When you think of the catch phrase, “going green,” the first thing that probably comes to mind is doing something that will benefit the environment. But as a restaurant operator whose every equipment decision affects the bottom line, you might be asking, what is a “green” restaurant, and could it be good for my business? Many in the food service industry have been asking that very question—and discovering how building a green kitchen can be a path to a more efficient and profitable operation; not just a perk for the planet.
What Does It Mean to Be Green?
By definition, a green restaurant is one that takes advantage of the latest advances in equipment technology to create a kitchen that saves on energy costs while meeting the high-production demands that are the hallmark of the modern restaurant. And such energy savings can be significant—between 30 and 50% over the life of the equipment. At minimum, being green can mean purchasing Energy Star appliances; at most, it can mean honing in on the most efficient and best performing of those options to maximize your return on investment.
New Technology for a New Era
Efficiency and high performance might seem easy enough to buy in to, particularly when you’ve already committed to investing in new equipment. But turning over a new leaf to go green does require a flip in thinking, too. It’s true that energy-efficient technology comes with a higher initial cost than conventional equipment. But if your goal and expectation is that your restaurant will operate for five to ten years, you can expect to recoup that initial investment over the long term. And if even you’re unsure about your operation’s long-term outlook, many utility companies fortunately now offer rebates for energy-efficient appliances, so you can go green while reducing your upfront costs.
Of course, the advantage of green equipment is not only that it saves you money on utilities, but also increases the overall productivity of your kitchen. Unlike conventional equipment, which is still being made the same way it was 50 years ago, these new options are designed to handle the high-production needs of the modern kitchen. They are built to cook higher volumes of food in less time, so you can meet growing customer demand—and boost profitability.
The Better Taste—and Look—of Green
You may not associate green equipment with a better-tasting or healthier product, but think again! Thanks to faster recovery times, modern, energy-efficient equipment actually can have a positive effect on food quality as well.
Fryers provide a good example. With transfat a growing concern for many customers, the food service industry has been making the shift to more expensive transfat-free shortening. Food in a fast-recovering fryer absorbs less shortening, so the fryer uses less with each cook cycle, while also decreasing fat content in the food. And fast-recovering fryers can cook product at lower temperature settings, further extending the life of shortening. Add to that modern shortening filter systems, which also extend the life of this valuable commodity, and the net result is tastier, healthier food that costs less to produce.
Investing in green technology can also boost your business image. Customers will appreciate your environmental stewardship of the limited resources that we all share, and this commitment can give you an advantage over other competitors.
How Do I Know It’s Green?
Equipment will be labeled with the Energy Star rating, which means that it meets the EPA’s minimum standard of energy efficiency. In recent years, several manufacturers of foodservice equipment have partnered with the EPA, utility companies, and independent testing agencies to create these standards that measure energy efficiency and performance on many of the most common pieces of equipment found in the restaurant today. These include griddles, fryers, water heaters, convection ovens, combi-ovens and more.
How Do I Choose the Best Equipment?
While it may be easy to appreciate the advantages of choosing Energy Star-rated equipment in general, perhaps you would like to know the tangible benefits of investing in a specific piece of Energy-Star equipment over another.
For this, you’ll need to look beyond the label. While Energy Star identifies equipment meeting minimum standards for energy efficiency, it does not specify which products are the most energy efficient, nor does it rate items by productivity level. For this information, the Food Service Technology Center is the single best resource. This center has developed test methods for evaluating commercial food service equipment industry wide, so apple-to-apple comparisons may be made for virtually anything on the market. By consulting reports available from the FSTC, it is easy to locate not only the most energy-efficient equipment, but also the highest-performing equipment in terms of recovery times and production volume.
For example, let’s say you are comparing two gas fryers that both meet the Energy Star Rating and you’d like to know which one would be the best for your operation.
A look at FSTC reports will show that Fryer A has a cooking efficiency of 64.7% compared to 50.3% for Fryer B. Fryer A will cook 92 pounds of product per hour while Fryer B will cook just 72 pounds in the same time frame. The report reveals that while both fryers meet the Energy Star Standard, Fryer A is clearly more energy efficient and has substantially higher production ability.
Whether you’re ready turn over a new leaf by investing in an entirely green kitchen, or you simply want to update an item or two, making the choice to “go green” is easy once you know the facts. What’s good for the environment just may have the potential to grow your business—one leaf at a time.
For additional information on green kitchens, please visit the following web sites:
Energy Star www.energystar.gov
Food Service Technology Center www.fishnick.com
Food Service Equipment Reports www.fesmag.com
Rich Jones: 800-545-9189 ext. 5021
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