Green & Sustainable Cooking Options for Extended Stay Hospitality
By Suzanne Owens Vice President, Sales & Marketing, Kenyon International, Inc. | May 09, 2021
Extended stay hospitality properties; whether they be an economy, mid, or up-scale flag within the segment offer a kitchenette equipped with a 2-burner cooktop.
This cooktop can vary considerably based on the age of the property as the brand specifications have become keenly focused on green and sustainable options that offer enhanced safety options for both the user and the facility.
Older properties may still have the old coil cooktops, while newer properties may have knob or touch control radiant and even newer or more technologically savvy may offer induction cooktops.
The resistance to change and upgrade older properties away from coil cooktops can be shown to be a false economy, as the savings attributable to the newer technologies is both fiscally beneficial and socially responsible and sustainable.
Prior to the new normal of the global coronavirus pandemic, the extended stay hospitality segment continually outperformed other hospitality segments with respect to occupancy and revenue generation. The challenges that the pandemic unleashed on travel and lodging clearly illuminated and reinforced the bright spot that extended stay hospitality continues to maintain under these pressures.
To meet this demand and capture the opportunity, many hoteliers are converting from limited service to extended stay. New hotel construction, while quite limited, is for extended stay properties. Additionally, many existing extended stay properties are renovating to keep their suites clean and more appealing. And along with this comes opportunities for better technologies especially as it relates to the 2-burner cooktop typically found in the guestroom kitchenette.
Through the years, design and construction professionals have sought the best innovative products for hospitality construction, however, the challenges to contain per key building costs for extended stay hospitality has often limited acceptance of new technologies offered in advanced products and competed with the best efforts of green practitioners to select sustainable cooktops.
The great recession presented new pressures on next generation products with built-in safety features; which is again being challenged by the economic pressures from the pandemic; but is unlikely to prevail as brand standards have progressed substantially in the period in-between these two events and sustainability, energy efficiency and user and facility safety play a greater role in product selection.
Cooktops are manufactured and classified by construction type and method of heat energy transfer. The specific type used for extended stay hospitality, resorts with kitchenettes, and time-share lock-outs has traditionally been of the compact electric 2-burner radiant type with knob control. The marketplace has traditionally offered 2-burner radiant cooktops in either the coil, sometimes referred to as calrod, or the smooth top ceramic variety. Both of these deliver the heat by radiant transfer of energy from the physical contact of the burner to the cooking vessel, and are recognized by the familiar orange or red glow observed with applied heat.
The cost differential between the coil units and the ceramic models has faced numerous challenges, and over the last twenty years, the delta between the two has narrowed, due to raw material costs of the cooktop components. Furthermore, the features, advantages, and benefits of the smooth top ceramic cooktops far outweigh the initial cost advantage of the coil type units; although this cost differential is not as great as it was twenty years ago.
In the final analysis, these ceramic cooktop value added features have promoted their use from "upgrade" to "brand standard" in the product selection process. The argument towards socially responsible and sustainable hotel construction is reinforced by the ceramic cooktop savings over their coil counterparts, as after-purchase savings are realized from greatly reduced maintenance, significant decrease of replacement parts purchases, and higher energy efficiencies of 10-15% over the coil models.
Hob and Coil cooktops, in review, were around before the words green and sustainable were part of the daily operating vocabulary of a hotel. The hob cooktop is identified by the cast iron solid burner, while the coil type feature the old familiar circular rings or spirals of steel attached to the base of the cooktop through a plug-in connection. The hob and steel coil, not being protected in any way from the environment, can quickly rust and corrode, especially in high ambient humidity.
The plug-in connection of the coil type is also prone to corrosion, which will prevent the proper operation of the heating element. This usually means replacement of these parts on an annual basis, or more frequently, due to failure at the connection due to corrosion. In addition, the drip pans become messy and corroded and need to be replaced. Protective disposable aluminum pans are available to shield the drip pans, but they are only a temporary measure.
Taken together, both the hob and coil cooktops deteriorate quickly under service and require long and tedious cleaning, parts, and maintenance. In addition, the coil burner type does not transfer the radiant heat efficiently – about 65% - due to the irregular surface upon which the cooking vessel rests - or wobbles! All of this adds up to wasted resources and extra costs. And as electric costs continue to escalate, small differences in operating efficiency are no longer a trivial comparison.
The benefits of the smooth top ceramic cooktops are well documented by green gurus and field tested and proven by hospitality developers, owners and operators. Coil cooktops present a false economy, given the post-purchase operating costs. Now the vast majority of the cooktops specified and installed in extended stay hospitality are radiant ceramic types at a minimum, with a nearly equal split between the knob control and digital touch control radiant cooktops. A much smaller percentage are using induction cooktops; which at this time are largely reserved for high-end boutique suites and not the mainstream extended stay type accommodation; largely due to the cost differential.
Based on their sustainability and value-added features, in the past 20 years +/-, ceramic cooktops have been the established "green" standard for extended stay hospitality, resorts with kitchenettes, and time-share lock-outs. This is attributable to their easy-to-clean smooth surface, absence of replacement parts excluding knobs, reduced maintenance needs, and savings from better energy efficiencies of 75-80% due to the enhanced transfer of energy from the cooktop surface to the bottom of the cooking vessel.
As an example, consider the typical minimum savings of a 100-key extended stay property using smooth top 2-burner ceramic cooktops in place of coil "calrod" cooktops:
In addition to the above definable and measureable costs, the savings regarding lower electricity consumption due to higher appliance efficiency is significant with rising electric rates. Further savings are realized with less time spent ordering replacement parts and coordinating maintenance, fewer cleaning product costs, and savings on intangible expenses as lower insurance costs due to increased safety!
Another structural advantage of the smooth top ceramic cooktops is their overall compact size occupying a smaller countertop footprint compared to the coil models. Furthermore, these "trimline" size ceramic cooktops are shallow in depth. This maximizes the efficiency of the space utilization in the kitchenette and allows for cabinetry drawers underneath the cooktop or installation of the cooktop over refrigerators or dishwashers, provided space clearances are met as detailed in the manufacturer's product manuals.
In the past few years, proponents of sustainability have also found synergistic benefits yielding enhanced safety with many of the new innovative products being introduced into the marketplace. An example of that in 2-burner electric cooktops are the new generation of smooth top touch control radiant models, which builds upon the green strengths of the smooth top knob control ceramic cooktops already discussed above.
These new models are equipped with digital touch control operation, which allows for simple clean-up of the cooktop and countertop simultaneously, without obstructing knobs. In addition, user safety is enhanced with a built-in automatic shut-off feature. This safety feature is also an asset to the fire protection plan of the facility. At the same time, consolidating this feature into the touch control cooktop represents a simplification and cost savings over the smooth top knob control ceramic and coil cooktops, as external timers are no longer required to turn the cooktops off when/if they are left unattended.
The automatic shut-off is preprogrammed into the touch control cooktop and will not activate unless the touch control cooktop is unattended for the pre-set amount of time per the manufacturer's specifications. And as in the previous cooktop generation, where the upcharge of the ceramic cooktops was offset by the value added features and energy efficiency over the coil predecessor, the upcharge of the touch control cooktops is offset by the elimination of the separate external timer, plus the labor cost to wire in a separate device. The result is a much cleaner installation with one appliance that cooks and unobtrusively acts as sentry managing the fire risk exposure to the user and facility.
Another safety feature afforded by the new touch control cooktops are a safety lock-out feature, which prevents the cooktop from being turned "on" or "off" accidentally by small children or animals that may jump up on the digital touch pad of the cooktop surface. Touch control radiant ceramic cooktops also allow for precise heat control and reproducible cooking cycles producing cooking satisfaction and enjoyment for the casual cook or culinary professional. And best of all, there are no special cookware requirements, as the technology is based on radiant transfer of energy, compared to the specialty induction type cooktops.
More recently, the new generation of compact 2-burner cooktops based upon induction technology is taking up residence at the inn. These induction cooktops offer even higher operating efficiencies of nearly 90%. And there is no need for built-in automatic shut-off as the heat is not generated by the burner at the surface, but rather through the excitement of electrons in the cooking vessel, where the heat is produced to cook the food. If the cooking vessel is not in contact with the electromagnetic generator under the ceramic panel, the cooktop is not using energy and is in resting mode.
This feature exponentially improves the social responsibility not only from a sustainability viewpoint but also from a safety and risk management approach. The limiting factor, as in any new technology, is the equipment cost, which is higher than the radiant counterparts on the market. Added too is the requirement for cookware that possesses a ferrous component, so that it will react to the electromagnetic field to cook the food. A large majority of the stainless steel cookware on the market, while not marketed for induction, is compatible as the stainless steel is contaminated with iron. A simple check with a magnet can determine suitability. Lastly, the surface is easy to clean as there are no knobs, and one manufacturer provides a high-temperature silicone mat over the induction cooking surface to catch and contain spills and boil-overs.
In summary, each new generation of cooktop…radiant coil, smooth top knob and touch control radiant ceramic, and now induction cooktops have successively reduced or eliminated externally wired timers, cleaning time, user maintenance, and replacement parts, while at the same time have increased energy efficiency and/or enhanced user and facility safety. The upcharges for these technological advancements results in overall lower costs based on simplification and efficiencies of operation.
The drive to "green" cooking appliances is an economically viable option even under budget pressures, and rewards the developer, owner, operator, guest and facility with safe, socially responsible and sustainable cooking appliances.
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