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3 tips to choose the right energy-efficient equipment for you

August 1, 2014

By National Restaurant Association staff

Save money in the long run by investing in energy-efficient appliances and equipment. While they might cost more at the start, they can help you achieve your sustainability goals, says Richard Young, education director, Food Service Technology Center.

“Efficiency is saving you money,” he said. “It impacts sustainability. Sustainability is money. The market wants it, and it's the right thing to do … It's good business.”

Here are some tips for choosing energy-efficient equipment:

Do the math. How much will a $700 standard fryer cost you in electricity? A $1,400 energy-efficient fryer could save $600 a year in utility costs, Young says. That means you break even in just over a year.

Bonus: The more expensive fryer operates better, which extends the life of the oil, providing additional savings.  Add in rebates from your utility company for the more efficient fryer, and the appliance quickly pays for itself, Young says. That makes your investment “worth every penny in the long run.”

Go high-tech. At this year’s NRA Show, Young and restaurant designer Tarah Schroeder explained how to create a modern, sustainable kitchen. Their advice: Adopt induction cooking, efficient fryers and griddles, and variable-speed hoods that adjust to the level of heat on the stoves and ovens underneath them.

“Foodservice is very energy-intensive,” Young says. “Purchasing and using sustainable equipment is the best thing you can do to create a sustainable kitchen.”

Set clear goals and reevaluate to stay on track. As a principal with Denver-based Ricca Newmark Design, Schroeder helped design a café for the Environmental Science and Forestry School at the State University of New York in Syracuse. The school’s goal was to reduce waste, and energy efficiency was critical to that goal, she says.

With Schroeder’s help, the school selected Energy Star-rated equipment, variable-speed hoods, and parallel refrigeration, which uses a single compression to power different refrigerators. Yet  the kitchen’s energy output remained high despite the new equipment. Ultimately, Schroeder recommended replacing a char broiler with a griddle after meeting with the chef to discuss his menu plans.

The ROI: The school reduced the energy use for the cook line and the exhaust hood. “Eliminating a char broiler is not always going to be the best strategy for every project, but here it was the right thing to do.”

Learn how to save money and resources with the expert advice, tips and tools in our new Spotlight on Sustainability report.

Cents and sensibility: How to save on trash disposal

August 21, 2014

By Erik Makinson

Should operators collaborate on sustainable waste disposal?
It is a team sport. If a single restaurateur tries to go it alone, sustainability can be expensive and time consuming. By collaborating with other operators, restaurateurs can leverage efficiencies of scale to drive down cost. We’ve seen multiple neighborhood restaurants come together and commit to diverting food waste, which enables a compost hauler to justify a particular route. We’ve also seen franchisees of chains utilize compostable foodservice ware, ensuring that their buying cooperative has sufficient scale to obtain competitive pricing.

What are the biggest costs or expenses associated with waste disposal?
The number one cost of waste disposal is buying the goods that eventually end up in your waste stream. For example, take an 8-inch, round head of lettuce. If that head of lettuce wilted before you could use it and you threw it in the garbage whole, the volume that the head of lettuce would displace in the trash would be about 268 cubic inches. If you were paying the equivalent of $8 per cubic yard for waste disposal, the relative cost impact would be less than 5 cents. However, that same head of lettuce might have cost $1.50 to purchase originally, or 30 times the cost of disposal! If restaurateurs could avoid creating waste by focusing on their purchasing practices and prep and portion control, the wins would be far greater than managing the waste on the back end.

Are there advantages to recycling and composting waste?
There are wins to be realized through recycling and composting. In general, we’ve found that single-stream recycling costs roughly half the price of landfill disposal and composting costs about three-quarters of the price, though those figures vary widely around the country.

How much can a typical waste disposal program cost?
Across our portfolio, the average business pays about $430 per site per month.
When we talk about tipping fees   the cost that the waste hauler pays to dump material at a disposal facility   varies dramatically throughout the United States. Some communities pay between $20 and $30 per ton to dump at their local municipal landfill while others pay up to $150 per ton to load material onto train cars destined for mega-landfills several states away. It is only when waste is hauled in a compactor or roll-off bin that businesses typically see tipping fees itemized on their bills. If the waste is collected in a dumpster or wheeled cart, the tipping charges are typically embedded into the monthly fixed fee based on the size of the bin and how often it’s collected.

How can those fees be reduced?
Businesses can reduce their cost by following these three strategies:

1. Procurement: In about 80 percent of the country, businesses can select their own waste hauler. Within those areas, it’s important that the businesses obtain multiple quotes for their hauling services and select a vendor based on both price and service quality. We’ve seen pricing for the exact same service, at the exact same site, vary up to 100 percent.
2. Optimization: Don’t pay for more service than you need. Optimize your container size and pick-up frequency to the volume of waste actually generated. By doing this, restaurants can ensure they’re not paying for half-empty dumpsters to be removed.
3. Zero Waste: Waste disposal isn’t expensive if you don’t have any. By focusing on the good old 3 Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, restaurants can achieve savings regardless of whether hauling prices increase in future.

More Resources

Learn more on the Learn: Reduce Waste & Recycle webpage.

Don’t let drought leave you thirsty for relief

August 21, 2014

By Courtney Lindberg

As most people probably know, California, along with several other Western states, is in the midst of a serve drought. Right now, our state is on a voluntary 10-percent reduction plan to save as much water as we possibly can. This means that all restaurateurs, other business operators and residents are being asked to do their part and decrease the amount of water they use daily. It’s not easy, but we’re doing our part, especially in Ventura, which is a small town located just outside of Los Angeles.

In the case of Ventura, one thing about our water is unique: it is not sourced from the Colorado River, as is the case for much of the rest of the state. We rely 100 percent on local sources for our drinking water. Since we are in a drought, water use hits close to home for our businesses and residents alike.

Right now, because we are on a voluntary reduction, it's critical for restaurants to look closely at their operations and take action to reduce their water use. This can be done by:

  • Running the dishwasher only when it is totally full
  • Not having running water behind the bar or in the kitchen, and
  • Using non-water thaw methods for frozen items

So why is it important to take action now? Because the next step after a voluntary 10-percent reduction is a mandatory water reduction. This means water use will be restricted and water prices potentially will increase.

You may be wondering what you, as a restaurant operator, can do to reduce water use besides not
voluntarily serving it to your guests. Our advice includes
these three tips:

  1. Install aerators and low flow toilets in your restaurants’ restrooms (see short how-to video)
  2. Post signs encouraging your guests and staff to turn water off when it’s not in use
  3. Remind your staff not to let water run freely ever

In our city, we give out low flow, pre-rinse spray nozzles for free, and other states, cities and municipalities may do the same. Check with your local politicians, chamber of commerce and EPA office about whether they do the same. If they don’t, the nozzles are not expensive. In addition, purchasing a new low flow toilet costs about $120, but both of those remedies offer instant savings because water here is expensive.

Different jurisdictions offer difference incentives for businesses and residents. In Ventura, we have a green business certification program that is a statewide partnership that highlights all of the efforts our local restaurants and businesses are taking.

Really, the first step is deciding to take action. If you make change now, it won’t cost you dearly later.

Courtney Lindberg is an environmental specialist for the city of Ventura in Southern California.

More Resources

Learn more about conserving water on the Learn: Save Water webpage.