Running stocking, operations, and energy management in one of the nation's tens of thousands of fast food restaurant franchises around the country is clearly no small task. Fast food chains seek to manage labor and energy costs along multiple nodes of their supply chain.
And several major fast food chains have all found that one place where all of these trials and tribulations of running so many restaurants converge is, well, an obvious one: the kitchen, of course.
The kitchen in fast food restaurants is the lens into its best and worst days. It's where food waste happens, or, in an ideal world, where energy can be saved, monitored, and improved, turning those well-known logos we all see on the side of the highway just a shade green.
It's not uncommon for corporations that supply and help manage these fast food franchises to appoint a director of technology or innovation, tasked with finding ways to make new tech work for classic American restaurants. The toughest part about figuring out how to make these restaurants more efficient, they say, is the reality that the structures for most of the buildings are old and tough to mess with. Because of that, these companies need efficiency solutions that update those buildings without imposing an enormous cost in terms of labor, new construction, and support. It's a challenge faced by many building owners seeking to take steps forward in terms of energy or efficiency.
They build those solutions using a number of interoperable devices which communicate with one another on an existing wi-fi network. LonWorks technology is often a part of that suite, which saves individual franchise owners an enormous amount in energy costs.
"Many on the consumer side of the IoT dream about smart kitchens - a talking fridge; a self-updating egg carton - each of these developments on industrial scales brings individual consumers a step closer, too."
For instance, already, one McDonald’s franchise in Riverside, CA used green kitchen technology, including LonWorks, as part of its LEED-Gold certification, a designation marking the building as one of the world's greenest and most energy efficient. The Riverside restaurant was the fifth McDonald's to go LEED-Gold.
A green kitchen system incorporating LonWorks technology would help control HVAC across the building, manage exterior lighting, and track metering/monitoring for electrical systems or a solar-hot-water system. Like in most energy-monitoring systems, each restaurant manager would have access to a web-portal in her or his office, allowing individual franchise owners to browse, control, and monitor data on each component of the energy system.
In an operation where ovens are particularly important, like at a restaurant that bakes bread or cookies, communicating temperature monitoring devices can be attached to ovens, notifying a franchise owner both of ideal temperatures and moments when waste might be an issue.
And of course, any successful business owner wants access to data in order to know how to improve practices. In these full green-kitchen systems, one could manually enter set points in time at which energy is less needed, for instance based on operating hours. The system could also self-correct intelligently to avoid energy losses common to most industrial building operations.
The whole goal of kitchen solutions on a fast food industry scale is simple: lower food waste, have fewer maintenance issues, strive for better food safety, and of course, make it more convenient for franchise owners to connect with the company driving them.
As many on the consumer side of the IoT dream about smart kitchens - a talking fridge; a self-updating egg carton - each of these developments on industrial scales brings individual consumers a step closer, too.