On This Earth Day…

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst

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On Earth Day, we pay respect to the bounty and beauty of our world.

Here at the FSTC, environmental stewardship is at the foundation of our daily work to educate and incentivize the foodservice industry to use energy and water more efficiently. It’s important for all of us – even the busy kitchen operator – to step back and remind ourselves of why we work to protect the environment.

We all rely on Earth’s resources for our lives and our livelihoods—our economy, our culture, and our quality of life are directly related to our environment. If the Earth suffers, we suffer with it. It’s easy to forget this intimate relationship in our daily lives, especially when we have control over our immediate surroundings. We have to look outward – to glacial recession, extreme weather events like severe drought becoming commonplace, and the extinction of otherwise healthy species – to recognize the impact our behavior has on the planet and the impact climate change can have on us.

Impending doom aside, exercising environmental stewardship is an expression of appreciation, a humble “thank you” to the beautifully complex ecosystem that makes our world possible.

In turn, we’d like to express gratitude to the people that help us help the planet: the state government and utilities that recognize the importance of resource conservation, the ratepayers that support these efforts, and especially the business operators that care about their environmental influence.

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An example of the FSTC’s ongoing commitment to waste diversion: The FSTC’s Karen Ravipaty takes spent coffee grounds from the lab to fertilize her home garden. Pictured above: Roses (left) and California poppies.

So, what now? Take action – even if its something small – to honor Earth Day! Here is a short list of ideas:

  • Go for a hike or a swim in a lake. Pick up some litter. Get a little dirty and embrace the elements.
  • Educate yourself! From FSTC’s seminars to a world of online resources, knowledge is within reach.
  • Eat out on Earth Day! Support restaurants in the Bay Area (and around the world) that have resolved to fight climate change by pledging $1 for every customer they serve on Earth Day to offset their carbon emissions and support the foodservice-centric, climate change-fighting non-profit, ZeroFoodprint.
  • Show your support for the international Paris Agreement (a cooperative plan to both mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change), which turns 1 year old this Earth Day and is facing the possible withdrawal of American support.
  • Look for energy and water conserving opportunities in your facility, such as those listed in our DIY kitchen audit guide.
  • Publicly express some love for the planet and all its creatures – post a picture or statement about how your life is enhanced by a healthy environment.

Whatever you do, we would love to hear about it! Tweet us @FishnickFSTC #EarthDay

What’s On Tap?

Kiana Caban, Communications Assistant

KianaThe FSTC attended the 2016 California Craft Beer Summit, a three-day event with an interactive expo, multiple educational sessions, and a concluding beer festival in Sacramento, CA this past September. The annual event is hosted by the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA), an entity dedicated to connecting and empowering California craft brewers through advocacy, education, and communication. The Summit brings together craft brewers, visionaries, innovators, business partners, distributors, retailers, and beer lovers across the state to showcase and highlight the craft brewing industry’s growth and success.

Beer brewing is a water and energy intensive process. It takes about 20 gallons of water to produce one pint of beer. Most of that water is used in growing barley and hops, however, a significant amount is used in the brewing process itself. In addition, an essential part of brewing is heating and cooling liquids as rapidly as possible, which requires a lot of energy. Most breweries also operate taprooms and restaurants, which have their own energy and water demands (and where the FSTC could really assert its years of foodservice expertise!) Armed with these notions, the FSTC sought to learn more about the craft beer industry’s practices, while also educating the industry on water- and energy-efficiency at this year’s Summit.

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FSTC team members (from left to right) Janel, Kiana, Michael, and Andre prepare the FSTC booth at the California Craft Beer Summit expo on September 8th, 2016.

Co-hosting the Water Innovations Showcase booth with the nonprofit group American Rivers, the FSTC created various displays showing how brewers and facility operators could save water (and energy) in their breweries.

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The FSTC’s hands-on wort-chilling demonstration presented at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Making It Cold: Savings are Brewing. This hands-on brewing demo featured a copper coil immersion chiller, a (simulated) bucket of wort (aka not-yet-fermented beer), and three buckets of cooling water. The goal was to visually demonstrate the substantial volume of water required to quickly cool down hot wort before fermentation in the brewing process. Seeking a better grasp on the attending breweries’ operations, we asked, “How much water does it take to cool your wort?” Attendees had widely different answers depending on the size of their chillers. We followed with, “What do you do with your leftover cooling water?”

We found that most larger breweries already have sustainable mechanisms in place for water conservation that include reusing cooling water for cleaning brewing equipment, bottling lines, kegs, etc., or even using a glycol cooling system in place of water altogether. However, we learned that some smaller breweries and homebrewers still dump their used cooling water down the drain. With an ongoing statewide drought and the ever increasing price of water, we encouraged these brewers to find reuses for all that wastewater.

What’s Brewing in Your Business? The FSTC also displayed a “Think Tank Questionnaire” where we surveyed some of the attendees about the specifics of their brewery, their foodservice operation (if applicable), their heating/cooling system, etc. This provided a better understanding of California brewery demographics and how the FSTC can assist the brewing industry in its efficiency and sustainability efforts in the future.

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FSTC members attend one of many “Tap Talk” sessions in which brewmasters discussed topics ranging from the rise of barrel-aged and sour beers to business growth and opportunities at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Alongside the interactive sections of the booth, we also had four stations equipped with different energy and water saving tips that most any brewer or brewery could utilize.

Refrigeration Savings are Brewing. Many breweries use custom walk-in coolers for fermentation and keg storage. As such, we recreated the FSTC’s “4-on-the-door” mnemonic to help brewers limit energy waste in walk-ins. “4-on-the-door” is 1) Install an auto door closer, 2) Check door hinge alignment, 3) Inspect and maintain door gaskets regularly, and 4) Add strip curtains as a secondary barrier to heat infiltration.

Water Savings are Brewing. For the brewery restaurant or taproom operator, the easiest and most inexpensive measure you can take to conserve water is to switch to a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle. By changing out that old high-flow nozzle to a 1.15 gpm or less nozzle, you can save approximately $1,800/year! Check out California rebate-qualified PRSVs here.

Dish Machine Savings are Brewing. By purchasing an ENERGY STAR® dishwashing machine, breweries can cut costs in half! A standard dishmachine costs $1,200/year to operate, whereas an ENERGY STAR® dishmachine costs $600/year to operate. For more tips on dishmachines, please visit fishnick.com

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The FSTC’s Richard Young demonstrates the energy savings of switching from an incandescent Edison bulb to a LED Edison-style bulb at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Energy Savings are Brewing. Efficient lighting can save you big money. With the power required to light one Edison bulb, you could light fifteen similar LED bulbs! A 60 watt Edison bulb’s annual cost to operate is $45/year, while a 4 watt LED Edison bulb’s annual cost to operate $3/year. What large savings for something so simple to change!

The craft brewing industry was built on innovation, collaboration, and a shared sense of environmental responsibility. With that in mind, the FSTC was heartened to learn that the industry has taken great strides in sustainability and energy efficiency with many of the largest craft brewers leading the way. At the same time, much more can be done to engender energy and water saving best practices industry-wide, not only in the back brewhouse, but in the restaurant and taproom too. The Craft Beer Summit gave the FSTC valuable insight into the scale and particulars of this exciting industry, while also working to expand the FSTC’s energy- and water-saving influence.

The FSTC Raises the Bar…

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst

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The Food Service Technology Center is thrilled to broaden its influence to the world of breweries and bars, both energy- and water-intensive industries. To kick off this budding relationship, the FSTC hosted Raising the Bar on October 11th, an evening event with presentations, conversations, and hands-on equipment demonstrations. For those that missed it, topics included chilling/distribution systems, ice, lighting, bar food menus, and the “farm-to-glass” movement.

Hunter Abraham with Chill-Rite presented on serving efficiency for draught beer and wine. He discussed how operators can cater their beverage temperatures to the particular type you are serving and the experience you want to impart. Hunter mentioned that most bar operations end up wasting 30% of their kegged beer through improper dispensing. This adds up to significant wasted potential sales for the bar operator. Installation of an efficient chilling and distribution system can drastically reduce this beer (and energy!) waste and improve temperature control of dispensed beverages.

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Pete Palm of WPD discusses the three rules of ice making for the FSTC’s Raising the Bar event on October 11th, 2016.

Pete Palm with Western Pacific Distributors (WPD) presented on ice making and its inextricable connection to the bar industry. He began with three rules to remember for ice: 1) Ice is a food product, 2) Ice is not 100% water and, 3) Ice types are not equal. He went on to discuss how the right ice types can influence drink presentation and sales. For example, large “gourmet” ice cubes are ideal for craft cocktails since they have a perfect dilution rate (read: slow), their temperature maintenance does not obscure any of the cocktail’s flavors, and they are aesthetically pleasing to the customer, all of which can help justify a cost premium. Pete also talked about ice machines themselves being an excellent opportunity for energy and cost savings in bar service. Specify an ENERGY STAR®/rebate-qualified ice machine when possible. Please visit the FSTC’s ice machine page for more information. For a full list of rebated models visit: fishnick.com/saveenergy/rebates

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The FSTC’s Richard Young demonstrates the 4 Watt LED bulb vs. the 60 Watt Edison bulb for guests on October 11th, 2016.

The FSTC’s own Richard Young then launched into a presentation on the importance of lighting to the bar manager. Studies have shown that lighting has a direct impact on patron’s moods and thus their willingness to spend, so bar lighting should be designed as welcoming as possible. Be intent with you lighting choices: choose lighting that highlights your food/drink options and menus. Drape your bar in soft, indirect lighting that draws people in and encourages them to stay. Also, stay away from the en vogue, but energy-guzzling Edison-style decorative bulbs! Instead, opt for the LED versions of these stylish bulbs that use a fraction of the energy. Check out PG&E’s lighting rebate catalog here.

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Tim Nasty of Preferred Marketing Group (PMG) cooks quesadillas in the Merrychef rapid cook oven for Raising the Bar guests on October 11th, 2016.

When food is served at a bar, whether it’s small snacks or a full bar menu, the average customer stays a half hour longer! In addition, offering suggested food pairings with drinks is a great way to sell more of each. To help bars get in on this action, Wendy Akers with Boar’s Head described their comprehensive Bistro Program that not only supplies food to operators, but also offers menu consultation, pairing advice, and supporting products such as merchandisers, meal photographs for menus, etc. For more information, contact Wendy at Wendy.Akers@boarshead.com. Jeff Yates with Inform Marketing Group followed with another key component to successful bar food service: appliance ease-of-use and space efficiency. Combination ovens offer both with intelligent controls that make virtually every step of foodservice easier. With its impressive cooking versatility, Jeff claimed that a combi oven could very well be the only cooking appliance you need in your bar! Otherwise be sure to specify energy efficient small form factor appliances such as rapid cook ovens, microwaves, and toaster ovens.

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Rational chefs demonstrate the cooking versatility of their combination ovens with short ribs, bacon-wrapped scallops, and many other treats for Raising the Bar guests on October 11th, 2016.

From the bar operator perspective, the dining trends of full service restaurants also apply to bar service. Specifically, sustainability remains of value to customers, even though the topic hasn’t seen much attention in the bar industry as opposed to the dining world. Mixologist James P. Gatts from Oakland’s Shakewell and Main Squeeze set out to change that through mixing organic beverages by sourcing sustainable cocktail ingredients and artisan small-batch spirits. Organic sourcing (though not necessarily local/seasonal) does often cost more, however, James has been able to offset that added cost through careful planning and use of higher priced liquor. He also noted that the organic sourcing endeavor could be overwhelming at first, but is worthwhile because it gives customers a “sense of time and place”—that is, a connection with your food and your establishment.

Once the presentations concluded, guests enjoyed a vendor fair with plenty of pub grub like flatbreads, gourmet charcuterie, and white anchovy crostinis with accompanying craft beverages. Guests networked with equipment reps and FSTC staff alike to ask specific questions regarding bar service and energy management. As a final note, remember that food prep is the biggest energy using component of the kitchen. So when purchasing new equipment or making changes in your facility/operation, be sure to consult fishnick.com for more tools, tips, and rebate information!

What’s Up 2016?

2016 Forecast

The FSTC’s Richard Young and Robin Ashton, publisher of Foodservice Equipment Reports magazine, present the 2016 Foodservice Forecast: Step Into The Future at the FSTC on February 9th, 2016

Every year, I polish up the FSTC crystal ball and create a Forecast seminar that looks at the coming year in terms of food trends, equipment innovations, energy prices, sustainability, and FSTC lab and field research. The seminar program also includes an economic forecast created and delivered by Robin Ashton, publisher of Foodservice Equipment Reports magazine (www.fermag.com). This year the Robin and Richard Forecast Roadshow made stops at the PG&E FSTC as well as the energy centers at SoCal Edison (SCE) in Los Angeles and SDG&E in San Diego. Turnout was good, conversation was lively, and a lot of great information was shared. At the SCE event, Robin and I were introduced by Chef LaLa (www.cheflala.com), an amazing Latina chef, nutritionist, business woman, author, and media star. Was I star struck? You bet!

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The FSTC’s Richard Young meets the amazing Chef LaLa

Here are some of the highlights from the 2016 Foodservice Forecast:

Robin offered up good news for the CFS industry: 2016 looks like a great year for business and here’s why: Employment is up and the numbers show the US at near “full employment”. Gasoline is cheap, which has put billions of dollars back into the pockets of the dining public. To top it off, “real income” has inched up just a little bit. This is important because real income has been flat since the meltdown back in 2008. To sum it up: working people with stable jobs and disposable income will go out to eat a lot in 2016. The one potential hitch is that Wall Street has been in panic mode since December 2015 – the bankers could possibly reign in investment and dampen the party a bit. However, as Robin pointed out, Wall Street and Main Street are two different things and if the bankers can keep cool, foodservice will have a banner year.

…Wall Street and Main Street are two different things and if the bankers can keep cool, foodservice will have a banner year…

The Forecast seminar always includes a look at the NRA’s What’s Hot Chef Survey to see how food trends are evolving and how that might impact the world of CFS equipment and energy efficiency. According to the American Culinary Federation (ACF) survey, chefs think the hot trends now and for the coming decade will include “locally grown”, “natural”, and “environmental sustainability”. The subject of “locally grown” spurred much discussion around the elephant in the room – the potential compromise of food safety as demonstrated by Chipotle last year. Food safety is “priority one” in foodservice and Chipotle is going out of their way to make “local” and “safe” fit into the same sentence. Everyone else will need to follow. The Forecast asked the question, “What might happen in the kitchen to ensure safety for all produce?” One suggestion was that we may see more equipment-based solutions like produce washers or increased safety practices like blanching.

…what might happen in the kitchen to ensure safety for all produce? One suggestion was that we may see more equipment-based solutions…

Another major trend that chefs agreed upon was “Chef Driven Fast Casual” which suggests highly focused menus and kitchen equipment packages that will need to be fast, flexible, and efficient. Also, small plates continue to be big business, which means that dishmachines are not going anywhere. The FSTC has been digging in deep on dishmachine energy and water use and some of the findings are surprising. Stay tuned for reports and seminars!

And, of course, food trucks are still red hot as both an entry into the foodservice business and a stepping stone toward brick-and-mortar for more experienced professionals. The California Energy Wise program – a workforce education and training partnership between PG&E, SoCal Edison, SoCal Gas, and SDG&E  foodservice centers – is offering several workshops this year on starting restaurants, food trucks, and small, fast, and flexible equipment. You can find all the dates and locations for these free events at fishnick.com/education/seminars/events.

The California Energy Wise program is offering several workshops this year on starting restaurants, food trucks, and small, fast, and flexible equipment

Animal proteins are giving up more center-of-the-plate space to plants as broiled veggies are gaining popularity, which means that we need more high-efficiency, high-performance broilers. The FSTC will be studying underfired infrared broilers in the field in 2016 to see what the potential savings may be. Preliminary numbers suggest savings in the $1,000/year range.

More plants on the plate also suggest that there might be more steamers in kitchens. In the FSTC lab, we just tested three high-efficiency, high-production steamers – two counter-top units (Vulcan C24E3/5-LWE) and one two-compartment institutional style unit (Cleveland 24CGA6). These boiler-based steamers really deliver on food production and incorporate controls to cut energy and water use. One steamer even has a “set-back” mode that cuts idle energy and water use when the unit is not cooking. You can find hot-off-the-press research reports from November and December 2015 right here: fishnick.com/publications/appliancereports/steamers.

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Quick-and-Easy Tips for Saving Energy, Water & Money in Your Commercial Kitchen

Do you know how much energy your kitchen is using? Do you know where to look and what to do to cut energy waste?

The Food Service Technology Center’s Todd Bell shared his Top 10 Tips for Energy & Water Savings in Commercial Foodservice seminar last month, focusing on low-cost and no-cost actions that don’t require a professional to implement. By following these tips, you can take control of your own restaurant and start saving on your utility bill right NOW!

1. Conduct an Electric Rate Analysis

PG&E offers several different rate plans. Check to make sure you’re on the right one—if you aren’t, it could be costing you extra dollars. For non-PG&E customers, contact your local utility for information on their specific rate plans and online energy tracking systems.

For PG&E customers, go online to PG&E’s MyEnergy (an excellent resource for managers to track energy usage over time online), then to My Rates. Here you’ll see the estimated cost of each plan they offer calculated from your actual energy use.

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But it doesn’t end with choosing the right plan – check your usage regularly to spot anomalies. You might find a leak, or something left on when it should be turned off. You can even overlay weather data to see if your usage is due to heating or air conditioning. The better you know your usage, the easier it is to manage.

2. Tune up the Water Heating System – Calibrate, Insulate, Regulate, Activate!

Water heating is a big energy consumer – nearly one fifth of the average restaurant utility bill. For many, it’s consumption could be lowered with little effort. Ensure you’re not wasting energy and money by following these steps:

a. Calibrate – Set Water Heater to Proper Temperature
First find out the delivery water temperature you need, usually dictated by the dish machine. Then set the thermostat – the below pictures show where it is on a gas (left) and electric (right) water heater. Finally, use a thermometer to verify the delivery temperature at a dishwashing sink. Some heat will be lost as it travels through the pipes, so you may have to adjust the water heater once more.

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b. Insulate – Install Hot Water Line Insulation
If you don’t insulate, you could be throwing away hundreds of dollars per year. Insulation is cheap and rebated at $2 per linear foot. It is also easy to install, especially for exposed pipes (but every bit helps!). For best results, use 1-inch professional quality foam insulation.

c. Regulate – Turn Off Hot Water Line Recirculation Pump During Non-Service Hours
recircThe job of a recirculation pump (pictured on the right) is to keep hot water flowing in the pipes when it otherwise wouldn’t, so you don’t have to wait long for hot water at the tap. The downside is that there is some heat/energy loss as the water moves through the piping. So as long as it is moving water, it is losing heat. And as long as it is losing heat, the water heater is powering on to provide more heat. This is why turning the pump off when closed will save energy.

If you’re worried about adding one more thing to the daily to-do list, don’t; time clocks are affordable and can do it for you with a quick setting – potentially saving you hundreds of dollars per year. Set it and forget it!

d. Activate – Turn On the Automated Flue Damper
If you have a gas heater with an automatic flue damper – turn it on! Otherwise some of the heat that you just paid to generate is escaping right out the flue. It’s easy to do… just turn the switch to the automatic setting.

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Dishroom Water-Saving Innovation Not Yet Ready for Prime Time

Michael Karsz, Research Technician and FSTC Videographer

Amid this dire drought, California restaurant operators have been looking for various ways to save water anywhere they can in their establishment. Out of necessity comes innovation. A popular news segment highlighted a coastal restaurant that employed a standard air compressor in their dishroom instead of a typical pre-rinse spray nozzle. According to the story, the restaurant saved gallons of water daily, while also ostensibly ridding their dishware of food debris.

Curious and excited about the viability of such a water-saving dish-cleaning instrument, the FSTC put the air compressor to the test alongside two staples of dishroom cleaning: the manual scraper & the pre-rinse spray nozzle. FSTC researchers also used two notoriously resilient food products to dirty the test plates: egg and chocolate cake. Watch the results below!

The FSTC found that a standard, unmodified air compressor failed to clean the plates adequately before they entered the dishmachine. Food debris was launched in all directions if the compressor was not angled just right. The compressor motor was loud when in use, which could cause issues with occupational safety and health standards.

The scraper faired better, but the pre-rinse spray nozzle cleared the plates most effectively. Although the pre-rinse spray nozzle does use a fair amount of water, specifying a low-flow (< 1.15 gpm) nozzle can drastically reduce your water usage in the dishroom, while not compromising effective plate cleaning. You can find a list of rebate-qualifying pre-rinse spray valves here.

Recently, the FSTC learned that the air compressor is undergoing numerous modifications to make it more suitable for dishroom cleaning, such as adding a pressurized water component to the air nozzle. The FSTC looks forward to testing a prototype once it is developed!

Until then, however, the FSTC recommends a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle, a handheld scraper, and implementing water-saving best practices, which you can read all about here.

Water Waste At Its Best

Richard Young, Senior Engineer and Director of Education

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I recently spoke at a sustainable food service workshop in Las Vegas that was hosted by Southwest Gas, NV Energy and the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Vegas is one city that cooks a lot of shrimp so, as part of my Operating a Water and Energy Efficient Restaurant presentation, I showed everyone the following video of shrimp thawing in a bowl under running water.

 

Todd Bell, our Senior Energy Analyst sums it up perfectly as “water waste at its best…” While it’s fun to laugh at some of our bad habits, it’s also embarrassing to think that this is standard practice in thousands of kitchens in water challenged areas like Las Vegas and California.

Water is a commodity – it cost money and it’s getting more expensive. Thawing under running water is literally throwing money down the drain. For example: a faucet running at one gallon per minute for one hour a day will send over 20,000 gallons of water down the drain at a cost of around $200.00 (double that cost if you live in California).

Looking at the bigger picture, water is one of the most important ingredients needed to grow food. Farmers are cutting back on crops because they are short on water and meanwhile, kitchens are throwing water away. I wonder how the farmers might feel about that?

So, what is the alternative to thawing in the sink? The best practice is to use a refrigerator. Yes, that requires a bit of planning but it will save you money, you can start today and it’s the right thing to do.

Energy Management Systems and a View into the Smart Restaurants of the Future

Elan Frantz, Research Engineerelan

Disney’s movie “Smart House,” released in 1999, was based on a fictitious, futuristic house with a mind of its own. Upon a command from the owner, the house could whip up a smoothie, clean instantaneously, and even cook dinner. Everyone who has owned or helped operate a restaurant can dream about a “smart restaurant-” a place which can take some of the responsibility of running a foodservice establishment away. While we don’t have kitchens that run themselves yet, we are coming closer to having intelligent restaurants with the emergence of Energy Management Systems (EMS). With an EMS, operators can view the real-time status of the energy-using systems in their restaurant from their computer or smartphone and even control certain aspects like the temperature of the building or the lighting settings. Luckily for restaurant owners, EMS systems do not typically turn evil and trap you like the house in the Disney movie.

Installing an EMS is like adding a central nervous system to your restaurant. Information like restaurant temperature and light settings are all controllable and viewable through a single system. As the name suggests, the goal of EMS systems is to carefully manage the energy expenditure of a building to reduce the total energy footprint and save money for the operator. Before EMS systems entered the foodservice world, these products were popularized by effectively saving energy by managing the HVAC and lighting systems for office buildings. Simple programs that would turn down the lights and air conditioning systems when the building was unoccupied were successful in significantly reducing energy bills. More recently, EMS vendors have been targeting restaurants because of the large energy saving opportunities of these facilities. Unfortunately, the intricacies of energy management in the restaurant space have made it difficult for EMS to gain widespread popularity. With climbing energy costs and monthly energy bills upward of $5,000 for a single restaurant, energy management is beginning to make a great deal of sense.

We at the FSTC are dreaming about what the EMS of the future will look like. One day, restaurant operators will be able to view and control the energy consumption of nearly all of their energy using systems, from fryers to freezers, from hot plates to HVAC systems. Allowing operators to control these systems will allow energy usage to be optimized in ways never previously realized. These are the areas we hope the EMS of the future to touch on:

– HVAC
– Lighting
– Refrigeration
– Ice Machines
– Demand Control Ventilation
– Kitchen Appliances
– Water Heating

By opening an application, you, the restaurant operator, will be able to see real-time charts and graphs depicting where your energy is being used and how you can save money. You can already do this with many systems on the market today with your HVAC and lighting systems. Ultimately, we hope that all of your energy systems will be under this EMS umbrella, saving the most green possible!

From Best Practice to Standard Practice: Saving Energy with Good Maintenance

Richard Young, Senior Engineer and Director of Education

The Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) just celebrated its 25th anniversary with a day-long symposium that focused on the “Kitchen of the Future.” The first speaker on the program was the FSTC’s lead site audit engineer, Todd Bell, who opened the show with a presentation on the current state of foodservice energy-efficiency. Todd entertained the audience for 20 minutes with picture after picture showing the ways that kitchens routinely waste energy. Some of the slides were very funny – the heat lamp screwed into the light fixture in the walk-in refrigerator – and others were just groaners. (How is it that a school district could buy new un-insulated hot food holding cabinets and then wedge them in-between refrigerated prep tables?) Todd’s message was this: “There is way too much waste! Operators are in the habit of walking by glaring maintenance problems and inappropriate use of equipment without thinking about how that affects their bottom line, the performance of their kitchen or the environment.”

The challenge is that good maintenance, and energy-efficiency in general, is often treated as something special or optional, like flossing, instead of something that is just accepted everyday practice, like brushing your teeth. The goal of the FSTC is to move energy-efficient actions such as maintenance from “best practice to standard practice.”

So, to help get you started, here are five must-do maintenance practices that should never be overlooked:

  1. Fix Water Leaks: The combined costs of water and sewer have been rising faster than the rate of inflation for at least a decade. Water is an increasingly expensive commodity that you cannot afford to throw away. Water leaks at sinks, dishmachines, mop stations, toilets and on irrigation systems are a 24 hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week, waste of money. All those drips can add up to thousands of dollars of lost profit a year. The good news is that most leaks are easy to fix. So don’t ignore that dripping faucet – fix it and save.
  2. Clean Refrigeration Coils: Refrigeration is the process of removing heat from inside a box. That heat is absorbed by the “evaporator” coils inside the box and released by the “condenser” coils outside the box. If the coils are dirty, the heat doesn’t move through the system like it is supposed to and the refrigerator has to use more energy to get the same job done. Really dirty coils can double the cost of operation and really strain the compressor. Cleaning once or twice a year is NOT enough. Quarterly is typically the minimum and if you have a more grease intense operation, like a burger restaurant, monthly is more likely the ideal schedule. You will save money on energy and cut your chances of an expensive service call.
  3. Replace Missing Knobs on Appliances: Cooking appliances are energy intensive. You do not want to leave them on when you don’t have to. An appliance that is running but not cooking food is not making you any money. It is draining your profits. But how can the staff turn off those range burners, or the broiler, or sections of the griddle if all the knobs are missing? Using a pair of pliers to operate your equipment is not an elegant way to manage your energy costs. Replace those missing knobs and then implement an equipment start-up and shut-down schedule so you use the energy you are buying as effectively (i.e. profitably) as possible.
  4. Properly Set the Temperature on Water Heaters: Making hot water can be one of the biggest energy costs in the kitchen. Making more hot water then you need just adds to that cost (and reduces your take-home pay). The FSTC crew routinely finds water heaters running anywhere from 10 to 40 degrees higher than necessary. Set your water heater so that you comply with local health codes and then check it on a regular basis to make sure it stays there. While you are at it, be sure to replace missing insulation on your hot water lines. These two actions are cheap-and-easy energy savers that should never be ignored.
  5.  Make Sure Cooking Appliances Sit All the Way Under the Exhaust Hood: All the cooking appliances on a line need to sit all the way under the exhaust hood. That may seem obvious, but the FSTC surveyors routinely find appliances that have migrated outside the exhaust hood for one reason or another. A hot appliance that is not properly ventilated is a health and safety hazard and, all the heat that doesn’t get captured by the exhaust hood will end up in the already hot kitchen – making it that much more expensive to cool. Also, be sure to turn off those exhaust hoods at the end of the work day after all the appliances have been turned off.

These are just a few simple maintenance items – there are many more and most of them are painfully obvious. The FSTC site audit team has a favorite slogan: “If it looks wasteful it is!” Keep that idea in mind and you will be more profitable while walking a little more gently on the environment.