Although exhibitors initially wondered how the economy would affect attendance at the 2nd annual co-located North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers Show and International Foodservice Technology Exposition, most were pleasantly surprised with attendees' focus on their products.
"It's been a lower turnout, but some great people actually came through (the booth), current customers and potential customers," said PAR marketing manager John Brennan. "It's been a successful show."
Manufacturers exhibiting products that provide cost- or labor-saving solutions got the most attention at The NAFEM Show, including several that have yet to hit the market. Pitco's Rocket Fryer, a self-cleaning fryer currently in field testing and due to launch later this year, drew crowds.
The Rocket Fryer reduces oil volume by 25 percent to 30 percent while increasing efficiency, said Mark McCabe, manager, product development for Pitco. The self-cleaning fryer also reduces labor costs and improves safety because its auto-crumb-ejection feature eliminates the need for filtering.
"This fryer is getting so much attention," McCabe said. "Filtering is that job that in order to maximize oil life, it's something you need to do every day. But it's a messy, hot job that nobody wants to do. And because nobody wants to do it, it doesn't get done like it should, which reduces product quality."
The Rocket Fryer "maintains consistent oil quality throughout the cooking day," he said.
Cooking up solutions
A number of oven manufacturers were showcasing steam convection ovens for their ability to add moisture to the cooking process, including Blodgett Oven Co.'s HydroVection solution. The convection oven, currently undergoing field testing and set to launch this summer, improves the baking process.
Adding moisture to the convection oven speeds up the baking process without drying out the food, said Chris Brinkerhoff, director of sales, East Coast, Blodgett. The HydroVection also offers features such as dual pane glass doors and a built-in drain and water hose for easy cleaning.
Hobart drew crowds to its booth to preview its soon-to-be-launched HSL spiral mixer. The mixer comes in 180 and 220 pounds and operates on two speeds — 100 and 200 rpm — and in forward and reverse.
"I call it the gentle giant. It's so gentle on dough," said David Hemelgarn, business development manager, food machines, for Hobart . "It makes much better tasting quality bread or pizza dough."
Hobart also featured its new electric self-cleaning rotisserie, which can hold up to 30 chickens at one time. The self-cleaning feature prevents grease buildup and keeps the glass door clear for customers to watch the cooking process.
Other kitchen products also were drawing attention, from conveyor toasters to holding pans. Lincoln Equipment featured its Impinger conveyorized oven with FastBake Technology designed to speed up the baking process without increased noise levels or loss of product quality.
FS/TEC technology garners attention
The FS/TEC Expo had plenty of booths full of attendees curious about the latest technology, from digital signage to point-of-sale systems and software solutions designed to improve operations.
RedPrairie featured its Execution Management for Food Service solution, which is "task management on steroids," said Mike Lynch, director, retail business strategy execution management, for RedPrairie.
The solution can tie into other products and allows for the management of chains that range from 300 to 1,000 stores.
HyperActive Technologies was promoting its drive-thru solutions as well as its Automating Energy Control system by ecos. The energy-management system features a programmable unitary controller that is a scalable, expandable part of the store configuration that reduces its energy footprint from the time of installation.
"It helps control and maintain energy costs going forward," said Jack Aspenson, vice president of sales for HyperActive.
DT Research featured a variety of products including its digital signage solutions, mobile tablets and new handheld point-of-service devices.
The new WebDT 400 features one of the largest handheld displays available at 4.3 inches. Standard features include a fully-integrated magnetic stripe reader, hot-swappable batteries that support up to eight hours of useand wireless networking and Bluetooth connectivity.
DT Research also promoted its new all-in-one 12-inch digital display screen with touchscreen capabilities.
"It's in a size that is unique," said David Hale, vice president, program management, DT Research. "It can be installed anywhere you could use a small computer."
Ed Rothenberg, vice president of innovation and strategy for MICROS Systems Inc., said digital signage has been available to restaurateurs for a few years and is now starting to take off, especially in digital menu boards.
Digital signage also is featured in products from self-service kiosks to drive-thru menu boards. Texas Digital previewed its new digital order confirmation component in its outdoor, digital hybrid menu board for drive-thrus.
The digital signage technology allows the order confirmation component to appear via a split screen in the center panel, eliminating the need for the panel at the speaker post.
Dennis Davidson, president of Texas Digital, said he was pleased with the show's success.
"It's not (been) a lot of traffic, but it's good traffic," he said. "The people who are here are looking. We've gotten a lot of leads."
Christa is editor of QSRweb.com and contributes to FastCasual.com and PizzaMarketplace.com. She has experience in the restaurant industry as well as 15 years as a journalist.