As the catering equipment industry evolves, so too does the water treatment sector that feeds into it as suppliers look to meet the changing needs and requirements of operators.
Water treatment plays a vital role in maintaining the foodservice equipment that serves as the lifeblood of every commercial kitchen. But not only that — it also contributes to reducing ongoing maintenance costs, increasing equipment efficiency and preventing unnecessary kitchen downtime.
Paul Crowley, marketing manager at Winterhalter, believes that kitchen operators are far more aware and open to discussing water treatment than ever before.
Winterhalter has just launched a new undercounter warewasher, the DeMatik Pi240, which features a hybrid integral water treatment system.
He says it meets the need of operators that want something better than the standard softening that often comes with the machine, but perhaps don’t want to go to the extreme of reverse osmosis because of the amount of water such systems can use.
“They recognise that a clean plate or glass can be as important as the food or drinks being served on or in them,” he says. “Many have embraced social media and know the influence of review sites like Trip Advisor, where a greasy plate or dirty glass can very quickly create negative comments. Operators are eager to hear about ways to minimise this type of occurrence — that’s why water treatment is starting to get a much higher profile.”
Most suppliers agree that customers are now demanding a more comprehensive solution to their water treatment needs these days. Distributors are encouraged to promote the benefits of a more consistent, tailored range of water treatment products based specifically on the equipment in use, water consumption and the type of water that is on site.
Water treatment specialist, European Water Care, says the development of its Waterslate system, which can control several filters at once from a central point and feed several pieces of commercial equipment, is an example of how sophisticated the technology is getting.
“At the same time, customers have asked for this to be connected into their building management system, so that the status of the individual filters can be monitored on site or remotely via their company network,” says commercial sales manager Dan Twiss.
Southport-based water treatment solutions provider, Aqua Cure, says that over the past 12 months it has noticed more customers moving away from traditional vessel-based filter systems towards disposable quick-change systems.
“These systems allow kitchen operators to carry out their own filter changes, which is leading to many taking more responsibility to change their filter on time for maximum benefit,” says business development manager, Stuart Godfrey. “We’ve also seen more people fitting site-specific products due to a better understanding of ‘cost of life’ for their equipment.”
Over at Brita, business account executive, Steve Buckmaster, suggests much of the sector R&D spend continues to be allocated to making the capacities of filters longer in order to extend the length of service. He says Brita’s priority is to look at the stage beyond that, though, which is promoting the value of maintaining whatever system is in place.
“You can find that people concentrate on the capital investment and getting it installed but they forget that it needs to be maintained and serviced for it to carry on doing its job,” comments Buckmaster.
Brita is currently highlighting a feature on its Purity Steam filter that allows users to keep track of filter performance through a digital display on the product. “It is unique to the other filter systems because when we set it up according to the local water conditions, in other words how hard is the water, it will calculate the life of the filter and then tell the user or the service company when it is time to change the cartridge.”
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For the catering equipment distributor, water treatment can become an income stream that delivers true value for money to the client if it is monitored and managed correctly. The reality today is that there are myriad product groups that will address different problems and applications, so it remains necessary to understand the equipment requiring protection, the potential problem requiring protection, and the right product for the job.
“What’s important is that you use an established supplier who understands the issues and can provide a solution that includes the product and the ongoing maintenance,” says European Water Care’s Twiss. “Water treatment is not a ‘fit and forget’ solution, it requires constant monitoring and exchange to keep the product working and protecting the equipment.”
Aqua Cure agrees that, among some users, there is a prevailing culture of spending as little as possible on water filtration. But this, argues Godfrey, is counterproductive. “It often leads to low quality filters being fitted that aren’t always fit for purpose and ultimately lead to equipment downtime and costly repairs. As a supplier to trade companies it is sometimes difficult for us to educate kitchen operators in the importance of fitting the right filter as part of any equipment installation, with site-specific considerations and capacity, then changing the filter on time.
“Filtration is sometimes an after-thought for a number of equipment resellers, which can lead to poor quality Far Eastern products being used and can become a costly error for their customers.”
Looking forward, Aqua Cure predicts that reverse osmosis systems will become more prominent in many restaurants as they aim to keep pace with the momentum that such technology already has in the coffee market, for instance. One of the new additions to its portfolio is the Everpure RO range, which promises more control over water quality and the opportunity to install a unit which can treat the water for multiple water outlets, whether kitchen-based or front-of-house.
“Filter taps are also likely to become more prominent as more people see the benefits of filling their own drinking water bottles and having their own brand of great-tasting filtered water available to their customers,” says Godfrey. “While we already supply solutions for all of these products, such as scale control and ultra violet systems for bacterial protetction, some of these will seem like new products to commercial kitchen operators.”
Above all, there is no greater message that suppliers wish to impress than the importance of getting buyers to understand which water treatment is right for them based on their geographic area, the types of food they’re serving, the number of covers they’re serving, and the types of crockery or glasses being used.
“Recommending the correct water treatment for the right job has to be the way forward,” says Crowley at Winterhalter. “This is not a one-size-fits-all market, it’s about recommending the right treatment for the right job and working with providers that can deliver flexibility.”