Opening a new restaurant or adding food service to a business such as a pub or a convenience store can be a challenging venture. Along with finding a space, an operator will need to develop a menu, secure equipment, and hire and train staff. These challenges, and others, are prompting budding restaurateurs to seek smaller spaces in which to operate their ventures and constantly be on the lookout for ways to cut costs.
With ventless commercial kitchen equipment, operators can reap a variety of benefits that can help increase their chances of success, including minimizing costs and space restrictions.
But what is ventless kitchen equipment? Simply put, ventless commercial cooking equipment does not require an overhead traditional ventilation system to be operated. The ovens are designed to carry away grease, smoke, or other cooking vapors. Instead, the ovens use built-in catalyst technology or optional ventless hood technology to convert grease and other volatile organic compounds into harmless CO2 and H2O.
And while it may be easy to see some of the benefits of using ventless equipment, others may not be so apparent. Here are three obvious benefits of choosing ventless cooking equipment for your restaurant venture, and four that aren’t so obvious.
Offering clear benefits
First, the obvious:
Lower startup costs
A recent survey of restaurant operators pegged the cost of opening a new food business at $375,000, with some types of dining establishments coming in at $1 million or more. Using equipment that requires ventilation can dramatically increase those costs.
The average cost of installing a commercial hood system is as much as $2,000 per linear foot in some areas. A typical hood system is 12 feet long, bringing the cost of installation to as much as $24,000 or even more. And that’s just installation. Daily operation can significantly increase utility costs.
With ventless cooking equipment, all of these expenses are eliminated.
Lower operating costs
Installation costs are just the beginning. A ventilation system will likely be operating every hour someone is working in the kitchen, dramatically increasing utility costs. Those systems also need to be cleaned, driving up labor costs. Because those systems include parts such as fans that are constantly moving while at the same time being exposed to smoke, grease, and heat, they’ll require regular—and costly—maintenance. And because kitchen operations will depend on those ventilation systems, a breakdown could force the closure of the restaurant until repairs can be made.
Also, most ventless kitchen equipment operates more efficiently than equipment that requires ventilation. A ventless commercial oven such as Alto-Shaam’s Cook & Hold ovens, for example, cost less than $2 per day to operate.
Maximize space options
There are a host of locations that would make a great site for a restaurant but prohibit the type of renovation that would be required to install a ventilation system. Consider the first floor of a busy downtown office tower or a historic building that’s being adapted for commercial use. Even if a ventilation system could be installed, the neighbors may not appreciate the smoke and odor.
Ventless commercial cooking equipment, on the other hand, can be placed anywhere with no space restriction. Along with increasing the number of potential restaurant sites, ventless cooking equipment makes it easy for a convenience store or other location to add food options. Even a countertop oven can be the foundation of a profitable foodservice operation.
The hidden advantages
But while these benefits of using ventless commercial cooking equipment are fairly obvious, some aren’t readily apparent. Those include:
Simplified staff training
Anyone who’s been remotely involved in the restaurant industry during the past two years knows that staffing—or the lack of it—has been a significant issue for operators. Chances are that if you’re managing a restaurant you’re doing so without a full staff, and many of the people you have working in the kitchen have only been doing so for weeks or months.
Many of today’s ventless ovens include features that make them easy to operate with minimal training. Alto-Shaam’s Vector® H-Series Multi-Cook Ovens, for example, include up to four ovens in a single unit, as well as the ability to program recipes via an easy-to-use interface, reducing the need for skilled labor and ensuring consistency.
Expanded menu options
Alto-Shaam also offers a line of Ventech™ ventless commercial kitchen hoods that can be paired with a variety of its Combitherm® Combi Ovens to eliminate the need for expensive ventilation systems, allowing operators to place the ovens anywhere in the kitchen. Along with being easier to operate, those ovens make it easier to add new and exciting dishes to the menu. Combitherm Combi Ovens combine multiple cooking functions into a single appliance, doing the work of a convection oven, kettle, steamer, and more.
Combitherm and Vector ovens also allow restaurant operators to eliminate the grill and fryer, making adopting new cooking applications a breeze, and reducing the amount of equipment in the kitchen.
Some menu items are best cooked at lower temperatures for ultimate tenderness, and without the right equipment those items can end up in the trash. Using Halo Heat® technology, Alto-Shaam Cook & Hold Ovens improve yields for many menu items, evenly and consistently radiating heat to boost yields by 15 to 20 percent compared to conventional cooking technologies. And because there is no harsh heat, forced air, or added humidity to degrade food quality, less product is wasted.
The ventless design of these Cook & Hold ovens means they can be placed anywhere, with no traditional oven hood or outside venting required. Their waterless design further reduces installation and operating costs with no plumbing, drains, filtration, or associated maintenance.
Lower risk of fire
Last on the list, but of paramount importance, is the reduction in fire risk that ventless equipment provides. A 2017 report published by the National Fire Protection Association indicated that before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were an average of 7,410 structure fires at eating and drinking establishments in the United States each year. As the pandemic subsides, those numbers are likely to return.
In many cases, those fires began in the ventilation systems. Oven hoods, ductwork, and exhaust systems can pose a substantial fire risk if not adequately cleaned and maintained.
Oven hoods are typically cleaned by the closing crew, and even skipping the task for one or two nights can result in a dangerous grease buildup. The cleaning of ductwork, fans, and rooftop equipment will require the services of a specialized cleaning crew. That will come at a significant cost, and a struggling operator may be tempted to put off that cleaning until cash flow improves.
A hood or ventilation system fire, even if it’s quickly put out by a fire suppression system, will likely shut down the operation for several days. A more serious fire can shut down a restaurant permanently and may even result in the loss of life.
Again, using ventless equipment eliminates those concerns.
A partner you can rely on
Ventless technology isn’t just a fancy claim for cooking equipment, it’s a strict standard by governing bodies to indicate the various installation requirements.
For example, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rules for ventless technology, known as the EPA 202 standard, limits oven emissions to no more than 5.0 mg/m3 of grease-laden air. Tests are conducted using foods that may emit a high amount of grease-laden vapors, such as raw chicken. If the tested emissions of an oven are below EPA limits when cooking those items, they’ll likely be lower with other food products.
Certificates of compliance for Alto-Shaam’s range of ventless equipment can be found on the Ventless Technology page of the Alto-Shaam website. Alto-Shaam also has a regulatory compliance team that is dedicated to working with foodservice operators and their local municipalities on receiving ventless approval.
So whether you’re in the process of designing a new restaurant, making changes to an existing location, or contemplating adding a food service program, consider the benefits of ventless technology. Contact one of the experts at Alto-Shaam for more information.