Simple Steps for Green Efficiency in the Restaurant Industry

Simple Steps for Green Efficiency in the
Restaurant Industry

Terms like “going green” and “sustainability” are thrown around a lot these days. From restaurant advertising to consumer reviews, focus on turning your establishment into one that impacts the environment less and gives back more is higher than it’s ever been. As new terms and ideas spark and catch like fire, and restaurant owners and customers latch onto them optimistically, newcomers to the trend are often met with a dictionaries-worth of information to decipher.

For the up-and-coming independent restaurant, as well as the tried-and-true Mom & Pop place, so many options fueled by so much optimism can be daunting at first. From buying efficient equipment, switching out light fixtures, and retrofitting your pipes to locally sourcing produce and keeping your restaurant supply stocked with recyclable and compostable materials, the concept has become overwhelming to those unfamiliar with the trends. Rather than try to turn your eatery into an engine of environmental efficiency overnight it’s a good idea to start small and work up to a full-fledged program. Here are a few baby steps that are guaranteed to improve efficiency:

Water consumption:

Installing low-flow aerators is probably the easiest and cheapest way to reduce your water consumption. Quality aerators are inexpensive and once installed can effectively reduce the amount of water used each time a faucet is turned on. The mileage a few dollars worth of low-flow aerators can travel is impressive, and you’ll be surprised just how much water you save each month by putting a few in place. Instead of replacing every component of your restaurant, start small and simple!

Pre-rinse assemblies are an excellent way to cut back in the kitchen in regards to water use. Most modern assemblies are required to use under 1 1/2 gallons per minute, and it’s not uncommon to find ones that operate on half that. If you’re still using an inferior sink sprayer investing in a pre-rinse assembly is a smart choice

Thawing meats under water is extremely inefficient but it happens all the time. Gallons upon gallons are wasted every time you let the sink run to thaw meats, and with a little preparation you can save considerably. Instead of waiting until your morning crew gets in to start thawing your meats, set them in a low-temperature refrigerator so they thaw naturally.

Food and material:

Keeping track of your food waste is cost effective and simply smart business. Whether through paper logs or more advanced computer programs, tracking your food waste can help you understand which areas you need to improve. Simple steps like portion control can greatly reduce food waste, but you won’t know how much you’re wasting food until you start keeping track.

Recycling is often the go-to notion when the green buzzwords start circling. Sometimes recycling can be as simple as buying the bins and making the effort to fill them. Other times a well-intended recycling program starts strong only to peter out when support dwindles. A successful recycling effort can drastically reduce your waste, but it needs to be constantly monitored and whole-heartedly supported.

Composting is essentially the big brother to a recycling program. In the same way recycling helps reduce garbage composting can help reduce food waste and effectively improve your restaurant’s “green” footprint. Treat composting as the next step once you’ve established your restaurant’s recycling efforts.

Training:

Start up and shutdown schedules are an excellent way to reduce your restaurant’s energy bill every month. Not all your restaurant equipment needs to be turned on first thing in the morning, and having a set schedule for each piece of equipment (or a more general schedule for your entire kitchen) saves you money without costing a penny. BONUS: If you’ve got a little money to invest there are systems that automate start up and shutdown schedules so you don’t have to do a thing.

–  Staff training is where all your hard work and well laid out plans succeed or fail. A properly trained staff to back up your recycling plan and follow your water consumption guidelines is essential to the success of these programs. Make sure you’re intentions are made clear, and that the sustainability efforts you want your staff to implement are touched on regularly.

Again, building and maintaining a sustainable business model doesn’t happen overnight. If you’re determined and have the will to get things started, the steps listed above will give you cornerstones to build your program around. Keep your finger on the pulse and educate yourself about new technologies and improvements to current practices. The key is to not get complacent once you’ve got a few good elements in place.

-Andrew Call provides blog insights regarding restaurant management and marketing at The Back Burner. The top-rated food service blog is written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant supply, parts, and a wide variety of food service equipment and sundries.

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