help your operation be greener, maximize your energy usage and work wirelessly.
An eco-conscious kitchen is becoming a priority for more and more restaurants. Luckily, it doesn't cost a lot of money or take a lot of effort to start making your operation greener—even small steps can help. For example, the Tear-N-Dry Eco paper towel dispenser from San Jamar shows how an often-overlooked product can be made more earth-friendly. The dispenser can use non-mercury batteries and its compact footprint means 15 percent less material was used in its manufacture. It accepts all paper types, including 100 percent recycled paper—another green advantage.
On the large equipment front, Manitowoc recently unveiled its Multiplex beverage system, which replaces hydroflourocarbon refrigerants with carbon dioxide. The company claims that the new system delivers performance consistent with that of current systems. Look for it to be widely available in 2009.
Manufacturers have also started looking at the environment in a "big picture" way. Ice-O-Matic recently initiated a Global Sustainability program to help offset the carbon footprint of its manufacturing facility. For each icemaker sold, the company will plant a tree, with an ultimate goal of 150,000 trees to be planted.
An increasing number of energy-saving products hit the market this year, and many of them have additional benefits—such as convenience, increased efficiency or increased speed—that make them especially attractive. The Energy Star-rated EnduraHeat transport cart from Carter-Hoffmann/Middleby provides greater convenience with its internal, rechargeable heat system. Once charged, the carts hold a safe heating temperature for up to two hours, eliminating the need for canned fuel or connection to a power outlet. Alto-Shaam's new FryTech gas fryer also carries an Energy Star rating. It has a redesigned heat exchange, which not only uses less gas but also has a faster recovery time and higher overall efficiency rate.
Microwave ovens have been recognized for their energy efficiency for years, but with the new Microwave Grill and Flatstone from Silar, they are even faster and more versatile. This insert is made from a composite ceramic material that conducts heat to cook food even more quickly than normal microwave speed. The insert is reversible, with one side flat for cooking pizzas and the other side ridged for grilling, and is compatible with standard microwave ovens.
In both front and back of house, wireless technology is being used in new ways. Menusoft's Digital Dining system features handheld POS units that allow waitstaff to take orders and send them directly to the prep printers without leaving tableside. A "suggestive selling" function on the units lets the staff upsell or suggest alternatives when an item runs out. The units also interface with credit card swipe devices, so payments can be processed at the table and the credit card never leaves the diner's sight.
Following in the footsteps of Dick Tracy and his "two-way wrist radio" is the GuestCom II system. Waitstaff wear a wireless pager that looks like a wristwatch. When diners need service, they press a button on a device at their table, and the table's number is displayed on the appropriate server's wrist pager.
Long a favorite of cell phone users, Bluetooth technology has now found its way into the kitchen. Hobart's new combi-oven offers an optional Bluetooth-enabled barcode scanner and software kit. By using the software, kitchen staff can code recipes with unique barcodes that contain information on cooking mode, time and temperature. The barcodes then can be sent directly to the Combi Oven to control the cooking process or exported to a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, laptop or PDA in order to print a customized recipe sheet.