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Industry News: CenterPoint Hosts Peers

Hoobie Eskuri of US Foods, Dennis McGuire of Vader and Landgraf and Todd Shemer Sr. of TriMark, spoke on the Trade Ally Panel. Right is Melisa Marks, foodservice equipment center manager, SoCal Gas.

The Gas Foodservice Equipment Network (GFEN), an Energy Solutions Center Consortium that promotes the use of natural gas, held its 2019 Foodservice Workshop in mid-August at the CenterPoint Energy Foodservice Learning Center in Minneapolis. 

The two-and-a-half-day event, which is held every other year, included a comprehensive look at the foodservice industry from customer, supplier and R&D perspectives. The workshop provided nearly 60 attendees from all over the country with live demonstrations using commercial natural gas cooking equipment and industry experts talking about natural gas equipment and panel discussions with members of the entire supply chain.

Local vendors were included on an End-User Panel Discussion, featuring Jim Holl, director, equipment innovation & operations from International Dairy Queen; Jackie Brown, foodservice director at Orono School District; Trent Anderson, executive chef at the Medina Entertainment Center; and John Van House, corporate executive chef at Grand Casinos. 

Terri Harrington with the Hollander Company talked on how products get to the customers, and Todd Shemer Sr. of TriMark, Dennis McGuire of Vader and Landgraf and Hoobie Eskuri of US Foods spoke on the Trade Ally Panel. Another local, Dan DeRoma of Daly & DeRoma, presented on the Vulcan fryer.

CenterPoint Energy is one of nine natural gas utilities across the country that operates a demo kitchen. The kitchens provide restaurateurs, institutional feeders and others with a hands-on opportunity to try out different brands of equipment they’re looking to buy by bringing in product to test out.

“We’re a neutral site,” says Ann Lovcik, foodservice energy efficiency consultant in the sales & CIP implementation department of CenterPoint Energy in Minneapolis. “I’m not pushing the equipment or one brand (over another).”  The equipment that makes up their demo kitchen is on consignment from the manufacturers.

However, she adds, a significant number of people who come into the CenterPoint Energy demo kitchen, either on their own or through their equipment rep, end up buying.

Lovcik compares it to taking a test drive in a new vehicle before signing the papers. Only with CenterPoint’s 32-foot hood, there are eight pieces of equipment under the hood. 

“My role in the industry is to provide resources for customers to use less energy and save money,” Lovcik says. And music to her ears was that when some of the attendees were leaving, they told her: “I’m going to go back and do some research on getting a kitchen.”


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