Now Is the Time to Be Creating'

Alleviating economic pains is foodservice equipment manufacturers'rally cry

Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP

ORLANDO, Fla.-- Promises of streamlined labor, reduced utility bills and fewer maintenance calls were hawked from the booths of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers' 2009 NAFEM Show, as equipment manufacturers vowed to help operators offset high food prices and low volumes. Despite a weak economy, the show had equipment companies rolling out innovative new products, and because of the weak economy, operators were hunting for the best investment for their pinched pennies.

The 2009 show-held in Orlando late last week co-located with the FS/TEC foodservice [image-nocss] technology show-marked the first time this biannual event was held in February instead of its traditional date at the end of the year.

Show themes included sustainability, innovative thinking and future trends. On Friday, Madison Mount, associate partner of design firm IDEO, emboldened attendees with ways to spark great ideas in the workplace. He also answered questions about starting new business endeavors in the current economy: "Now is the time to be creating," he said, challenging the audience to seek out tensions, to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and to never hope for a silver bullet, as there is no such thing.

On the show floor, manufacturers expressed concern for the restaurant industry as they explore other foodservice channels, including convenience stores. While there may be a learning curve, some innovative equipment traditionally used in restaurants could find a useful home in a c-store, particularly as manufacturers develop more small-footprint, low-labor products.

At the booth of Schaumburg, Ill.-based Rational USA, for example, team members expressed excitement over potential business with a c-store chain that showed interest in their SelfCooking Center combination oven. The oven proofs, bakes, blanches, roasts, grills, holds and now self-cleans, with the new CareControl feature.

Combi ovens and other sophisticated equipment pieces could help boost foodservice production and sales with a little staff training and retailer commitment.

Also at the show,the first major foodervice industry event since it acquired Enodis plc in October 2008, equipment company Manitowoc reintroduced itself to the foodservice public with its complete portfolio of brands and technology initiatives. The company will call Tampa, Fla., its headquarters, with more than 35 brands and 16,000 employees worldwide under the Manitowoc umbrella. As part of the process, Manitowoc will also divest all assets of Enodis' ice business, including Ice-O-Matic and Scotsman Ice Systems, by March 10.

At the NAFEM Show, among new product launches and upgrades, Manitowoc touted its High Performance Kitchen Group, a team of foodservice engineers, chefs and designers that can help retailers develop customized solutions for their operation (pictured).

Another new initiative, Enerlogic, combines Enodis' energy efficiency program of the same name with Manitowoc's EnergyMizer program for a third-party qualifying system for water, gas and electricity conservation. The company now has 1,000 energy-efficient products and more than 500 Energy Star rated models.

Also at the show, Manitowoc launched a zero-percent financing program. From February 5 through June 30, qualified customers will receive zero-percent financing for 24 months on eligible foodservice equipment purchased from participating suppliers.

New product releases at the NAFEM Show include new pre-engineered walk-in coolers under the Kolpak brand, the Manitowoc S-3300 S-Series ice machine, which produces up to 3,380 pounds of ice in 24 hours, and the new microwave-impingement and microwave-convection combi ovens from Merrychef.
Meanwhile, during the event, NAFEM recognized two foodservice leaders for their work within the association. Jeffrey Rhodenbaugh, president of sales development firm and consultancy S&J Group LLC, Greenville, S.C., was presented with the 2009 William W. Carpenter award, given to a foodservice industry professional who has continually contributed to NAFEM's success and to the enrichment of the foodservice industry as a whole. Dennis M. Romer, CFSP, director of sales, Henny Penny Corp., Eaton, Ohio, was recognized with the 2009 President's Award, given to a non-elected NAFEM volunteer who has donated his or her time and expertise to the betterment of the association.CSP Information Group has launched Fare, a new magazine to cater to the nontraditional foodservice retailer. Fare focuses on the on-the-go, prepared foods market with a multi-channel readership that includes c-stores, college and university campuses, club/mass stores, airports, entertainment venues, supermarkets and the military. (Click here for details.)

Abbie Westra, CSP/Winsight By Abbie Westra, Director, Editorial, CSP
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