Global warming is something weighing on our minds, including those of your clientele. Today a company that doesn’t make a good faith effort to clean up their act and reduce their carbon footprint offends our collective sensibility. It’s as infuriating as watching an idiot toss a bag of trash out of a passing car. It’s unacceptable behavior bordering on the criminal, especially considering we exist on this rock together.
The upshot is that turning green is good for business. Not only will it lower operating costs, it also will clearly demonstrate to staff and clientele that you’re driven by more than just profits.
Food and beverage operations are prime for this type of effort. One estimate puts the amount of recyclable material per 100 pounds of restaurant garbage at roughly 70%. Reclaiming as much of that material as feasible is responsible business and ecologically significant.
One of the initial steps to getting your business on the “green track” is instituting “pre-cycling,” which means no longer purchasing products in non-recyclable packages. In lieu of individual packets, many businesses are buying sugar, salt and pepper in bulk. Whenever possible, purchase products packaged in glass, tin or aluminum rather than plastic containers.
Turning green also means reducing waste. Whenever possible, use linen towels for cleaning instead of disposable paper products. Switch from paper cocktail napkins and disposable sip stirs to reusable coasters and swizzle sticks. Not only will it reduce how much trash your business produces on a nightly basis, but imprinted coasters and swizzles provide marketing support, and guests often keep them as mementos.
Consider printing your menus and stationary on recycled paper stock using soy-based ink instead of conventional, environmentally unfriendly ink.
Eco-friendly containers made from biodegradable corn polymers and starches are fast replacing polystyrene counterparts for packaging takeout orders. Much like the trend in markets and grocery stores, increasing numbers of restaurants are switching to reusable bags to pack up “to-go” food. Establishments that still use loathsome plastic bags are losing major points with environmentally conscious consumers.
You can request that your distributors reuse the cardboard boxes your liquor orders come in for your next delivery. If no other use can be found for beer cartons or wine boxes, the packaging should be broken down and recycled.
Other items on the on-premise recycling hit list include beverage and foodservice glass bottles, newsprint and discarded computer paper, tin and aluminum cans, plastic soda bottles and six-pack plastic rings. The reality is that recycling requires a sufficient amount of space for collection and storage, but once in place there should be little problem enlisting volunteers to ensure the program’s success.
Reducing the use of toxic substances is another aspect of turning a business green. Replace toxic cleaning products or those that contain harmful fluorocarbon-propellants for environmentally friendly items.
Reducing Energy Costs
According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurants use approximately two and a half times more energy per square foot than other types of businesses. At a time when energy costs have been increasing about 5% per year, investing in a strategy to reduce energy consumption makes financial sense.
Most of the equipment and appliances in a commercial kitchen are energy intensive. For example, a conventional electric fryer uses an estimated 11,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per year at a cost of about $1,100. When looking to replace your existing equipment, it’s advisable to factor into the transaction the long-term energy costs. High-efficiency equipment may cost more, but significantly lower utility bills often more than offset the higher purchase price.
Along the same lines, conventional incandescent light bulbs are less expensive than the compact fluorescent lamps now on the market. However, energy-efficient bulbs use a fraction of the watts an incandescent bulb uses, produce 75% less heat and last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs. The switch soon will pay for itself in lower maintenance costs.
Reducing water use is another money-saving tactic. Not only will your water bills go down, you’ll save money on your electric, sewer and gas as well. Utility companies calculate monthly sewer bills based on water meter readings. The higher the water usage, the higher the sewer bill.
Lowering the temperature on your hot-water heater also will shave dollars off of the utility bill. So will installing a high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valve in the dish room. Typical spray valves can release hot water at a rate of 3 to 4 gallons per minute (gpm), while high-efficiency units use 1.6 gpm or less without sacrificing cleaning power.
Okay, we get it. You’re two servers short for lunch — which starts in about 20 minutes — and the health inspector just walked in. You’re busy. Time is an issue. Cost is an issue. In a down economy, everything is an issue. With that in mind, here are some quick fixes with big returns.
• Drip, Drip — A leaky faucet wastes more than 5 gallons of water a day. Walk the premises, check the faucets and repair any leaks immediately. Wasted water, sewer and water heating costs can amount to hundreds of dollars a year.
• Temperature Checks — Minimize waste and lower costs at the same time by ensuring that your walk-in is holding food at the proper temperature. Adding a strip curtain can cut outside air infiltration by about 75%.
• Grab Your Overalls — A savvy quick fix is to check that all of the coolers and refrigerators are operating at peak efficiency. Vacuum the dust build-up off of the evaporator and condenser coils and replace worn or damaged door gaskets. Also make sure that the units are running at the proper temperatures.
• Ice Man Cometh — Ice machines with large capacities are more energy efficient than smaller units. One way to reduce daytime energy consumption is to program your ice machine to shift ice production to off-peak hours at night.