For various reasons, many operators continue to turn more toward electric cooking equipment. Here’s what they should consider when purchasing these items.
When it comes to foodservice equipment and equipment parts, supply chain problems have eased but not been resolved by any means. It can still be difficult to find certain components or replacement units.
These market conditions have some operators considering swapping older gas-fired cooking pieces near or at the end of their lifecycle with new electric powered pieces that can be delivered in a matter of days or weeks instead of months.
Operators considering such a change must factor in more than equipment availability, though.
The first question is whether the kitchen can accommodate the specific unit under consideration. For starters, there needs to be electricity at the spot in the kitchen where the equipment will reside. And the equipment’s electrical requirements must match what the kitchen can provide.
Beyond that though, operators should understand some of the everyday pluses and minuses of switching to electric cooking equipment.
According to Donald Jones, a refrigeration service manager with Baltimore-based service agency EMR, the cost of electric can be a negative. Electric units may have a higher price tag than their gas counterparts and can cost more to operate degree for degree, per Jones.
Switching from gas to electric also requires kitchens to adjust their recipes in some cases, as the different heat sources can impact the final product, Jones says. This is particularly true for food that’s cooked on range tops or placed under a cheese melter. To avoid surprises, operators should talk to their manufacturers’ representatives or equipment dealer and even see if a demonstration or even a trial run in a test kitchen is possible.
On the plus side, Jones says, is the kitchen environment. In Jones’ experience, electric kitchens are cooler than gas-fired kitchens. This is likely due to the direct application of heat on electric stoves and the quick heat-up times on electric ovens, which means they can be turned off when not in use. This also, notes Jones, lowers utility usage during off-peak hours.
“With the gas, you’re constantly running that unit and you get blazed with heat when you open the oven door. The recovery time for electric feels like it’s just a little bit better than the gas,” he says.
Electric equipment also needs to be treated differently from a service standpoint.
As a rule of thumb, says Jones, electrical equipment is generally simpler than gas-fired equipment. That means these units are easier to maintain and repair, which can translate to lower repair bills.
When electric units do encounter problems, tripped circuits are often the culprit. According to Jones, some municipalities require electric units to be hooked into a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlet. If one of these pieces of equipment won’t turn on, operators should check if the GFCI needs to be reset. Often a push of the button can solve the problem and avoid a truck roll from a service agency.
If the equipment isn’t hooked into a GFCI and regularly trips a circuit breaker at the box, they should take the opposite approach. “If they go back to the breaker box and the breaker is tripped, we tell them to not reset it. If the breaker is tripped, something caused that to happen. We’ll send a tech out there to find out what the problem is,” says Jones.
Switching from gas to electric is no easy decision, and it may be made out of necessity more than anything else. But before operators make the change, they should consider how it can impact their kitchen, their food and their bottom line.