I have written about canned gel chafing fuel in the past on Green Lodging News. Is your hotel still using it, sending partially used containers to the landfill? Putting your guests and staff at risk? One industry expert told me this past week that upwards of 90 percent of the hospitality industry still uses canned gel chafing fuel to keep food hot and ready for serving groups of people.
What prompted me to write about food heating again this past week was the discovery that at least two companies have developed better ways—more flexible ways—to keep food hot and, for the first time, mobile using battery power. These two companies—Smart Buffet Ware and Hospitality Solutions Group, LLC—are featured in my article. Be sure to read it. Each company has its own technology but both companies have cut the cord, so to speak, from wall outlets and are giving hoteliers the ability to serve guests anywhere without the tripping hazards that go along with wall-connected induction heaters.
Steve Barta, owner of Hospitality Solutions Group, developer of the new NRGCube lithium battery and a provider of induction heaters, had been involved in equipment testing at hotels and observed how the staff misused canned fuel.
In Search of a Solution
“I knew there had to be a better way to keep food hot and maintain a higher level of food quality,” Barta told me. “The economics, safety and going green did not surface until after I began my investigation of alternatives to canned fuel. As I began the search for solutions, I was focused on the banquet cart delivery of plated meals to events. It was during this period that I took note of the larger market of chafing dishes and the volume of canned fuel used. I found that induction heaters were available for chafing dishes. During a test of an early system that I had developed for chafing dishes, the executive chef involved his stewarding department, and they wanted the banquet cart issue addressed as well. I went back to the drawing board and began an extensive search for more powerful components. I needed to develop a design that could be used for both chafing dishes and banquet carts.”
What Barta came up with was the NRGCube, a lithium battery that fits under a banquet table or can power a banquet cart. A single NRGCube has a 10 year+ useful life and will replace 40,000+ cans of fuel that wind up in landfills. Oftentimes, cans are thrown away with 30 percent unburnt fuel. NRGCube produces no fumes or CO2 emissions. It powers the induction heaters that provide the magnetic energy to the bottom of the chafing dishes. If used with banquet carts, it runs the electrical system exactly like it is plugged into a wall outlet.
“Operationally, we can view the advantages in two segments—physical and financial,” Barta says. “The physical advantages are that it is mobile, rechargeable and powers the included induction heaters as well as banquet carts when no power is available. Financially it costs 80 percent less than canned fuel over its life.” A payback time of 15 to 18 months can be expected for the NRGCube.
Smart Buffet Ware
Smart Buffet Ware has been producing highly efficient induction heaters for quite some time and recently improved them to less than 100 watts. They now include thermostats that dial power back when it is not needed. If a chafing dish is not opened, for example, the wattage required may dip to as low as 64 watts. Smart Buffet Ware was also able to recently eliminate the No. 1 reason for induction heater failure: foreign matter such as dirt, oil and steam causing fan failure. They eliminated the fan entirely.
“By eliminating the fan we eliminated the reason for failure and the energy needed to run the fan,” says David Moreland, Chief Bottle Washer for Smart Buffet Ware. Also, by removing the fan, energy consumption got so low that induction heaters could now be daisy-chained—four plugged into one another and run off one power cord. As many as 16 heaters can run off a standard 20 amp, 110-volt circuit.
The low power requirement allows Smart Buffet Ware induction heaters to be run off the company’s new rechargeable lithium battery system. Smart Buffet Ware’s new Natural Eco-System includes a trolley with the battery built in. One can daisy chain up to three heaters using the battery and they can run up to 16 hours. Trolleys can also be connected to one another. For example, one could run nine chafing dishes on three trolleys for five hours.
“The battery can last 10 years and pays for itself in one year,” says Moreland, whose company plans to launch the Eco-System at the National Restaurant Show. It is being held May 21 to 24 at McCormick Place in Chicago.
It is great to see innovators like Hospitality Solutions Group and Smart Buffet Ware making it easier to give up the canned fuel habit while helping to improve operations and save money at the same time.
Green Lodging News Adds Evolution Energy Partners to Directory
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