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Three Ways Restaurant Operators Can Realize the Full Potential of Connected Controls

SteveWeiss_2 Steve Weiss | Vice President, Business Development

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Food safety and quality are critical to foodservice operations, which is why the business case for kitchen connectivity tends to prioritize both. But operators who limit their use case to these factors are overlooking the potential advantages connected controls offer to their bottom line. As I explained in a recent E360 Outlook article, standard (parametric) and embedded (custom) controls with internet of things (IoT) capabilities can also serve as a catalyst for improved operational efficiencies.

Three Ways Restaurant Operators Can Realize the Full Potential of Connected Controls

The integration of standard and embedded controls is common on both the hot and cold sides of kitchen operations in order to regulate temperature and optimize performance. So it’s not a major leap to expand the application of IoT technology to reduce energy, labor and maintenance costs. Here are three ways operators can derive greater cost savings from their connected controls.

1: Reduce energy costs on the cold side

On the cold side, standard controls are typically used in a “set it and forget it” fashion. Yet advances in refrigeration control technology provide for much greater functionalities. Operators can gain real-time insights into system performance and receive alerts when temperature deviations or equipment malfunctions occur. As a result, they can address issues immediately — before they become a drag on system performance, drive up utility bills, and put food quality at risk.

Consider the repercussions of leaving a walk-in door open. This simple act can cause a chain reaction that, at best, reduces the system’s efficiency but at worst, puts the entire inventory at risk. Connected controls can issue an alert when this occurs, allowing an operator to immediately address the oversight.

2: Automate manual processes on the hot side

Embedded controls can also be connected to transform the hot side of a kitchen, such as automating kitchen preparation and implementing important checks on food safety for regulatory compliance. In connected kitchens, these controls can also collect and log Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) data, minimizing manual steps and improving documentation accuracy.

Large foodservice operators can also use their connected controls to digitally push menu changes from corporate headquarters to stores across their networks. By reducing a complex, labor-intensive process to a few simple steps, these stores can cut labor costs while guaranteeing that their menus and recipes are updated quickly and consistently.

3: Build a more effective maintenance program

Connected kitchens can also provide operators with centralized control of their entire store network — from kitchen equipment to HVAC and lighting systems. With the capabilities afforded by IoT, cloud storage and analytics software, operators can monitor system performance from their hand-held devices. And just as important, they can leverage the insights available at their fingertips to create proactive or condition-based maintenance programs. In this scenario, issues can be detected, anticipated and resolved before they disrupt operations or lead to costly truck rolls.

Getting the most out of your controls

Most refrigeration equipment manufactured in the past seven years is connectable. So for operators, the question shouldn’t be “Can we do this?” but rather, “What do we want to accomplish?” By shifting the conversation to desired outcomes, operators will be better able to make the right strategic investments to gain their desired return.

The key for operators is understanding that there is no “one size fits all” solution for attaining a connected kitchen. The IoT infrastructure should be built to deliver on your desired outcomes, rather than forcing your business objectives to conform to the system architecture. At Emerson, we’re helping restaurant operators of all sizes gain the full potential of connected controls so they can better tackle their most pressing market challenges. Learn how you can get connected by contacting an Emerson representative today.

Tracking Food Safety Data During the Cold Chain Journey

MattToone_2 Matt Toone | Vice President, Sales & Solutions – Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Whether you’re a convenience store (c-store) operator, quick-service restaurant (QSR), or a fast casual or fine dining establishment, ensuring food quality and safety is imperative to your success. In this blog, the third of a three-part series based on a recent E360 article, Minimizing Food Safety Risks From Farm to Fork, I explore how advanced technologies can protect food safety at every step in the cold chain.

Tracking Food Safety Data During the Cold Chain Journey

Food safety and quality are the cornerstones to any successful foodservice operation. The ability for operators to deliver on both, however, hinges in large part on an interdependent supply chain of multiple, diverse stakeholders. Yet many operators are unaware of the efforts required to maintain food safety and quality throughout this cold chain.

Until now.

The rise of internet of things (IoT) technologies is providing unprecedented opportunities to monitor, control and track the many factors that influence quality during food’s long journey from farms to customers. For foodservice operators, this means greater control over ensuring that food is safe on receipt. Exercising this power starts with understanding the cold chain and how data is collected.

The cold chain journey

As foodservice operators well know, the pressure to protect food safety is felt most acutely where customers buy or consume food. But every stakeholder in the cold chain is responsible for maintaining food quality and freshness:

  • Harvesting and processing: The cold chain journey begins at the moment of harvest, where everything from the time of day to environmental conditions affect quality. Processors use a variety of strategies, including temperature controls, to slow or halt the decay process. The pipeline of data monitoring also begins at this stage, with pulp temperature probes and temperature loggers and trackers.
  • Transportation: Whether food is shipped by land, sea or air, reputable transport companies will apply a variety of best practices and technologies to protect its quality. Independent temperature monitoring, logging and tracking devices that provide real-time communications are essential at this stage. These systems enable remote monitoring and issue alert notifications when deviations in temperatures, humidity, modified atmosphere settings and vibration occur.
  • Cold storage: Cold storage distribution centers are another vital link in the cold chain. Here, data is collected at several points to ensure that food meets documented food safety standards. Many of these facilities employ different temperature zones and use both industrial and commercial refrigeration technologies. Devices that can work across disparate systems to monitor, record and maintain proper temperatures are critical to providing temperature certainty.
  • Restaurants: From the moment they accept a shipment, operators take ownership of food safety. For this reason, they should meticulously inspect all data accrued during the product’s journey to ensure it was kept at optimal conditions. After receipt, advanced facility and refrigeration controls can help operators maintain proper temperatures and comply with food safety regulations.

Solutions to protect food safety at every step

The cold chain can involve multiple hand-offs as food makes a days- or weeks-long journey to its final destination. That’s why end-to-end solutions for cold chain technologies are so essential to protecting food safety. An unbroken chain of data, paired with the streamlining capabilities of IoT technologies, puts greater oversight of food quality into the hands of operators and their suppliers.

At Emerson, we have both the refrigeration expertise and targeted solutions for nearly every point along the food supply chain. Our growing portfolio of connected, communicating devices and enterprise management software provides the solutions and resources our customers need to achieve cold chain temperature certainty and verification throughout food’s journey.

From compression and refrigeration system technologies, to case controls and facility management devices, to temperature loggers, trackers and probing devices, to software and services — we’re a leading single-source partner dedicated to helping our customers ensure full cold chain integrity.

So if you’re ready to take your operation to the next level with advanced controls and technologies, contact Emerson today.

 

Shedding Light on Food Safety During the Cold Chain Journey

MattToone_2 Matt Toone | Vice President, Sales & Solutions – Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Whether you’re a convenience store (c-store) operator, quick-service restaurant (QSR), or a fast casual or fine dining establishment, ensuring food quality and safety is imperative to your success. In this blog, the second of a three-part series based on a recent E360 article, Minimizing Food Safety Risks From Farm to Fork, I explore the environmental factors and conditions putting food at risk as well as the food safety regulatory landscape.

Shedding Light on Food Safety During the Cold Chain Journey

About one in six Americans contracts a foodborne illness every year. That’s 48 million people, or roughly the population of the New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas metropolitan areas combined.

For a restaurant or c-store, a single outbreak of foodborne illness can result in thousands (or even millions) of dollars in fines. Add to that the potential for damage to your brand, and it can easily take years to recover from an incident.

The challenge for foodservice operators is that they are stationed at the end of a very long cold chain. That’s why it’s essential for them to understand how and where food safety and quality are most at risk. Armed with this knowledge, they will be better positioned to ensure that food is safe upon receipt.

Multiple factors put food safety at risk

From production and processing to transportation and cold storage, it can take days or even weeks for food to journey from farms to kitchens. At every point in that process, food safety can be compromised.

Harvesting practices can accelerate food spoilage. Improper processing and unsafe handling can introduce bacterial pathogens, such as E. coli and listeria, into the cold chain. Cross-contamination during shipping, storage and handling can amplify the risk of foodborne illness.

Unsurprisingly, temperature also plays a major — and sometimes overlooked — role in food safety. Optimal temperature ranges for produce, meats, dairy and frozen foods must be strictly maintained throughout the cold chain to preserve food quality. Deviations at any point can be an invitation for bacterial growth, not to mention a shorter shelf life.

Of course, operators have no control over how food is handled or stored prior to receipt. But that doesn’t make them any less susceptible to bad headlines should an outbreak occur under their watch. What they can and should do is meticulously review data logs prior to receipt to ensure the shipments were maintained at optimal conditions. And until the food is sold to a customer, operators must continue to ensure they are following safe food storage and handling practices in their own kitchens.

Managing regulatory expectations

With so much at stake, it’s easy to see why foodservice is such a tightly regulated industry. For restaurants and c-stores, though, this means an ever-higher bar on food safety and quality standards. As a result, operators must understand and navigate a new landscape of transparency and traceability. This is especially true as the regulatory focus increasingly shifts from reactive measures to proactive prevention. Going forward, operators at all links in the cold chain can expect greater requirements for monitoring and documenting food safety.

But there’s good news for foodservice operators: technology is on their side. Advances in refrigeration science, increased automation and the rise of internet of things (IoT) technologies are making it easier than ever to manage, maintain and monitor consistent temperature controls within the cold chain. Moreover, with more data available, operators have greater visibility into the conditions their food was subjected to on its long journey. As a result, they will be less “in the dark” about the products they stake their brands on.

We’ll explore this further in my next blog, which will focus on the cold chain journey and the technologies that are putting improved food safety within reach.

How Restaurants and C-stores Can Deliver Safe, High-quality Food Offerings

MattToone_2 Matt Toone | Vice President, Sales & Solutions – Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

Whether you’re a convenience store (c-store) operator, quick-service restaurant (QSR), or a fast casual or fine dining establishment, ensuring food quality and safety is imperative to your success. In this blog, the first of a three-part series based on a recent E360 article, Minimizing Food Safety Risks From Farm to Fork, I’ll explore the efforts involved in maintaining safety throughout the food supply chain.

How Restaurants and C-stores Can Deliver Safe, High-quality Food Offerings

Dining out has become an everyday part of American life. It’s estimated that more than one-third of us eat at a fast-food restaurant every day, and more than 60 percent have dinner at a restaurant at least once a week. As consumers are becoming increasingly discriminating about what they eat, restaurants are under more pressure to deliver fresh, healthy foods and in greater varieties. But, above all else, restaurant operators must ensure food is safe to eat.

Food’s journey to a customer’s plate (or a packaged take-out container) is fraught with hazards. Ensuring food safety is a cumulative effort shared by every stakeholder along the journey — from production and processing to transportation, cold storage and ultimately, the foodservice provider. Temperature deviations, unsafe handling practices and improper food preparation processes can all increase the potential for foodborne illness outbreaks.

Thankfully, improvements in refrigeration equipment and internet of things (IoT) technologies are helping to provide more reliable and consistent temperature and quality control within the cold chain. Throughout food’s journey, operators at each point are now able to monitor, control and track a variety of conditions necessary for preserving food quality, including: temperature, humidity, the presence of ripening agents, lighting and much more.

Meeting customer expectations

Modern restaurants and c-stores are being held to increasingly higher food safety and quality standards. Consumers and regulators alike are demanding greater transparency in the food supply chain, which includes improved traceability of food’s journey from farm to fork. To keep customers coming back, operators must not only consistently deliver safe, high-quality food but also openly disclose their suppliers.

Protecting against foodborne illness outbreaks helps to not only ensure your customers’ well-being, it also guards against potentially devastating impacts to your brand’s reputation and bottom-line profitability. As one of the final links in the food supply chain, restaurant operators must ensure that food is safe on receipt and adhere to safe food storage, handling and preparation processes in their kitchens.

This starts with understanding everything that contributes to food quality and safety throughout the cold chain. With today’s connected infrastructures and IoT-based monitoring and tracking capabilities, operators now have the potential for visibility into each step of the journey — even the possibility for comprehensive cold chain traceability. Then, once food has been received into inventory, this process continues by applying all the modern tools available to ensure food quality, safety and consistency.

Food supply chain safety is cumulative

It’s estimated that nearly half of the fresh fruit and one-third of the fresh vegetables consumed in the United States are sourced from foreign countries — transported by land, sea and air in a process that can span the point of harvest, processing, cold storage and distribution. Overseas shipments can last anywhere from two to four weeks; for domestic transportation, it can take three to four days to ship strawberries from California to the East Coast.

In total, these perishables can potentially undergo as many as 20 to 30 steps and multiple changes of ownership throughout the food supply chain process. The more these items change hands, or are staged, loaded and unloaded, the greater the chances for contamination and temperature excursions along the way.

In my next blog, I’ll take a closer look at the environmental factors and conditions putting food at risk as well as the food safety regulatory landscape.

 

Evaluate System Lifecycle Performance When Making the Decision to “Go Green”

AndrePatenaude_Blog_Image Andre Patenaude | Director, Food Retail Marketing & Growth Strategy, Cold Chain

Emerson Commercial & Residential Solutions

I recently contributed to an ACR News publication with an article which addressed the topic of “green refrigeration.” The article, entitled A Greener Landscape for Commercial Refrigeration, explored why and how operators are making the transition to more eco-friendly refrigeration systems. View the full article here or read a summary below.

As global and national refrigeration industry dynamics continue to rapidly evolve, more business owners and supermarket operators are seeking new refrigerant and equipment alternatives. Ever-changing refrigerant and energy regulations, combined with an increased awareness of the environmental impacts of legacy refrigeration systems, are prompting more stakeholders to explore the green and growing edges of the refrigeration landscape.

But because commercial refrigeration systems can potentially be in service for decades, end users must carefully consider not only today’s regulatory requirements, but also tomorrow’s potential constraints. This means making the most informed equipment decisions possible with the goal of maximizing the investment throughout the system’s lifecycle. Doing so requires a fundamental understanding of the environmental impacts and financial considerations of a commercial refrigeration system.

Total equivalent warming impacts
While today’s regulations are primarily focused on reducing the global warming potential (GWP) from direct emissions of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants, it’s also important to remember that the total equivalent warming impact (TEWI) also accounts for indirect emissions — or the amount of greenhouse gases generated from the refrigeration system’s energy consumption. It’s estimated that these indirect emissions represent the majority of total climate impacts.

Only by evaluating both energy consumption and refrigerant GWP — including leaks and disposal — over the lifetime of a system can we estimate a system’s full lifecycle climate performance (LCCP).

Environmental and financial sustainability
Operators who are considering going green must also factor in the financial viability and sustainability of new or upgraded refrigeration systems. This means determining not only first costs and installation expenses, but also estimating the long-term maintenance and service requirements.

For manufacturers of these new eco-friendly equipment, components and systems, their task is twofold: 1) utilize lower-GWP refrigerants to meet regulatory requirements, while 2) minimizing ownership and operating costs.

Building a greener future
Like much of the commercial refrigeration industry, Emerson believes that the adoption of environmentally responsible, financially viable refrigeration systems will become more commonplace over the next decade. After all, there is a historic precedent for refrigerant phase-downs, including the ban on ozone-depleting substances which began in the 1990s and is now coming to fruition. Under the authority of the Montreal Protocol and the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Air Act, ozone- depleting substances like R-22 will no longer be manufactured or imported into the U.S. as of Jan. 1, 2020.

Today, the global reduction of fluorinated gases (aka F-gases) is being driven by the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, which has now been ratified by more than 80 countries. As federal regulations continue to take shape and regional mandates become more prevalent throughout the U.S., it seems inevitable that the industry will eventually make the transition to more eco-friendly refrigeration systems.

Emerson has helped support this transition for many years by working with early adopters of low-GWP refrigerants and supporting technologies. Those operators who are taking proactive steps now will have a head start on this transition and be able to provide insights from which the rest of the industry can learn.

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