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Going green is a huge buzzword these days, but the great thing about it is, going green can also save you money. Learn how here.

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 3

By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

Last week, we continued our discussion on the critical questions that need to be addressed in order for a business to extract the maximum value from their investment in an energy management system:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

In last week’s post, we focused on the second question.  In this third and final post, we will focus on the last question:

When should the customer expect to achieve savings?

A system to help manage energy costs is just like any other business tool or system in that it requires: some effort to set up, some effort to get people trained and using it, and a time period over which the system moves from “new and different” to “how we do things.”  In this way the benefits from the system build over time rather than arriving all at once.

To be successful, the improvement of business processes that an energy management system can drive should be laid out in advance and approached at a reasonable pace. None of this is to say that implementing a modern energy management system is difficult – it is not.  But expecting your next month’s utility bill to magically go down by 20% is a recipe for disappointment. Like any “project”, some project management is required to maximize the benefits available.  Here is a sample deployment schedule, or project plan, for a modern energy management system.

Months 1-2: Training + Baseline data

During the first two months after an installation, an energy management system will gather baseline data on the magnitude of energy consumption and energy consumption patterns for each circuit in a restaurant.  This data characterizes “as-is” operations and equipment performance and will be the basis for identifying operational and equipment performance improvement opportunities.

In addition, all parties involved in the use of the energy management platform should be trained and become familiar with the use of the system during this period.

Months 2-6: Tune Daily Operations

By viewing energy consumption patterns, management can identify the “low-hanging fruit” opportunities for recapturing lost profits from relatively easy operational changes.  The low-hanging fruit opportunities include analyzing off-hours energy consumption and taking corrective action to ensure equipment is running only when it needs to be.

Initial opportunities for savings also include updating thermostat programming for more effective use of HVAC systems.

For those companies managing a portfolio of restaurants, the baseline data will enable benchmarking of their facilities.  Which restaurants have the best practices in terms of energy use?  Where are the worst practices?  Which functional areas (e.g., HVAC, refrigeration, lighting, etc.) are driving the biggest problems?  Through benchmarking, management will be able to prioritize which restaurants represent the largest opportunities for savings and can focus their efforts accordingly.

In order to sustain the operational improvements established during the first phases of an energy management system implementation, restaurant management can implement energy cost controls.  These controls can include establishing or updating opening and closing procedures for each store, establishing or reinforcing temperature set point on thermostats, and training staff in any changes.

In addition, the energy management system can be configured for email or text alerts that can be sent out to reinforce proper hours of operation of critical equipment.

Months 4-6: Identify Underperforming Equipment

In parallel with implementing new or enhanced energy cost controls and operational improvements, management will be able to identify problematic equipment during this period.  An energy management system can tag equipment exhibiting problematic energy consumption patterns (e.g., a roof-top unit short cycling, or a refrigeration compressor running continuously) and alert the facilities/maintenance team accordingly.

With this information, the facilities/maintenance team can revise equipment maintenance schedules and establish equipment alerts to highlight under-performing assets.

Month 7: Project Review

During the seventh month of deployment, it is very useful to schedule a review of the energy management system implementation to ensure all appropriate management feedback loops are in place, celebrate successes, and to reinforce areas that need improvement.
 
Months 9-12: Assess Equipment Upgrades

Some energy management systems can measure the exact cost of running a piece of equipment.  Based on the data collected during the first six months of implementation, is there a case for upgrading equipment to more energy efficient models?  What is the real-world performance of the EnergySTAR refrigeration equipment, HVAC equipment, and lighting in which you’ve already invested?  Just how costly is that “old dog” equipment that you know needs to be replaced sooner or later?  Which equipment should we use in our soon-to-be constructed new restaurant?

By providing actual run-time costs, an energy management system can give management the data it needs to tackle these questions.  Rather than projecting the ROI for replacing a piece of equipment using estimates of its energy consumption, one can now use the facts for how much energy the equipment uses now, which reduces the risk of not achieving your ROI.

Months 7 – Onward: Ongoing Daily Operations & Equipment Performance Management

Studies have shown that in the absence of active energy management, buildings can lose up to 80% of energy efficiency gains achieved via audits or retro-commissioning within the first two years after efficiency measures have been implemented.  This so-called “energy drift” can be prevented by incorporating an energy management system into ongoing operational practices in restaurants.  In the same way restaurants have systems for tracking inventory and labor costs, it is now possible to track and improve energy cost performance.

In addition to making sure all the operational and equipment improvements implemented during the first 6 months are continuing to be effective, restaurant management teams should consider implementing longer lead-time changes in broader operating policies that can save energy.  Examples of this type of business optimization include water vs. chemical sanitation, the sequence of food preparation that determines how much food warming is required, or the re-balancing of HVAC systems.

Also, it is critical to verify savings from new maintenance and / or capital equipment upgrades.  Has new equipment performed according to spec?  Are the equipment upgrades delivering their anticipated savings?  Are the service providers delivering improved maintenance and therefore equipment performance?

Finally, an energy management system can deliver on-going analysis that can help prevent catastrophic failure of critical equipment through early detection of abnormal energy consumption patterns, which can often indicate problems with equipment.

Conclusion

Before implementing an energy management system, it’s important that you have a plan which clearly articulates who should be involved in the use of the system, how the tool will be used to save money, and when you should expect to reap benefits from the use of the system.

With a modest amount of planning, an energy management platform can be a powerful tool for boosting profits in restaurants by cutting energy consumption and improving the performance of critical equipment.  By bringing visibility to what has historically been an invisible cost for restaurants, it is finally possible to move energy from an “uncontrollable” cost to a “controllable” cost.

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Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2

By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

In last week’s post, we introduced some of the benefits for deploying an energy management system across a restaurant’s operations.  We also described three critical questions that need to be addressed in order for a business to extract the maximum value from an energy management system:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

In last week’s post, we focused on the first question.  In this week’s post, we will focus on the second question:

Where are the opportunities for saving money?

An energy management system can be a very effective tool for identifying and eliminating areas of excessive energy spending, and there are a number of different categories of wasteful consumption where the platform can make a significant impact.

Off-hours consumption

In a typical restaurant operation, the “off-hours” period can be an opportunity for cutting back on excessive energy spending.  It is not uncommon for expensive loads, such as make-up air and exhaust fans, to frequently be left running all night when the restaurant is closed.  Some of the staff may be new or have not yet had proper training on all aspects of restaurant operations.  Managers have multiple competing demands for their attention.  People forget.  Ineffective off-hours management of even a modest number of devices in a restaurant can result in thousands of dollars in lost profits every year per store.

A modern energy management system can provide insight into energy consumption patterns, can calculate the costs of running equipment in the off-hours to highlight the magnitude of the waste, and can send alerts to management when equipment has been left running too late or is turned on too early.  By bringing this level of visibility into off-hours consumption, a modern energy management system can greatly facilitate implementation of robust operational practices that ensure equipment is only running when it needs to be.

Management of equipment use versus business volumes

As with off-hours energy consumption, there are many pieces of energy-intensive equipment in the restaurant’s kitchen, such as heat lamps, toasters, and Panini presses that can be turned down or turned off during quiet periods.  An energy management system can help evaluate consumption patterns and target the most cost-effective pieces of equipment to manage during lulls over the course of the day.

Inefficient HVAC and Refrigeration Equipment

A recent survey of commercial HVAC equipment revealed that more often than not, HVAC equipment is not operating as efficiently as it could be, due to faults in a variety of components, including:

•    Refrigerant circuit
•    Economizer
•    Air flow
•    Thermostat
•    Sensors

An energy management system can reveal problems with HVAC and refrigeration systems by identifying problematic operating patterns, such as compressor short-cycling, continuous operation of compressors, compressor failure, and by finding aberrations in expected supply and return duct air temperatures.

Inefficient Programming of Thermostats

Installing programmable thermostats and keeping on top of the different heating and cooling set points across each day and between seasons is the single most cost-effective way to automate energy savings.  Heating and cooling costs are typically a restaurant’s largest energy cost, and programmable thermostats are substantially less expensive than any other kind of energy automation.

Unfortunately, many restaurants use their programmable thermostats the same way many people use them at home: they don’t program them.  Programming the thermostat can be cumbersome, so it can be difficult to implement schedule changes or seasonal changes.  Set points are constantly over-ridden, with a tug-of-war between the staff’s desired temperature settings and the customers’ desired settings.    The result is HVAC equipment typically running harder and longer than necessary, wasting precious profits.

Having a staff trained on the use of the programmable thermostats and having a thermostat that is convenient (e.g., internet connected for remote control) and intuitive to can go a long way to optimizing the use of heating and cooling systems, balancing comfort and energy savings.

Early warnings of equipment problems

Equipment can reveal much about its performance through its energy consumption patterns.  If there are problems – e.g., a broken belt on a fan or a clogged vent in an exhaust system – equipment may use substantially more or substantially less energy than it was designed to consume.  An energy management system can be configured to automatically recognize aberrations in consumption patterns and proactively send out text and email alerts to management.  Because of this, an energy management system’s on-going analysis can help prevent “black swan” events — catastrophic failure of critical equipment.

Management of energy demand spikes

Most commercial properties, including restaurants, incur so-called “demand charges” from their electric utilities.  Demand charges are established when electricity consumption spikes, usually for 15 to 30 minutes.  The utility will charge based on the magnitude of the customers’ demand spikes, as measured in kilowatts, not kilowatt-hours.  The greater the spike, the greater the demand charge. (See here for a more detailed explanation.)

An energy management system can detect spikes in electricity consumption and either send out warnings with enough time for restaurant managers to do something to reduce the magnitude of the spike or, more likely, reveal overtime what changes could be made on a daily basis to systematically reduce the likelihood of higher demand charges.  For example, managers may set the thermostat back by 2 degrees or turn off their ice machine from 3pm to 4pm during the summer to reduce the total demand from the restaurant for the duration of the spike.

Modeling the savings

How do these different opportunities break-down in terms of savings potential?  Below is a model of a typical restaurant with a range of typical expected savings for each category of savings opportunity:

These savings can range by +/- 50%, meaning the savings range is 8-18% in direct energy savings. These savings do not reflect potential savings in gas consumption due to more effective use of thermostats and more efficient operation of HVAC equipment.

There are other savings opportunities as well.  Savings from maintenance calls that are avoided due to the remote diagnostics and equipment performance monitoring could add another $1,000 a year in direct savings (benchmarks for service calls are about $350 per call). While the HVAC/R faults require an HVAC technician to resolve,  we find that those issues can be addressed with minimal incremental cost to the existing R&M contract that is already “bought and paid for”  in year 1 of the program. Other cost reduction modifications to that contract are possible in future years as well.

In summary, when deploying an energy management system, it is important to focus on the areas where the system can deliver substantial cost savings:

•    Off-hours energy consumption
•    Management of equipment use versus business volumes
•    Inefficient HVAC and refrigeration equipment
•    Inefficient programming of thermostats
•    Early warnings of equipment problems
•    Management of energy demand spikes

With the proper focus, an energy management system can deliver real, measurable, and impactful energy savings.

In next week’s blog posting, we will focus on the final critical question: When should the customer expect to achieve savings?

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Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 1

By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

Energy has historically been considered an “uncontrollable” cost by most food service businesses.  With the possible exception of lighting, most forms of energy consumption in restaurants and other businesses are nearly invisible, and many of the invisible forms of energy consumption are far more expensive than lighting, especially when it comes to restaurant operations.  Energy can often be in the top 3 to 5 costs for a restaurant.  The challenge is that historically, there have been few, if any, tools available to seize this opportunity for cost control.

The good news is that cost-effective and comprehensive energy management technologies that can help control, identify, and eliminate excessive and unnecessary forms of energy consumption, drive down operating costs and improve profitability are becoming available to restaurant owners and other businesses operating in small commercial facilities.  These new energy management systems provide the ability to remotely control HVAC, gather detailed, real-time data for each piece of energy consuming equipment, and generate intelligent, specific, real-time guidance on finding and capturing the most compelling savings opportunities.  The systems may also include other functionality such as refrigeration temperature monitoring (think food safety), water and gas monitoring, and lighting automation, all of which enhance the value proposition that an energy management system can deliver.

Although there is much promise in these technologies today, many owners and operators can probably tell you a story about the energy related technology that was in fact too good to be true or a total bust. In our experience, to avoid the bad and the ugly and focus on the good, one needs to better understand these technologies, their value to an organization, and how they can be effectively deployed to improve an operation’s profitability. To help in this effort, there are three key questions that should be answered before embarking on a new energy management system project:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

Over the next three weeks, we’ll be addressing each one of these questions.  This week’s post focuses on the first issue:

Who should be involved in the use of energy management systems?

An energy management system can provide value across the span of an organization’s staff, so it’s important to have different groups engaged in the use of the system to reap maximum benefit.

Finance / Owner

Because an energy management system can bring visibility, detail, and benchmarking to one of the top operating costs for restaurants, it’s important to have the finance office involved in the use of the system.  Often, the main internal sponsor of an energy management implementation can be the CFO or franchise owner because one of the primary results of the system is an improvement to the bottom line for a company.

Managers / Operations

Many of the savings reaped from an energy management system are driven by process and operational changes, so it’s critical to have engagement with operating managers who have the authority to set policy and procedures and to manage staff operating critical energy-consuming devices.  In particular, it is important that both the person who is responsible for implementing the operational improvements AND that person’s direct supervisor are engaged in using the system — so, both regional and store managers should be involved. Moreover, as with any initiative, success is usually doomed if the people at the very top of the organization don’t make it clear that the initiative is a priority.

Systems / Facilities

Finally, whoever in the organization has responsibility for facilities or equipment management should be engaged in the project.  The energy management system can help track critical equipment performance and provide the necessary data for making intelligent decisions about equipment maintenance and upgrade programs.

Integrating an energy management system’s deployment across an organization helps to ensure that all those functions within a business that can benefit from the platform will do so.

In next week’s post, we’ll address the next critical question: Where are the opportunities for saving money?

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A Really Easy Way To Make Commercial Steam Tables Energy Efficient

Steam TableIf your restaurant or commercial food service operation uses steam tables to keep food hot before you serve the customer, then this post is for you.  If this post is for you, then you already know how integral steam tables can be in your day-to-day operations.  You also know they can eat up a lot of energy on a daily basis.

Making commercial steam tables more energy efficient is easier than you might think.  If you’ve got an older unit, the first thing to consider is buying a new steam table.  Newer models are more efficient, more reliable, and create a better impression with your customer.

I know, you thought I said this would be easy.  In the likely case you’re planning on keeping your current steam tables and just want to make them more efficient, read on for the really easy part.

Steam table pans are the essential moving part that keeps a steam table going.  Those pans also act as a lid that helps trap the heat the table is creating to keep food warm.  And as anyone who has worked with those steam table pans knows, over time the corners and edges become bent and wavy.  In fact, my personal experience is that it only takes a trip or two through the dishwashing station in a busy kitchen for those corners and edges to start bending upward.

The problem with bent corners and edges on steam table pans is that their role as the lid on the heat generated by the table is compromised.  The gaps between the edges of the well and the edges of the table allow steam to escape, and anyone watching a pot of water come to a boil knows that one without a tightly sealed lid is going to take longer.

It may not seem like a big deal to have a little steam escaping from a couple gaps where the pan meets the well, and by itself for an hour or two it isn’t.  The problem is that if you’re using commercial steam tables to keep food warm, you’ve probably got it running for several hours at a time many days in a row.  Over time, those little gaps end up costing you significant amounts of money – as much as $30 per well per year!

This is where the easy part comes in.  A pair of pliers and some time should be enough for you to straighten out the curled and bent edges of your existing steam table pans.  The Edge Steam Table Pan By Polarware

When you go to buy new pans, I would highly recommend The Edge steam table pans by Polarware.  These pans are made from 300 series stainless steel and have a reinforced edge and corners that resists bending or curling.  The edges are also specially designed for easy gripping, making the constant chore of replacing steam table pans much easier on your staff.

Sometimes the simplest solution, like making sure all the edges on your steam table pans are straight, can make a huge difference, especially in a business with historically thin profit margins like the food service industry.  And sometimes, when all new steam table pans look the same, one has features that make it stand out from the crowd.  Polarware’s The Edge steam table pans are definitely a standout.

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Have You Joined The NRA’s Conserve Initiative?

The NRA's Conserve InitiativeThe National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) Conserve Initiative is designed to give restaurateurs the tools they need to start implementing sustainable, environmentally conscious practices in the food service industry.  As quoted from the Conserve Initiative’s website:

“The National Restaurant Association’s Conserve initiative is designed to initiate and inspire actions that improve a company’s bottom line, but also are good for people and the planet.”

The Conserve Initiative website contains news stories about leaders in restaurant sustainability, tools for improving the efficiency and minimizing the environmental impact of your restaurant, and links to important partner sites like government-run Energy Star, which is focused on energy efficiency.

A skeptic might ask: “Why all the hubbub about environmentalism all of a sudden?”  As the NRA points out, some basic realities are confronting the average restaurant owner every day: utility and energy bills eat up 2.5% – 3.4% of gross revenue.  Poll after poll consistently shows that American consumers place value on products and services that are marketed as “green” or “environmentally friendly.”  Food in your restaurant is no exception to this.  And finally, the food service industry is one of the largest in the United States.  The industry as a whole should take the lead on an increasingly important cultural issue.

Here on The Back Burner, I have written extensively about ways to improve energy efficiency and environmental sustainability in your restaurant.  The NRA’s Conserve Initiative is just another resource in the greening efforts your restaurant can actually profit from engaging in.  And that remains the salient point here: focusing on so-called “green” initiatives and strategies in your restaurant can actually save you money!

So what are you waiting for?  Go green and be happy.

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Is Your Restaurant Exhaust System Sucking Up Money?

ventilation systemThe exhaust system in your kitchen is one of those essential pieces of equipment that you must have in order to operate.  And if your hood is like the ones in most restaurants, it has two settings: “on” and “off.”  When your line is operating at full tilt during the dinner rush, the “on” setting is probably perfect, quickly sending heat and fumes straight from your cooking equipment outside.  But what about afternoons or during light lunches?  You probably still have the ventilation on but your equipment is not creating nearly as much exhaust.

I don’t have to tell you how much energy that hood exhaust in your kitchen is using.  Here’s a few tips on making sure your restaurant exhaust system is running as efficiently as possible:

Get the system rebalanced. Your exhaust system needs some regular maintenance to run at optimal levels.  If too much smoke is building up in your kitchen, or if the system seems like it’s on overdrive all the time, a rebalancing by a trained technician is in order.  A rebalance ensures the system is keeping the kitchen safe but not sucking up too much energy by working too hard.

Maximize suction. If you’re paying to run your kitchen ventilation system, it might as well be pulling as much of the stuff you don’t want in your kitchen as possible.  To maximize smoke and heat capture, make sure your cooking equipment is pushed all the way up against the wall underneath the hood.  This prevents clean air from getting sucked up from behind the equipment and puts the maximum amount of hood over your line.  And if your hood doesn’t have side panels, you can install them easily and cheaply.  Side panels help trap smoke and fumes, making the exhaust system more efficient.

Install a demand ventilation control. If you really want to save some money on kitchen ventilation then a demand control is for you.  It senses the cooking volume in your kitchen and adjusts fan speed accordingly.  A ventilation control can reduce kitchen exhaust energy usage by 30% – 50% and can be either ordered with a new exhaust system or installed on an older unit.A Restaurant Hood Filter

Clean and maintain hood filters. The hood filters are the metal squares in the exhaust opening of your restaurant’s exhaust system that catch the grease in air as it gets sucked out.  The hood filter plays an important role, since grease buildup can become a dangerous fire risk.  As time goes on hood filters become saturated with grease and should be cleaned.  The dirtier the filter, the harder your exhaust has to work to suck air through them.  Also make sure they are installed correctly (with the baffles, or ridges, in the vertical position) and that there are no gaps between them.  Replace damaged filters immediately.  Click here for a complete guide to hood filters.

If you happen to be designing a new kitchen, you should account for a few factors in order to maximize ventilation efficiency:

Group heavy cooking equipment together. Whatever you’re going to be cooking with the most should all be right next to each other underneath the hood.  If you have a single heavy cooking appliance, like a charbroiler, and other lighter cooking equipment, it’s a good idea to separate the heavy piece from the lighter pieces and give it a dedicated high volume exhaust.  This allows you to run the lighter equipment under a hood that doesn’t have to be on full blast all the time.

Create a big overhang. While 4 feet is the industry standard, 5 or 6 feet of hood will capture more smoke and allow you to run your restaurant exhaust system more efficiently.

Making the kitchen ventilation system energy efficient not only saves you money, it ensures that the exhaust is capturing the maximum amount of smoke and fumes and getting them out of your kitchen.

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The Church of Cupcakes

Priests. Prayers. Candles. Confessionals. Cupcakes?

Are you looking for a new place to worship? Need a way to fill the void in your spiritual life? The Church of Cupcakes may be the delicious solution to your problems. This is not your typical church. This culinary cathedral will satisfy even your sweetest tooth.

The Church of Cupcakes is religious in its cupcake construction; comparing it to the indescribable sensation experienced after hiking a mountain, kayaking a river or rafting through raging rapids. They welcome all worshippers to join in the “euphoric bliss” gained through preparing and enjoying a cupcake.

The Denver based company recently changed its name from Lovely Confections. The Church of Cupcakes is very excited about the new direction of the business but could use some extra funding to get this plan in action. They are currently registered for a grant contest and could use your help. The contest is sponsored by Chase and Living social and designed to award 12 small businesses with a $250,000 grant. In order to be considered for one of the grants each small business needs at least 250 votes.

The Church of Cupcakes brings a new and exciting approach to the world of cupcakes. They are dedicated to providing tasty treats made with organic, local and sustainable ingredients and making sure their entire operation is environmentally safe. This is clear when reading the company’s “Ten Commandments.” This is a list of ten culinary laws that the company cooks by. These commandments vow that the company will always bake from scratch, never use artificial colors or flavors, use renewable packaging and always celebrate the cupcake for bringing joy.

Along with offering fresh local ingredients the company’s style is unique because of their ironic humor and clean, vintage design. The colorful store is complete with glitter floors, a foosball table, photo booths and scripture chalkboards in the bathrooms. The company also sells custom t-shirts and bumper stickers as well.

The store isn’t the only unique aspect the Church of Cupcakes offers to customers. The menu is one of a kind because of its ingredients and clever names. From rapture raspberry to sprinkle salvation and pillar of salted caramel all of the menu items are fun and delicious. The cupcakes are baked in small batches throughout the day in order to offer customers the freshest cupcake every time. The Church of Cupcakes offers a “virgin” cupcake that is gluten free and available in chocolate or vanilla which can be paired with any frosting option.

The Church of Cupcakes is located at 1489 Steele Street in Denver. The store’s hours of worship are Tuesday-Friday 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-5p.m. You can also visit churchofcupcakes.com or call (720) 524-7770 to place an order.

The church bells are ringing, come in to the Church of Cupcakes today and enjoy a little piece of heaven in every bite.

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17 Energy Efficiency And Going Green Tips

Energy Efficiency & Going Green Tips For Your RestaurantImproving your restaurant’s energy efficiency and sustainability practices has two rewards: reduced costs and great PR opportunities.  Studies have shown that consumers are increasingly aware of “green” issues and that they care about them, even in a down economy.  That means you can connect with your customers and build brand loyalty while streamlining your operation at the same time.  These articles will help you take advantage of green opportunities and shed some light on what’s coming down the pike in the near future:

1.  Stop Giving Waste Fryer Oil Away! – More than likely someone is recycling your waste fryer oil for you.  Hopefully you’re not paying for that service.  Soon, though, you’ll want to keep that oil to yourself and generate your own electricity.  Learn why in this post.

2.  Chefs Make Their Own Honey – From vegetables to honey, chefs are making a lot of ingredients themselves these days, and saving a lot of food miles in the process.

3.  How Chipotle Went Platinum– A Chipotle franchise in Gurnee Mills, IL recently won Platinum energy efficiency from LEED.  Learn more about the program in this post.

4.  Have You Joined The NRA’s Conserve Initiative?– The National Restaurant Association’s Conserve Initiative is and effort to bring more of the food service industry into the energy efficiency fold.  Learn more in this post.

5.  Can We Bring Bluefin Tuna Back From The Brink? – The bluefin has been fished nearly to extinction, but an Australian fisherman has figured out how to bring them back from the brink.  Learn more in this post.

6.  Is Your Kitchen Ventilation Sucking Up Money? – That hood in your kitchen uses A LOT of energy.  Learn how to make sure it’s running as efficiently as possible in this post.

7.  The Conflict Between Local Food And Local Government – “Urban farming,” the increasingly popular practice of planting vegetables in vacant lots and rooftops in urban environments, sometimes comes into conflict with municipal ordinances.  Learn how that conflict is shaping up in one California town.

10 More Energy Efficiency Tips Here

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Efficient Restaurant Tips: Manage Equipment (continued)

Here are some more tips on how to make sure your restaurant equipment is performing at maximum efficiency.

Perform regular equipment maintenance. Simple parts on cooking and refrigeration equipment break down or degrade over time from constant use, reducing energy efficiency and equipment performance.

Usually these parts are so easy to replace you can do it yourself:

 

Different refrigeration gasket styles

Different refrigeration gasket styles

Door gaskets. The constant opening and closing of oven, steamer, and refrigerator or freezer doors leads to wear and tear on the gasket that helps seal in heat or cold.

Replace these gaskets as they become worn to reduce leaks.

Thermostats. The thermostat on your freezer, refrigerator, or fryer can lose its calibration or wear out, meaning the machine isn’t operating at optimal temperature.

Check thermostats regularly with a commercial thermometer and recalibrate or replace them as needed.

Check pilot lights and clean burners. Pilot lights are convenient but also represent a constant use of energy in your kitchen.  Make sure they aren’t using more energy than needed by checking them regularly.

If the flame is taller than a couple inches or yellow in color, adjust the flame until it’s small and blue.  Also clean oven and range burners regularly and replace burners that have worn out to maximize their efficiency.

Train kitchen staff. Implementing the tips above sounds good in theory, but unless you train your staff to think about energy efficiency, these strategies will remain just a theory.

Set idle time and shut down procedures for all your equipment to minimize their energy use.  Train head staff to check for bad door gaskets and thermostats.  Make sure full racks of dishes are going through the dishwasher instead of half full or mostly empty ones.

Most importantly, get your staff to understand why energy savings are important, and incentivize them to act efficiently.

es_logoBuy Energy Star rated restaurant equipment. Replace old equipment in your kitchen as quickly as possible.  When shopping for new equipment, look for Energy Star ratings.  Most restaurant equipment has annual energy usage statistics.  Use this information to compare units and purchase the most efficient one.

No matter what, new equipment is going to be more efficient and perform better than old equipment.  Often the annual energy savings from new equipment will recoup the cost of purchasing it within a few years.

Also check for rebates from your local, state, or federal government for purchasing energy efficient equipment.

Carefully calculate capacity. One of the most common mistakes restaurant or commercial kitchen managers make when purchasing new equipment is buying too big.

Ice machines, refrigerators or freezers, and dishwashers are big energy users and are the most common units where this mistake is made.  Of course, buying too small is just as bad, and that’s why it’s important to accurately calculate your production needs.

Start by analyzing peak demand.  Once you know how many people or how many meals you serve per hour at peak demand times, you can better analyze what size equipment you need.

However, you should also take into account future growth.

Most restaurant equipment, if properly maintained, should last 5 – 10 years.  In that time your business should grow as well, meaning peak demand 5 years from now is going to be more than peak demand right now.

In general, overestimate equipment capacity by 10% – 20% to make sure it can meet your needs over the entire lifetime of the unit.

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Go Green, Save Money, Serve Better Produce

Make Your Restaurant Green With Saf-T-WashAs the past few years have shown, produce can be a food safety liability for anyone in the food service industry. Easy spoilage also makes produce a very difficult item to manage on your inventory. On top of all that, produce takes a lot of time and labor to prep.

Yet fruits and vegetables are also a vital ingredient on any restaurant’s menu, and most of you out there have mastered the fine art of serving clean, healthy, fresh produce to your customers on a daily basis. Mastery of that art comes at a price, however. Chemical sanitization, cleaning, and spoilage all cost money and cut into your food margin.

Locally and organically produced produce don’t help your cause any either. Typically local and organic produce spoils faster even though it arrives fresher. And nobody wants their organic produce sanitized with chemicals after arriving through your back door.

There must be some kind of product that addresses all the issues you have dealing with fresh produce in your restaurant.

Well, I’m glad you asked.

The Saf-T-Wash by San Jamar addresses all three of your main food service sanitation concerns when it comes to produce: sanitation, freshness, and spoilage. How does it work? The Saf-T-Wash adds ozone to water and attaches directly to the faucet in your kitchen, allowing you to wash fresh produce and sanitize it at the same time while extending shelf life.

Ozone is a natural element that’s been used for years in the bottled water industry to kill pathogens during the bottling process. Ozone kills at least 99.99% of the major pathogens found in produce within two minutes of exposure, which is significantly more effective than a chlorine treatment. And ozone removes enzymes from fruits and vegetables that cause spoilage, improving shelf life after prep has been completed.

You also don’t have to use as much ozone treated water to clean produce during prep, saving you money on water. In general, treating your fruits and vegetables with ozone treated water is a more effective and efficient way to prep produce for serving. According to San Jamar, the money saved in water and labor savings plus reduced spoilage means the Saf-T-Wash pays for itself in 3 months.

Using the Saf-T-Wash also gives you a unique opportunity to market your restaurant as a green operation to your customers. Despite the economic downturn, studies still return consistent results when it comes to customer attitudes regarding green practices in food safety: consumers want more of it and they like restaurants that participate in green programs. If you’re serving organically grown produce washed with ozone treated water, you’re creating a great opportunity to add value to your restaurant brand in the eyes of your customer. And in an age of price wars and increasingly brutal competition, anything that sets you apart and adds value is something that might give you an extra edge over your competition.

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