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Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 1

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 1By 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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The Church of Cupcakes

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

17 Energy Efficiency And Going Green TipsImproving 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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Green Initiatives: A Rise In Cost Or A Part Of Your Marketing Budget?

QSR magazine published an article recently about new take out packaging for restaurants made from recycled plastic water bottles.  Dubbed The Bottle Box, the restaurants that have used it say it performs just as well or better than normal plastic take out packaging, and that it can be customized with your establishment’s name and logo very easily.  The biggest pitfall of The Bottle Box is the 2% – 5% increase in cost over regular packaging.

Recycled packaging and compostable disposables like corn cups are one of those things that always sounds good in theory, but can translate into some real costs in practice that affect your bottom line.  The Bottle Box is a good example of this.  The standard reaction by any businessman would be: why spend more for something that does the same job as the thing I’m using now?

Well, that’s one way to look at it.

Another approach is to take the relatively nominal increase in cost and view it as an expense in your marketing budget.  How does that work?  Well, instead of just labeling The Bottle Box with your restaurant’s logo, why not advertise the fact that you’re using recycled packaging?

Studies have consistently shown that consumers place a high value on food service operations that take green initiatives, and are even willing to pay a little more for those restaurant’s products.  Just look at the success of Chipotle in the last five years if you need a good example of this.

However, you don’t need to pass all costs on to your customer, and really you shouldn’t unless you have to.  There are measurable benefits to adding something like recycled packaging to your operation.  The key is making sure your customer knows about the initiatives you are taking.

Some tips on how to make sure you’re communicating properly:

Train servers to work green initiative plugs into their spiels.
There’s no better way to communicate with your customer than through your servers.  Have them remind guests about the green things you’re doing in a gentle, non-pushy way that nonetheless firmly implants your initiative in their head.

Post reminders throughout your restaurant. Do you have a recycling program?  Put up a sign that says “We Recycle” above a blue garbage can, if no one ever uses it.  The same goes for composting programs.  Do you use Energy Star rated equipment?  Put up an Energy Star logo where customers can see it.  Do you use The Bottle Box instead of straight plastic packaging?  Tell your customers right on the bag!

Work your green initiatives into your marketing materials. Whether it’s an ad in the paper, a flyer, or a website, don’t be afraid to announce that you’re taking action to make your restaurant greener.  If you’re particularly proud of your greening accomplishments, you may even want to launch an advertising campaign that specifically touts your efforts.

Don’t be afraid to take baby steps!
You don’t have to implement a comprehensive green program for your restaurant all at once to gain some real appreciation from your customers.  Start with simple stuff like a recycling program and green take out packaging.  Tell your customers about it.  Then take on something more involved like composting or sourcing vegetables locally.  No matter how small or incremental your efforts, your customers will appreciate it, and they can’t appreciate it if you don’t tell them.

Taking steps to improve your restaurant’s green image don’t have to be all about raising your costs either.  Many changes can have the dual benefit of making your restaurant more green and more efficient, which really is a win-win.  No matter how you green your restaurant, just make sure to announce it loud and clear to customers.  They’ll appreciate it.  And they’ll eat in your restaurant more often.

Check out a trove of going green tips here.

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Green Restaurants: Turning Food Waste Into Electricity

Green Restaurants: Turning Food Waste Into ElectricitySan Francisco restaurants are often on the cutting edge of sustainability and green practices.  They’ve pioneered ways to turn food waste into fertilizer, reduce food miles by sourcing locally, and decrease waste through recycling and composting.

More recently, the East Bay Municipal Utility District has started converting up to 200 tons of food waste gathered from area restaurants into electricity every week, and that power is used in some of the very same restaurants that contribute their organic waste.

The waste is converted by allowing it to be broken down by bacteria in a gigantic underground tank.  This process gives off methane, which is then burned to heat water and create steam, which drives a turbine that creates electricity.  This is the same process used by most coal fired power plants, except the fuel in this case is sustainable.

Currently food scraps make up a small portion of the organic waste that is processed at the East Bay facility.  The majority comes from the wastewater treatment plant onsite and several large-scale local industries like vineyards and dairies.  But 30 million tons of food scraps are sent to landfills each year, which makes up more than 20% of all landfill waste.

That means there’s a lot of room for improvement.  The best part about the process is that a rich fertilizer is the byproduct of breaking down all that waste, which can help local organic farms that supply restaurants.  The primary obstacle to wider adoption of organic electricity is a lack of processing plants.  That could change rapidly in the next ten years as sustainable electricity gains more momentum in the American economy.

The restaurants participating in the food scrap collection program did have to put some extra time into training employees to keep contaminants like plastic and other foreign object out of the bin destined to be converted into electricity.  Despite the extra training, the savings in reduced garbage production was enough to help some restaurants save money, since the scraps are collected for free.

Only a tiny fraction of the food waste produced in the Bay Area goes to the organic generator run by the East Bay Municipal Utility District.  The room for growth is enormous, and if San Francisco could collect almost all of the 1,800 tons of waste produced every day by area businesses, that would be enough electricity to power 25,000 homes.  That’s a serious contribution San Francisco restaurants can make to the local power grid.

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Your Restaurant’s Guide To Commercial Composting

Every to go container, every disposable cup, and every plastic fork your restaurant uses ends up in a landfill somewhere.  Over the course of a year that adds up to millions of tons of trash from all the restaurants in the United States.  For most restaurants, these disposable items are a necessary part of doing business, and the lower the cost, the better.

Yet more and more restaurants are turning to compostable versions of these disposable items, even though they tend to be more expensive than their styrofoam and plastic counterparts.

Why?  Two main factors are driving the trend towards commercial composting:

Connecting with your customer.
Overwhelming majorities of Americans support sustainable products like compostable cups, plates, and food containers.  They may not be particularly motivated to spend more money for them at the grocery store, but when consumers encounter these products in places like restaurants, they tend to give the establishment high marks.  When you connect with customers on issues they care about, you’re going to see loyalty and repeat business increase.

Adding another facet to your overall green program. Whether driven by pure moral conviction or a desire to connect with customers (or both), more and more restaurants are instituting green programs as a part of their business.  The use of commercial composting and recycling systems have become widespread, and many restaurants employ programs to improve energy efficiency, reduce water use and carbon footprints.  Using compostable products can add a powerful element to any restaurant’s green efforts.

Your Restaurant’s Guide To Commercial CompostingSo how do compostable food service supplies work and why are they so great? Some common questions and answers:

What does compostable mean? Compostable products break down into carbon dioxide, water, and biomass at the same rate as cellulose (paper) in an industrial composting facility.  It may take these products longer to breakdown in a non-composting environment like a landfill, but in general these products break down exponentially faster than regular plastics and even biodegradable products.  For a more complete explanation, check out this article: Understanding Green Restaurant Terms: Compostable, Biodegradable, and Recyclable.

What are the benefits of corn-based compostable products? Corn cups and other compostable products made from corn are beneficial because they use a crop that is already produced on a massive scale in the United States to replace petroleum (oil) based plastics that rely on a substance we must import.  Corn-based products are also carbon neutral because the plants they are made from absorb an equal amount of carbon dioxide as is produced to harvest the crop.

What is PLA? PLA stands for polyactic acid, which is a polymer that is used to make a replacement for oil-based plastics.  PLA is made from lactic acid, which is created when the dextrose (starch) found in biomass like corn is fermented.  Today almost all PLA is created from corn, but in the future PLA will be made from other crops, including sugar beets, sugarcane, and rice, depending on what’s available locally.

How are sugarcane food containers, plates, and bowls made? Sugarcane has a long, fibrous stalk that contains a sweet juice.  Sugar and many other things are made from the extracted juice, leaving the stalk behind.  This leftover is called Bagasse, and it has traditionally been burned or discarded.  Disposable sugarcane products are made using Bagasse, taking a previously unusable byproduct and turning it into a fully compostable plate, bowl, or food container for your restaurant.

What does post-consumer recycled material mean? Post-consumer means the materials are recycled after they are used by consumers and discarded.  Compostable hot cups are partially (about 25%) made from post-consumer recycled materials.  Not only is it sustainable to use recycled materials, buying products made from those recycled materials helps stimulate demand, meaning more will be recycled in the future.

What kinds of compostable products are available for use in my restaurant? Corn cold cups (PLA), post-consumer recycled fiber hot cups, sugarcane food containers, and high heat PLA cutlery are all examples of products you can put to use in your restaurant.  Make sure any compostable product you buy is BPI certified, as this is the gold standard for compostable products.  Checking for BPI certification helps you avoid “greenwashed” products that claim they are compostable but really aren’t.

Using commercially compostable products in your restaurant has a clear marketing benefit for your business because your customers will appreciate your decision to use them.  If your restaurant has already decided that going green is a part of your business model, then compostable products are a must to round out your program.  If you haven’t yet decided whether greening your restaurant makes sense, check out The Back Burner’s Going Green section for more information on everything food service is doing to meet the increasing demand for sustainability in food service.

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10 Tips For Commercial Water Conservation

10 Tips For Commercial Water ConservationRestaurants use a lot of water.  Between cooking, washing dishes, cleaning up, and serving guests, your water bill takes a good chunk out of your monthly budget on a consistent basis.  Commercial water conservation is also a big concern of a majority of your customers, especially if you operate in dry western states like California, Arizona, or Colorado.

This post is going to add to a common theme here on The Back Burner: finding ways to green your restaurant that not only give you serious street cred with your customers, but also add green to your bottom line.  The nice thing about commercial water conservation is that it takes minimal investment to realize some pretty serious savings.

Here’s 10 tips to help you save water in your restaurant:

  1. Serve filtered water on demand only. Don’t just assume your guests want water, and definitely don’t give them bottled water!  Not only is bottled water a needless expense, all that plastic is a landfill nightmare.  If you don’t serve water automatically, train your wait staff to let customers know they can have water free of charge at any time (after they get the drink order of course!).  And if you’re serving water, don’t just pull it from the tap.  Use a filtered glass filler to guarantee taste and water quality.
  2. Fix leaky faucets. That little dribble coming out of the faucets in your kitchen probably don’t seem like a big deal, especially since you’re probably working hellish hours as it is.  But looks can fool you.  That dribble can add up to thousands of gallons of water each month, and if it’s the hot side of the faucet that’s leaking, that’s hundreds of dollars in energy bills going down the drain as well.  Faucet parts are easy to replace and extremely inexpensive, and there’s really no excuse for letting those dollars leak down the drain.
  3. Low flow pre rinses. A low flow pre rinse can slash your water usage at one of its most wasteful points.  These pre rinses give you a heck of a lot more bang for your buck and still clean dishes effectively.
  4. Wash full racks only. This is a headsmacker tip.  The danger is in assuming your kitchen staff is following this rule religiously, because chances are they’re not.  Employ a constant education and enforcement program to make sure only full racks get put through your dishwasher.  Even conserving a small amount of water translates into big savings for you because that hot water is twice as expensive after you pay to heat it up.
  5. Retrofit kitchen and bathroom sinks. Aerators make both bathroom and kitchen faucets use less water and are easy to install.  In the kitchen, install a three compartment sink for washing dishes because the scrape, wash, rinse technique is much more efficient than doing it all in one compartment under a constantly running stream of water.  In the bathroom, install automatic faucets that shut off when not in use and retrofit old toilets and urinals with newer, more efficient ones.
  6. Train employees. In the end, all the best water-saving equipment in the world doesn’t do you a bit of good if your staff doesn’t take conservation seriously.  Make it an ongoing issue in staff meetings and during employee training.
  7. Use a foot pedal for handwashing sinks. Foot or knee pedals serve two purposes: they allow your staff to turn water on and off without contaminating their freshly washed hands, and they shut off automatically, which can save an astounding amount of water.
  8. Compost food waste. Instigating a compost program in your restaurant means staff must scrape food bits into your compost bin instead of washing it into the garbage disposal.  That means significant water savings.  A compost program has the added benefit of giving you additional green credentials for your customers as well.
  9. Landscape with conservation in mind. Many restaurants not only use water inside the restaurant but outside as well.  If you have any landscaping going on outside the restaurant, follow water conservation best practices to keep water usage down.
  10. Sweep and mop instead of spray. It may seem easier to just spray down kitchen floors and outside areas to keep them clean, but it’s certainly not cheaper.  Investing in some good old fashioned janitorial supplies like mops and brooms means some major water savings.  It might be a little more work for your staff, but those savings on the water bill will also help you pay their salary.

Finally, after you’ve put all the time into using the above tips to make your restaurant one lean, green, water-saving machine, make sure you tell your customers all about it!  You’ve worked hard to cut water usage, and perhaps the biggest reward you deserve is appreciation and increased loyalty from your customers.  Incorporate your efforts into your marketing campaigns.  It’ll surprise you just how effective a green message is in improving your name in the eyes of customers.

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How To Become A LEED Certified Restaurant and Why You Should

Every year, your restaurant’s green credentials on the street gets more important.  According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), it’s one of the hottest trends this year.  Companies across the board, in and out of the food service industry, have scrambled in recent years to label their brands as green, with varying degrees of success.

Some companies have taken advantage of the green mood consumers are in by “greenwashing” their business – trumping up a bunch of nominally “green” practices and selling it to customers as a genuine commitment to sustainability.  The problem with greenwashing is that as consumers place more importance on sustainability, they’re also becoming more savvy about how effective the strategies companies tell them about really are.

This has led to a growing effort by companies that are genuine about their sustainability commitment to seek official credentials to back up their claims.  In the food service industry, national chains like Chipotle have built flagship locations to showcase their efforts and build green cred.

One of the most respected programs out there is run by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) and is a well recognized name among consumers: LEED.  The Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification process can be long and arduous, but it also carries an official respect that will completely wipe out any lingering customer suspicions about the true purpose of your intentions.

What is LEED and how do you become a LEED certified restaurant?  Good question.
The name of the game is to earn points when you build or remodel.  Out of a possible 110 points, there are 5 categories and 2 bonus categories in which you can earn points for sustainable building and design practices:

Sustainable sites. If you’re building a new location, you can earn points by selecting a site based upon sensitivity to several environmental factors including plants, wildlife, water, and air quality.  (21 points)

Water efficiency.
Technology and strategies that cut your restaurant’s water use by 20% over the baseline amount earn you points.  Earn even more points for cutting water use even further.  (11 points)

Energy and atmosphere. Maximizing your restaurant’s energy efficiency, managing ozone-depleting CFCs (usually found in refrigerants), and utilizing renewable energy are the three main areas that will earn you points in this category.  (37 points)

Materials and resources. Selecting sustainable resources for your building or remodel project (i.e. no redwood countertops) and developing an effective waste management strategy earn you points in this category. (14 points)
Indoor environmental quality.  Using sensors and controls to manage indoor temperature, humidity, and ventilation earn you points in this category.  (17 points)

Bonus points. These can be earned if you’re building or remodeling in a region that has been deemed a priority by the GBCI, or if your project shows exceptional innovation and leadership in design.  (10 points)

40 points are required for LEED certification; there are also three levels beyond a basic certification: Silver (50+), Gold (60+), and Platinum (80+).

Obviously, LEED certification isn’t for everyone.  That’s why it’s called a Leadership program.  But for those brave enough to try for certification, the payoff can be incalculable.

If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge into a LEED program, check out these going green tips.

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How Hybrid Water Heating Can Make Your Restaurant As Cool As A Prius

How Hybrid Water Heating Can Make Your Restaurant As Cool As A Prius

Every restaurant needs hot water, and most of that water usually ends up being used to clean dirty cookware and cooking equipment.  More than likely you get your hot water from a conventional gas-fired water heater with a 100 gallon or larger tank.  For years the standard strategy for hot water has been to heat a large tank of water so that a large amount of hot water is on demand whenever you need it.

As natural gas prices rise, however, and restaurants look for ways to improve their sustainability credentials, conventional large-tank water heaters have become more and more unattractive.  For starters, conventional water heaters usually suck up 20% – 25% of a restaurant’s energy bill, which means a very large chunk of change is going into keeping 100 gallons of water in your basement hot at all times.

Even if you follow efficient water heating best practices, you’re spending a lot of dough.  Traditional heaters are also not very good at conserving water, since it usually takes a couple gallons to flush out cooled water in the lines before hot water reaches the tap.

For these reasons, some restaurants have started moving towards tankless, on-demand electric water heaters.  It’s amazing how much energy you can save when you don’t have to constantly heat a large tank of water.  The downside is that a tankless heater that’s capable of handling the large-volume requirements of a restaurant are pretty expensive to purchase and install.  Even so, a restaurant would see a return on investment through energy savings within two or three years.

That means new restaurants or ones with remodeling plans are in the perfect position to go tankless.  The extra investment up front translates into more black on the bottom line a few years down the road, especially since energy prices are only going to go up, not down.

I know, I know, most restaurateurs out there are probably thinking: “I’m not going to drop some serious dough on water heaters when I’ve got so many other things to worry about.”  I completely understand.  But I also have a “hybrid” solution for those of you who want to reduce your energy bills but don’t have the cash to invest in full-on tankless water heaters.

The answer lies in point-of-use commercial water heaters and faucets that operate a lot like a tankless water heater.  The only difference is they don’t have the same high volume capacity.  Point-of-use heaters maximize your efficiency because they are relatively inexpensive to install and take a significant load off your conventional heater, which means that 100-gallon tank can focus on the big stuff like your dish machine in the kitchen.

For server stations, handwashing sinks, and back bars, a commercial point-of-use instant hot water dispenser or mini-tank (2-4 gallon) electric hot water heater will greatly improve your efficiency and reduce energy bills.  This is primarily because you won’t be wasting all that hot water that sits in the pipes leading to these outlying hot water points.

When the time comes to replace your conventional heater, you’ll be able to downsize, leading to further energy savings.  The up-front cost of point-of-use commercial water heaters is much less, which means your return on investment will happen much faster.  From an economic standpoint, it makes sense.  From a sustainability standpoint, it makes for a great marketing opportunity.  If you’re willing to invest a little, the benefits are there for the taking.

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Stop Giving Waste Fryer Oil Away!

Stop Giving Waste Fryer Oil Away!Disposing of used vegetable oil has always been a problem for restaurants.  In recent years it has gotten easier with the increasing demand for biodiesel.  Now many restaurants depend on free pickup services by biodiesel companies as a convenient and cheap way to dispose of their waste fryer oil.  Some even pay to have the stuff hauled away.

But what if you could take that oil and use it to save money, instead of just giving it away?  Enter Vegawatt power system that uses vegetable oil to generate electricity and pre-heat water going to your water heater.  It’s a self-contained unit that doesn’t require any special skills.  You pretty much just add oil and clean it out once in a while.

The savings on your restaurant’s electricity and hot water bills can be significant.  Vegawatt says the unit can save your business about $800 a month in electricity bills, although that does include a $100 per month renewable energy rebate from local government, which may or may not exist in your area.  Smaller operators probably don’t generate enough oil to take advantage of the Vegawatt power system, and the company recommends the machine for establishments that have 3 – 5 deep fryers and generate at least 50 gallons of waste oil a week.  If you do generate that much oil, however, you can realize a return on investment in 2 – 3 years.

Your used vegetable oil is now worth a lot more to you if you keep over giving it or selling it to a biodiesel company or paying to dispose of it.  It’s pretty amazing what a little ingenuity can do for a lifelong problem in the restaurant business.  Of course, there is some up-front investment required here, something that doesn’t sound very appealing, especially in a tight economy.  Vegawatt does offer a leasing program as well, and you’ll be saving more than the cost of the monthly lease.

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