Keeping the foodservice equipment marketplace up to date with the latest menu and concept trends.


Eye on Electric

There are a few important changes and initiatives happening that foodservice designers should be aware of as they do business and plan designs. David Zabrowski, vice president, Frontier Energy Food Service Technology Center in Pleasanton, Calif., gives us the low-down.

Decarbonization of Kitchens

David Zabrowski, vice president, Frontier Energy Food Service Technology Center.David Zabrowski, vice president, Frontier Energy Food Service Technology Center.Sustainability goals for the future include plans to decarbonize kitchens through the use of electric equipment and clean energy sources versus traditional gas and coal-based sources.

“More are saying all new projects are moving toward electric and that they’re specifying more electric equipment than ever before,” Zabrowski says.

On the residential side, many states and municipalities continue to adopt new codes and standards with a goal of zero net carbon by 2050, Zabrowski says. As of late January, research from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center showed that 28 states and the District of Columbia have a Renewable Portfolio Standard; 11 states have a Clean Energy Standard; 7 states have renewable portfolio goals and 7 states have clean energy goals across the entire U.S. Wyoming, Florida, Texas and parts of the South are among the states without any such goals or mandates.

It’s much more challenging, however, to force restaurants and commercial kitchens to switch to all-electric because the energy intensity is so high and the infrastructure isn’t quite there yet to support that change — plus, it can be expensive, Zabrowski notes. “We recognize that as an industry we’re not ready to go to 100% electric kitchens, but it’s important to know that segments of industry like tech, universities and healthcare want cleaner kitchens for new-build projects and that tend to have a larger surplus of power to use more electric.”

A mixture of gas and electric still seems to work best for many operators, with the easiest electric choices being fryers, ovens, griddles, kettles, braising pans and pasta cookers, Zabrowski says. The arguably more challenging switches to electric come with cooktops, along with broilers and woks because of their high heat intensity. Zabrowski adds that electric deck ovens out of Europe are becoming more available.

“Change is coming, but not as quickly or disruptively as everyone is afraid of; however, what we’re seeing is that new, cutting-edge facilities are featuring more electric,” Zabrowski says. There’s also some momentum in rates being restructured to make electricity more cost competitive with gas and Washington state and parts of the Southeast have less expensive electricity rates than in other areas. In the meantime, consultants “should be aware of these changes, but also what all of their available options are and know that with certain electric pieces, there’s more training involved.”

New Energy Standards

There are a number of new energy standards being rolled out, Zabrowski points out.

Refrigerators and icemakers have been regulated for some time now, but the Department of Energy is beginning to look at other categories of foodservice equipment; the last time there was a big rollout of changes was in 2019. New categories targeted for inclusion in futre DOE standards include refrigerated chef bases, refrigerated preparation items, buffet tables and blast chillers. In addition to DOE changes, the EPA ENERGY STAR program is working on update specifications for commercial refrigerators, ice makers, steam cookers, griddles and hot holding cabinets. Other categories with new standards being rolled out soon are braising pans/skillets, speed ovens and demand-controlled ventilation systems.

On top of that, the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, a collaboration of a few organizations, is encouraging state legislatures to mandate the adoption of energy standards based on ENERGY STAR in addition to standards set by the DOE, Zabrowski says. Through this program, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Wyoming, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts have adopted ENERGY STAR V2 standards for convection ovens, dishwashers and fryers as well as ENERGY STAR V1 standards for hot holding cabinets and steamers as state-mandated standards.

“Some manufacturers have actually started asking DOE to get involved, saying that they can't manage 50 different standards to sell their product,” Zabrowski says, noting they prefer one federal standard for each type of appliance.

“Consultants should be aware of this if they are working on a project in one of these states and to check codes carefully,” Zabrowski says. “State officials don’t always understand that not all fryers or ovens or hot holding cabinets are the same.”

New OSHA Initiatives

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is rolling out a new initiative to improve workplace conditions in kitchens. “They started to roll out new standards in 2019 but now they’re back on the books,” Zabrowski says.

For example, Zabrowski adds, “If you have a hotter kitchen, you might have to have breakrooms and more breaks or you need to have access to safe drinking water for employees.”

What does this mean for designers? “There will be more consideration of energy-efficient equipment, specifically electric equipment, that releases less heat — not just on the cookline but also in dish rooms and ventilation has to be adequate,” Zabrowski says. “Kitchens won’t be able to get away with not conditioning makeup air for much longer,” he says.

The good news is that there are way more heat recovery systems available for dish machines and better demand ventilation controls than ever before. There are also more instant rebates out there for efficient equipment purchases. "Not only do these rebates support decarbonization of existing gas kitchens, but they also help ease the cost of all-electric kitchens. Rebates for electric combination ovens, high-efficiency electric fryers and griddles, and new rebates for induction cooktops make it easier for designers to specify this equipment and hold spec on their projects. The new rebate for induction cooktops in California is generous, at $250 per hob. Expect to see other utilties across the nations start to follow the California lead."