Building a future proof kitchen

Wayne Bennett, our VP Sales and Marketing UK and Ireland, explores some of the key innovations that are helping to future proof commercial kitchens in the rapidly-evolving kitchen equipment industry.

With rising energy costs and more stringent targets on emissions across many sectors, it is no surprise that the focus on running costs and sustainability performance in commercial kitchens continues to grow. 

Naturally, operators want their kitchens to perform well, meet compliance and drive efficiencies. But perhaps more than ever, they need all of to be achieved now and in the future too. Because despite the fast pace at which technology moves forward, nobody wants to pay again if their investment becomes outdated too early. 

In many cases, we see operators now are focused on not just the kW cost they pay for gas or electric when investing in equipment, but the whole ‘life cycle cost’ – which is a positive step forward. The mantra is  ‘buy once, buy well’, even if you have to pay a bit more for it up front, because it will save you in the long run. But this is only viable if the appliances being purchased are built to perform to the same standards (including efficiency) throughout that life cycle. 

We believe manufacturers have a role to play in minimising energy use for operators.That’s why, as part of our wide-ranging sustainability strategy across the business, we are committed to continuously developing products that consume as little energy and water as possible, operating reliably and efficiently for many years. 

With that in mind, let’s explore some of the value-adding innovations that are helping to drive performance in sustainability and kitchen efficiency for chefs today, whilst helping to ensure the future effectiveness of their kitchens too. 

Electric appliances

The decisions for operators has always been whether to cook on a real gas flame, or use electric cooktops. Often this has been a matter of choice for the chef, but chefs invariably move on before the average lifetime of a kitchen investment. Now, with added pressure of running costs, it is becoming a wider business decision and we’re definitely selling more electric appliances than we were two, three or five years ago. 

This is reflected in the development and availability of appliances, with greater choice on electric products than ever before. Take the Counter SL modular range, for example, which is new to the UK market from MKN. Electric options comprise the majority of appliances to reflect current trends for lower running costs, with choices including Vitro ceran hobs, induction hobs, deep fat fryers, griddle plates, bain maries and grills. 

When you understand the difference in efficiency, it’s easy to see why. Induction cooking in modular ranges such as Counter SL and Hotline can reduce boiling time by 55% compared to hot plates, with additional energy saving helping to ensure 2.5 tons of CO2 reduction per year.

Energy optimisation 

One of the big differences with electric appliances in relation to technology advancements is the potential for energy optimisation, which is helping to drive efficiency in commercial kitchens. 

Such technology is common in mainland Europe but is now starting to be implemented here in the UK. MKN is one of few manufacturers with the technology that enables our appliances to connect with and optimise in line with an energy optimisation interface, using the latest technology to reduce the peak demand of the kitchen in line with the Standard DIN 18875 Equipment for Commercial Kitchens - Interface for Power Optimization. 

And it has significant benefits for new build projects too. An energy optimisation system can bridge the gap of converting a kitchen, saving the operator from upgrading power into the building if the power load isn’t sufficient and enhancing the long-term cost viability of the project. It means no digging up the road and no new cables into the building, which can be prohibitive costs for many. 

FOG collection 

One of the biggest environmental issues in the commercial kitchen is FOG (Fats, Oils and Grease) management, with increasingly stringent requirements placed on operators to prevent FOG from reaching the sewage network. And the demands are only set to get more stringent, with water companies coming down hard on offenders who are clogging up the sewer network by not taking their obligations seriously. 

Manufacturers have responded and MKN is tackling grease issue head-on with the launch of our Grease Collection system, available as an option on MKN FlexiCombi MagicPilot combi steamer models. 

Such technology allows operators to achieve 100% separation of recyclable cooking liquids and waste water. With our system, the excess oil, fats and liquids from the oven are pumped into a separate container and can be sold to other industries such as biofuel and cosmetics to create a revenue stream from waste.  

It means any waste water is near completely clean, preventing any issues around clogged pipes, whilst the residue cooked liquids can disposed of in a safe and environmentally-friendly way. 

Heat exchanger technology

Any means of reducing the energy consumption of kitchen appliances will be welcomed, and again it’s a way to secure long-term efficiency bearing in mind the current energy landscape. If an oven can demonstrate energy savings, it will reduce life-cycle running costs and enhance the investment opportunity. 

A host of individual energy-saving features have been pioneered and developed by respective manufacturers, but very few give tangible savings like MKN’s heat exchanger technology on FlexiCombi models, which saves 1.1kW per hour with the 10-grid model. Multiply that saving over the week, across a large restaurant chain portfolio, pub company or NHS Hospital Trust, and it’s easy to see the potential for significant savings. 

Heat exchangers work by transferring heat from one place to another, acting as a waste heat recovery system. In FlexiCombi, the waste heat is used to preheat the water which is needed for steam generation - resulting in less energy being needed for steam generation because warm water needs less energy to become steam than cold water.

His article was published in December

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