Go Green: Restaurant Equipment to Help Save Money and the Planet
Utility bills account for a significant portion of a restaurant's operating budget. Energy-wasting equipment and procedures can cut into your bottom line, making your business much less profitable than it could be. Here are some tips to help boost your restaurant's energy efficiency, from choosing new energy-efficient restaurant equipment to simple changes you can implement today at no cost.
Choosing Energy-Efficient Restaurant Equipment
When it comes to selecting new equipment for your restaurant kitchen, opt for cooking equipment with thermostatic controls. This type of control automatically fires burners on and off to maintain the temperature set by the operator, as opposed to manual or "infinite" controls that burn at a constant set intensity. Thermostatic controls can save energy by using only the fuel or electricity required to keep equipment at the correct cooking temperature, which also helps you achieve a consistent product from batch to batch.
Electronic ignition is another energy-saving feature that's available on many types of gas equipment. These systems ignite gas with an electric spark that's generated at the press of a button, without the need for matches or lighters. Not only is this safer and more convenient than igniting a gas flame manually, it also makes it more practical to turn off the equipment when it isn't in use and eliminates the need for a standing pilot light, which can cut gas usage by as much as 80 percent. Having equipment with electronic ignition leaves little excuse to leave equipment on when it isn't being used to cook.
Modern cooking equipment is designed to be much more energy efficient in general than equipment of the past, so your outdated equipment may be wasting more money than you realize. For example, efficient gas fryers can save more than $4,000 dollars a year over traditional technologies 1. Look for ENERGY STAR-certified equipment when you shop, which has been tested by Environmental Protection Agency- certified laboratories to be significantly more efficient than similar equipment. Energy-efficient restaurant equipment takes advantage of advanced features like electronic controls, which can prevent wide temperature fluctuations for quicker recovery times. In addition to helping you go green, electronic controls are easier for new restaurant staff to master in training.
Cutting Down on Restaurant Water Consumption
Nearly every task in a restaurant kitchen involves water, from rinsing produce to cooking food to washing wares. Even a small reduction in water consumption can make a big difference in the utility bills. Here are some easy water-saving tips that don't require making major changes:
- Run the dishmachine only when full: A half-full machine will use the same amount of water and electricity as a full one, so plan your procedures accordingly and only run the machine when it contains a full load to avoid running it more frequently than necessary.
- Verify the proper incoming water conditions for all equipment: Every piece of equipment is designed to operate best on the manufacturer-specified incoming water pressure and temperature. Using water at a higher pressure or temperature will only waste resources, and could cause the machine's performance to suffer. Verify that the incoming water conditions are what's specified in the manufacturer's user manual. Only let manufacturer-certified technicians install and service your equipment to ensure it's installed and maintained properly.
- Invest in low-flow faucets: Low-flow faucets can cut down on the amount of water used in your warewashing procedures without sacrificing the performance of the fixture. Modern low-flow faucets are designed to use less water but clean just as efficiently as traditional equipment. An especially critical fixture is the pre-rinse unit, used to rinse dishes before they're sent on to be washed and sanitized. Establishments that switch to low-flow faucets can see savings in the order of hundreds of dollars a month.2
- Keep an eye out for leaks: Even a tiny leak, if left unfixed, can add up to thousands of wasted gallons a month. Most leaks involve a simple fix, such as tightening hardware or replacing a simple component. Make a habit of checking all incoming water connections periodically for leaks and fixing them as soon as they're detected.
Water-Saving Kitchen Equipment
One major step towards saving money on the water bill and boosting your restaurant's energy efficiency is to update your water-using equipment. Commercial dishwashers and commercial steamers tend to be the biggest water users in the kitchen, and replacing old, inefficient equipment can really pay off over the life of the equipment.
ENERGY STAR-certified steamers can potentially save thousands of dollars a year in operating costs versus standard equipment.3 That may even add up to enough to pay for the cost of the equipment if it replaces an inefficient unit. The same goes for commercial dishwashers. An ENERGY STAR-certified dishwasher requires as little as half the water as a conventional machine, and can save nearly as much energy to heat that water.4
Commercial ice machines are another resource-intensive type of equipment that need a good deal of electricity for their refrigeration components, as well as a constant supply of water for making ice. Again, look for the blue ENERGY STAR logo when shopping for the most energy-efficient ice machine. Also, be sure to opt for air-cooled machines whenever possible. Water-cooled machines often require more than four times the water of air-cooled machines without a significant increase in ice production capacity under normal conditions, making them big money wasters in kitchens that don't absolutely require them. The one exception to this rule is if your building is equipped with a cooling tower or other recirculating system that eliminates the need to constantly draw from your water supply.
Proper Equipment Use and Maintenance
Some kitchen equipment, like refrigerators, can never be turned off, but most cooking equipment can and should be shut down or put in an energy-saving state whenever possible to help your kitchen go green. Restaurant staff often get in the habit of leaving burners on when they're not using them, so consider implementing a clear startup and shutdown schedule that specifies when cooking equipment should be fired up to avoid burning gas or using electricity needlessly.
Closely following your equipment manufacturers' suggested cleaning and maintenance schedules will not only extend the life of your equipment and keep it working reliably, but will also maximize its energy-efficiency. Whether it involves brushing the dust out of your freezer's condenser coils or scrubbing your gas range burner rings to keep them clear of grease clogs, keeping a clean machine will prevent wasting energy on overworked equipment.
1. ENERGY STAR Equipment Savings Fact Sheet. Accessed December 2015.
2. Low-Flow Pre-Rinse Spray Valves. Food Service Technology Center. Accessed December 2015.
3. Specify ENERGY STAR Steamers! Food Service Technology Center. Accessed December 2015.
4. Specify ENERGY STAR Dishwashing Machines. Food Service Technology Center. Accessed December 2015.