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“Ghost Kitchens” Offer New Foodservice Opportunities and Market Resilience

Paul_Hepperla Paul Hepperla | Vice President, Solutions Strategy – Cold Chain

Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), more than 110,000 restaurants and bars in the United States closed for business either temporarily or permanently in 2020. “Ghost kitchens” — which refers to any foodservice operation that prepares orders for off-premises dining only — were among the few foodservice business models that proved resilient to the pandemic’s negative economic effects. In a recent article for Foodservice Equipment and Supplies, I discussed the business opportunities and challenges of this emerging virtual restaurant strategy.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, only an estimated 15% of operators reported setting up ghost kitchens. Yet by May 2020, more than half of restaurant operators had implemented a ghost kitchen strategy for some or all of their delivery orders. Not only did ghost kitchens allow many restaurants to stay open, but they also helped to offset the loss of dine-in sales with an off-premises business model that required less labor and offered the potential for shared real estate costs.

Out of necessity, consumers quickly familiarized themselves with the concept of virtual foodservice, which typically has the following characteristics:

  • Operates without a physical storefront
  • Provides no on-site dining or waitstaff
  • Offers third-party delivery service or take-out options only

Today, with the easing of in-person dining restrictions, it appears that ghost kitchens are here to stay. Industry experts expect sales from virtual foodservice to increase 42% this year and rise 25% annually over the next five years.

Advantages of a ghost kitchen model

The ghost kitchen concept appeals to a wide variety of foodservice segments, covering nearly every culinary category and operating under a range of business models, including:

  • Large, shared kitchen spaces with individual stations
  • Pop-up segments within existing restaurant kitchens
  • Fully functioning and autonomous kitchen pods

One similarity among these approaches is that multiple ghost kitchen brands are typically designed to share a common operating space. Regardless of the business model, ghost kitchens offer a variety of operational benefits, including:

  • Reduced start-up costs — Entrepreneurs can launch a ghost kitchen operation without significant capital investment or new construction.
  • Greater menu flexibility — Operators can introduce new brands in regional, smaller scales while larger, established brands can trial new menu items. They can also quickly change their offerings without concerns of having to update signage or printed materials.
  • Improved customer access — Operators can place ghost kitchens in strategic locations in metropolitan and/or rural areas to shorten the distance to their customers.

Key operator considerations

With the likelihood that multiple operators will share the same ghost kitchen space, equipment uptime and reliability become mutual concerns. Even though each vendor may have many unique food preparation requirements, they may still share walk-in coolers and freezers, combi-ovens and fryers. This will also result in larger refrigeration loads and potentially a greater variety of cooking equipment to accommodate offering diversity.

Equipment sharing also raises questions about owning and/or leasing of these critical assets. Will the facility operator incur costs, or will the vendors lease equipment based on a flat fee or usage? Additionally, usage monitoring will become more important, both to understand utilization patterns and assess equipment condition to ensure it is running at peak performance and efficiency.

To protect consumers and ensure food quality and safety, ghost kitchen operators will be required to implement standard protocols, such as:

  • Establishing hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP) programs
  • Using temperature monitoring and probing devices to automate data collection and recordkeeping for local health inspectors

Determining energy consumption will be important in understanding the energy profiles of each ghost kitchen facility, food vendor or equipment type. Operators should consider a sub-metering energy measurement strategy to record usage per vendor and monitor energy consumption of each equipment asset. Whether energy costs are assessed via a flat fee per vendor or per equipment energy usage, this data will be important in developing energy-efficient and sustainable operational strategies.

Emerson has the tools and technologies to support all stakeholders in the ghost kitchen value chain. From refrigeration technologies to connected monitoring devices and facility management control platforms, we’re helping ghost kitchen operators and vendors to maximize food quality and safety, increase equipment reliability, and monitor performance to meet this emerging market need.

 

CO2 Emerges as an Industrial Refrigerant Alternative to Ammonia

Lee Van Dixhorn | Director of New Solutions Development, Vilter

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

With its excellent thermodynamic properties and high efficiencies, ammonia (aka NH3; refrigerant name R-717) has long been the preferred refrigerant in low-temperature (LT) cold storage warehouses and light-industrial refrigeration applications. But because operators assume a degree of risk when using ammonia, many are evaluating the potential of CO2 (refrigerant name R-744) as a green, lower-risk alternative. In a recent article for Engineered Systems, I explored the emergence of CO2 in the industrial sector.

 

Despite increasing global adoption in commercial refrigeration, CO2 has yet to make significant inroads in the industrial sector. Its high operating pressure and unique characteristics pose equipment design and system architectural challenges for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). But today’s industrial OEMs are building upon the framework of successful CO2 architectures used within food retail applications, such as CO2 transcritical booster and cascade systems. Theoretically, it’s a matter of scaling these systems up for industrial use.

Market drivers of CO2 adoption

Efforts to increase the supply of CO2-based industrial refrigeration equipment are driven largely by new market demands.

 

  • Last-mile delivery considerations — In response to the accelerated adoption of e-commerce in food retail applications, many light-industrial distribution and fulfillment (D&F) facilities have arisen in urban areas to shorten the distance to consumers. But the risk of an ammonia leak in highly populated areas threatens to not only shut down a facility but also evacuate the surrounding area. Operators of these light-industrial facilities are seeking a lower-risk, green alternative.
  • Lowering ammonia charges and designing for safety — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has mandated safety requirements for systems charged with more than 10,000 pounds of ammonia. This has led to the exploration of all-CO2system architectures and those that combine CO2 and ammonia to lower ammonia charges and move refrigeration circuits out of occupied spaces.
  • Global hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerant phasedown — The recent passing of the American Innovation and Manufacturing (AIM) Act has brought the global HFC phasedown back into focus in the U.S. Meanwhile, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and/or U.S. Climate Alliance states are pushing forward with their own aggressive phasedown schedules. Industrial operators who have traditionally preferred using HFCs over ammonia are evaluating alternative refrigerant options, such as CO2.
  • Blurring of lines between commercial and industrial OEMs — With CO2emerging in the industrial sector, and low-charge ammonia systems being trialed in commercial architectures, OEMs are leveraging their legacy experience to cross into adjacent markets. However, commercial OEMs need to understand the increased demands of industrial applications and develop equipment that is built to withstand their rigors.
  • Sustainability initiatives — Regardless of all other market and regulatory considerations, many companies today are establishing and adhering to corporate sustainability objectives. This requires selecting refrigeration architectures that are both safe and environmentally friendly. As a green natural refrigerant, CO2is helping businesses to achieve these objectives.

Supporting the transition to CO2

Although it’s unlikely that CO2 will ever completely replace ammonia as the preferred refrigerant in large-charge industrial applications, CO2-based refrigeration equipment is becoming a more viable option in light-industrial scenarios.

With extensive expertise in both ammonia- and CO2-based refrigeration, Emerson is uniquely qualified to support traditional and emerging industrial applications. Our Vilter™ single-screw compression technology is not only built to withstand the rigors of industrial refrigeration, but it’s also capable of managing the high pressures of CO2 transcritical booster applications. In addition, our ever-expanding CO2 product portfolio includes a breadth of solutions for transcritical, cascade and secondary architectures.

From compression technologies, controls and variable-speed drives to supervisory services and a wide range of CO2-approved system components, we are a CO2 refrigeration solution provider and partner to leading industrial operators and food retailers.

 

STEM Day Brings Emerson’s Yearlong Efforts Into Focus

Ken Monnier | Chief Technology Officer,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

November 8 is Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEM/STEAM) Day — a time when the nation pauses to recognize the importance of these disciplines within our educational curricula. At Emerson, we are committed to supporting STEM initiatives year-round, and STEM Day allows us to reflect on the year’s activities and plan for what’s to come. In a historically male-dominated industry, it’s particularly important for Emerson to celebrate the contributions of women in our organization and create an environment where they can thrive and succeed. Let’s look at some of the ways we’re leveraging STEM initiatives to help create the next generation of engineers and support the increased inclusion of women within our industry.

Women in STEM (WiS) program charter and achievements

Emerson created its global WiS program to attract, develop and retain the top women candidates in STEM-related roles, enhance the diversity of ideas and approaches for the benefit of our customers, and fully deliver on our “Consider It Solved” promise. The program supports generations of women in all stages of their careers, from schoolchildren who are just beginning to think of their futures to professionals and senior executives who are navigating their career paths.

Based on some of the metrics gathered, we are well on our way to achieving the goals of this charter.

  • Membership increased to more than 5,000 global members
  • STEM-related webinar event attendance increased by 60%
  • Local chapter (Sidney, Ohio) membership increased by 10%
  • Launched a new global WiS SharePoint site
  • Ranked as #12 on Women Engineer Magazine’s list of top companies to work for
  • Awarded Gold, Best Practice Outreach and Best Practice Professional Partnerships by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE)

These achievements are indicative of the three guiding principles of our WiS program:

  1. Attract and inspire young girls to pursue STEM subjects and careers while recruiting top STEM female candidates to work at Emerson
  2. Provide opportunities to develop leadership skills and elevate the visibility for women in STEM-related roles
  3. Create an inclusive, connected community where women in STEM feel supported and have a sense of belonging throughout Emerson; provide a platform to highlight women in STEM as role models across Emerson

Emerson’s WiS program enables us to facilitate community outreach throughout our global offices and places of business. For example, the local WiS chapter in our Sidney, Ohio, location includes more than 100 members comprised not only of Sidney branch employees, but also extending out into other local manufacturing and engineering-related companies.

Ongoing commitment to STEM education, activities and events

Even though the past two years have made it difficult to plan and host in-person, STEM-related events, Emerson has continued to develop a series of educational webinars and promotional activities focused on professional development, social networking and STEM outreach to schools and universities. These activities include:

  • Sponsoring a cardboard boat race during the Summer Olympics
  • Celebrating Pi Day with pi-inspired games and the distribution of moon pies
  • Hosting a WiS online trivia event
  • Conducting educational webinars with prominent female executives and keynote speakers

Collectively, these achievements, educational events and promotional activities represent our ongoing commitment to furthering STEM careers and related disciplines — within Emerson and the global workforce. Emerson’s ongoing WiS efforts are having a direct impact on our business, transforming our culture and infusing it with fresh perspectives and insights that make us a more well-rounded and successful organization.

 

Join Emerson at the Virtual ATMOsphere America Summit

Andre Patenaude | Director – Solutions Integration,

Emerson’s Commercial and Residential Solution’s Business

In an era shaped by environmental regulations and corporate sustainability initiatives, natural refrigerants have become viable alternatives in the transition away from hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants with high global warming potential (GWP). From the increased adoption of CO2 transcritical booster systems to the prospect of larger R-290 charge limits in self-contained applications, natural refrigerants continue to play ever-expanding roles within the U.S. commercial refrigeration sector. This dynamic landscape will be explored in-depth at the upcoming ATMOsphere America Online Summit on Wednesday, Nov. 3, where Emerson will be showcasing some of its latest natural refrigerant solutions in our virtual booth. Register for the event here.

The 10th edition of ATMOsphere America will be held online, gathering key industry experts, policymakers, end-users and contractors for a free, daylong event where attendees can network with peers and learn about the latest developments in natural refrigerant-based solutions. The program will cover market and technological trends, policy and standards updates, the impact of refrigerants, and end users’ perspectives on their experiences with natural refrigerants.

As a champion for the development of natural refrigerant technologies and a gold sponsor for this year’s event, Emerson is pleased to be hosting a virtual booth at this important industry conference. Not only will it give us an opportunity to highlight some of our new natural refrigerant capabilities, but it will also allow us to speak with industry stakeholders about the many developments that impact the use of natural refrigerants. Highlights will include:

CARB compliance — Under the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) current proposal, the installation of new refrigeration systems containing more than 50 pounds of refrigerant in a new facility must use refrigerants with a GWP rating less than 150. In existing facilities, new installations of systems greater than 50 pounds would be subject to company-wide, fleet GWP reduction targets by 2030 compared to their 2019 baselines. These reductions may be achieved via one of two methods: by reducing the weighted-average GWP (WAGWP) to less than 1,400 GWP, or reducing greenhouse gas potential (GHGp) by 55%. CARB’s proposal could take effect as soon as this January.

R-290 charge limit increases — Recently, the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) approved the second edition of the UL 60335-2-89 standard, which raises the charge limits on commercial self-contained, plug-in displays based on whether they have an open or closed design. For open appliances without doors, the maximum charge limit has been raised to 500g; in closed appliances with doors or drawers, the new charge limit is 300g. These higher charge limits will help original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to increase system capacities and sizes while capitalizing on R-290’s high efficiency and low GWP. Although additional regulatory approvals and building code updates are needed before these charge increases can fully take effect, this is a critical first step toward wider applicability of R-290.

To support OEMs that develop these self-contained units, Emerson has been producing R-290 compressors and condensing units for many years. Emerson has also been conducting trainings to help contractors and advising OEMs to better understand the new safety considerations for using R-290 to ensure that it can be used safely in these new applications. As manufacturers begin to adopt R-290 systems, they should ensure their systems meet the requirements of UL 60335-2-89 and ASHRAE standard 15.   Today, this portfolio is being updated to accommodate larger charges while expanding into new R-290 qualified products.

New CO2 testing facilities — In addition to Emerson’s CO2 transcritical labs in Europe and at The Helix Innovation Center in Dayton, Ohio, we are currently building new testing labs in our Sidney, Ohio, location. These additions will provide more than 110,000 square feet of engineering and lab space and enable the support of system and component-level testing of CO2 products — including Copeland™ semi-hermetic and scroll compression platforms for CO2 transcritical applications — as well as supporting R-290 and other lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives. In addition, these new test labs will be staffed by dedicated engineering and technician personnel and include testing capabilities for compressors, controls, valves, electronics and supporting components.

To learn more about these policy updates and expanding capabilities, be sure to register for ATMOsphere America’s Online Summit and visit Emerson in our virtual booth.

 

 

 

Copeland™ Horizontal Variable Speed Scroll Compressor Recognized as AHR Award Finalist

Joe Summers | Senior Product Manager – Scrolls & Drives
Emerson’s Commercial & Residential Solutions Business

The Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor (1 to 4 HP) has been recognized as a finalist in the annual AHR Expo (International Air-Conditioning, Heating, Refrigerating Exposition) Innovation Awards. This competition honors the most inventive heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration (HVACR) products, systems and technologies. For original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and end-users of self-contained, reach-in coolers and freezers, display cases and walk-in coolers, the Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor delivers an ideal combination of sustainability, reliability and design flexibility.

Balancing the sustainability equation

Today, smaller-format food retail market trends and environmental and energy regulations are driving the transition toward more distributed refrigeration architectures. As more operators deploy flexible self-contained display cases, they also seek lower-global warming potential (GWP) refrigerant options and energy-efficient equipment that supports their corporate sustainability objectives.

Meeting these evolving requirements can present significant design challenges for OEMs of self-contained systems. One of the leading strategies for achieving high energy efficiencies or ENERGY STAR® certification relies on the use of large-capacity condenser coils, which can reduce available merchandising space in a display case. As a result, OEMs often place compressors on the top of a case — thereby increasing its overall size, limiting its aesthetic appeal, and creating higher noise levels.

The low-profile Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor solves these known design challenges while delivering significant sustainability, energy efficiency and performance improvements. Available in capacity ranges from 1 to 4 HP, this innovative variable-speed compression solution is ideal for use in a wide variety of self-contained commercial refrigeration applications.

To help end-users comply with refrigerant regulations and/or meet sustainability objectives, the Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor is approved for use with the next generation of lower-GWP refrigerants, including A1 (R-448/49A) and A3 (R-290) which have already been approved, as well as A2Ls in the near future. The recent R-290 charge limit increases approved by Underwriters Laboratories’ (UL) UL 60335-2-89 standard should also set the stage for the use of larger-capacity, R-290 based, self-contained display cases.

In addition, the Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor combines brushless permanent magnet (BPM) motors with our advanced Copeland variable frequency drives (VFDs), EVM series to help OEMs meet the energy efficiency standards set by the Department of Energy (DOE) — even achieving its ENERGY STAR certification.

Benefiting end-users and OEMs

The Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor enables larger capacities in a smaller footprint while delivering proven scroll benefits and the many advantages of variable capacity modulation, including:

  • Increased energy efficiency
  • Improved compressor reliability
  • Precise load matching for higher refrigeration performance
  • Lower noise levels

BPM motors and advanced Copeland VFDs combine to achieve the following performance enhancements:

  • 15% energy reduction compared to an equivalent fixed-speed scroll, per Emerson lab simulations
  • Increased equipment reliability through proactive motor failure prevention
  • Decreased susceptibility to power issues
  • Reduced start/stop events
  • Seamless integration with supervisory control platforms, such as Emerson’s Lumity™ E3 supervisory control

This recent recognition by the AHR Innovation Awards is a validation of our commitment to helping OEMs and end-users address modern refrigeration challenges. The Copeland variable speed horizontal scroll compressor helps OEMs to meet low-profile equipment design challenges while allowing end users to adopt sustainable refrigeration strategies.

As refrigerant regulations evolve, refrigeration architectures will continue to leverage self-contained, distributed systems and utilize lower-GWP refrigerant alternatives. By integrating a Copeland horizontal variable speed scroll compressor in their self-contained, reach-in coolers and freezers, display cases and walk-ins, OEMs can significantly improve system energy efficiency and performance

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