Green Food Warming and Holding
Food warming equipment can get you ahead of the game, giving you the tools you need to prepare popular dishes before the rush and keep them ready to serve. Similarly, food merchandisers keep your foods fresh and hot while showing them off to customers. The energy required to operate warming equipment can add a significant cost to the utility bill, but there are a few ways to help save on those costs and maximize the profit potential that food warmers are intended to help generate.
- Invest in induction. Induction is enjoying a well-deserved wave of popularity in the foodservice world. The technology was first introduced as a green alternative to gas and traditional electric ranges, but now it's being used in warming equipment as well, including countertop food warmers and soup warmers. Improving on the efficiency of conventional electric equipment, an induction food holder converts up to 99 percent of the energy it consumes into heat for warming food.
- Lose the lamp. Food heat lamps are a conventional method for keeping prepared food hot for a few minutes until it's served, but compared to newer types of food warmers, like bar heaters with metal-sheathed heating elements, they provide a limited heat zone. Many can only be trusted to adequately heat a single plate of food. Reserve hot food lamps for when presentation is vital - when your food window is within sight of customers. For back-of-house applications and when aesthetics are less important, consider a bar-type food warmer, which creates a much wider, more even heat and generally requires less energy to achieve the same results.
- Be a control freak. If you're in the market for a heated holding cabinet or drawer warmer, choose one that provides individual control over the temperature of each section. That not only gives you the ability to maintain different products, it allows you to turn off sections that aren't in use so you don't waste energy heating empty space.
- Become an ENERGY STAR. ENERGY STAR certification is issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to acknowledge energy-efficient products. Food warming equipment that earns the certification is at least 70 percent more energy efficient than standard models. Components that make a food warmer more efficient may include better insulation, magnetic door gaskets, doors that automatically close, and double or "Dutch" doors that allow access with less warm air incursion. Look for the blue ENERGY STAR logo to identify warming equipment that carries the distinction.
- Second guess glass. Glass doors can provide a convenient way for employees to monitor the condition of held food, but before you choose a food holder that's built with glass, consider if it's really necessary. While most manufacturers take pains to make their glass doors more insulating, glass remains a poor insulator, so it doesn't hold heat nearly as well as solid doors and walls. Those are usually insulated to keep heat inside the equipment. Glass doors and sides are obviously essential to food warmer equipment like merchandisers, but for back-of-house equipment, consider solid-door warmers unless you need to keep a close eye on your products.
- Cut the cord. The most energy-efficient equipment is that which uses no energy at all. Insulated food carriers, the kind depended on by countless caterers and event planners, are designed to keep food hot for as long as four hours without any additional heat input. They can be put to good use in restaurants that need to hold food for a couple of hours before it's served. Their mobility means they can be rolled out of the way so they won't take up precious space in the kitchen.