By Adam Walker
Whether a result of the global pandemic, supply chain shortages, inflation, or simply competitive pressures, restaurants are facing challenges never before seen in the industry. Many owners and operators have been forced to change how their businesses are run and to look for new efficiencies to stay afloat. One area that is often overlooked in the pursuit of operational efficiency is the fire protection system.
Thankfully, new technologies like multi-zone electric detection systems are allowing owners and operators to reduce their facility maintenance overhead costs while increasing their flexibility – all while helping to ensure advanced, fully-compliant protection from kitchen fires.
Here are four reasons why commercial kitchen operators should consider this technology:
1. Independent hazard zones reduce downtime & food waste
In complex, multi-hood commercial kitchen environments, hazards can come from a wide variety of equipment found across multiple cooking stations. To help mitigate risk, electric fire detection technologies can monitor individual hazard zones while providing real-time operational status for each zone – all from a single interface. These systems can also identify alarm conditions, silence alarms, reset systems, and engage the cleaning mode. And unlike mechanical systems, electric detection technology is scalable. So, as kitchen needs change, the fire detection system can change with it.
With the flexible, highly configurable fire protection technology found in newer electric systems, users can program which hood systems activate based on their type or design. This isolation of specific hazard zones helps ensure system activation only where needed. For example, if a hazard event triggers a system response in zone one, all the other zones in the system remain fully operational. By isolating the activation to the specific location of the hazard, disruptions to foodservice are minimized. This helps reduce food waste, simplifies cleanup, and reduces downtime, all while retaining compliance.
2. Electric detection tech simplifies maintenance & cleaning
The last thing restaurant owners and operators want to spend time managing is the maintenance of a complex fire protection system. Fortunately, electric detection technology allows for longer intervals between replacement of consumable parts when compared to mechanical fire suppression systems. When maintenance or cleaning is required, a single hood or group of hoods can be disengaged rather than the entire kitchen. Once cleaning or other maintenance work is done, a fail-safe timer will automatically reset the system if it hasn’t been manually re-engaged already.
These electric detection systems can also generate automatic reminders to help maintain the correct cleaning intervals while providing the convenience of 24/7 troubleshooting. This all adds up to less time spent on maintenance, and more time spent serving customers.
3. Individual, appliance-level protection minimizes false activations
In commercial kitchen environments, multiple appliances are often operated under the same hood. But different appliances often operate at different temperatures. So, to minimize the likelihood of an accidental fire suppression discharge, each appliance should have its own unique, temperature-rated fire detection. The latest electric detection technology addresses this issue head-on by using innovative connector assemblies to assign temperature ratings to each individual appliance, even when sharing a singular hood.
Having a detector assigned to the ambient temperature rating of individual appliances helps make fire detection more accurate and reduces the chance of premature activation or late activation due to an incorrectly rated temperature detector. And while most existing linear detection technologies have a range of 68°C to 260°C, recent electric thermal detection advances have yielded a range of up to 385°C. This larger range of temperatures helps ensure more appliances are protected at the appropriate rating.
4. Electric detection technology is real-world proven
Electric detection technology’s real-world uses are already on display in places like the Kobe Teppanyaki Lounge in Alberta. The Kobe Teppanyaki Lounge wanted to offer its patrons a captivating, live-cooking experience that minimized visible wiring and other safety hardware without compromising their diners’ safety. A local construction company was employed to conceal the electrical wiring beneath the floor of the 2,850-square-foot space and imported metal-top cook stations from Japan that allowed for hood-free sightlines. These and other thoughtful considerations would allow diners to better appreciate the performance, but still left challenges when it came to designing the fire suppression system.
The solution came in the form of a custom-installed restaurant electric detection technology system. Taking inspiration from the unique, hoodless design of the Japanese cooking tables that featured individual ecologizer units to pull air and heat away from the cooktop, system components were integrated within each cook station. With intelligent technology capable of distinguishing cooking flames from an actual fire hazard, the chances of an accidental fire suppression discharge were greatly reduced, even while the full protection capabilities of the system were retained. In the rare event of a fire suppression deployment, the detectors and nozzles found in each cooking station were mounted away from patrons, and the multi-zoned placement of the system throughout the Kobe Teppanyaki Lounge means it will only deploy if and where it’s needed.
In addition to maintaining their restaurant’s aesthetic standard, the owners of the Kobe Teppanyaki Lounge found their maintenance costs with the electric detection system were almost 70 per cent less than the average in-hood fire suppression system. Complete system monitoring from a central location, individual station shut down and built-in smart notifications for maintenance are helping prevent unplanned downtime and reducing maintenance costs.
Safeguarding the future
The future of commercial kitchen fire protection must include flexible, intelligent, and compliant systems that are also less costly to manage and maintain. Electric fire detection technology minimizes downtime, waste, and maintenance costs while providing scalability and ease of use that was previously unattainable.
By improving flexibility and reducing costs versus traditional systems, an electric detection system is a smart, future-ready solution for today’s challenging foodservice environment.
Adam Walker is the Global Product Manager of Restaurant Systems for Johnson Controls. He is a Principal Committee Member of NFPA 17: Standard for Dry Chemical Extinguishing Systems, NFPA 17A: Standard for Wet Chemical Extinguishing Systems, and NFPA 96: Standard for Ventilation Control and Fire Protection of Commercial Cooking Operations.