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Converting to an energy-efficient kitchen

With today’s ever-increasing energy costs, restaurant operators are taking a closer look at the energy use of their major kitchen equipment. While purchasing new equipment always represents a significant capital outlay, in many cases the long-term savings in energy costs can make up for the initial expenditures. Andy Revella, Culinologist for Green Kitchen Solutions in Dallas, has a few suggestions for equipment swapouts that can reduce energy usage.

“The easiest and quickest transition is to get rid of all your burners—whether they’re gas or electric burners—and adapt to induction cooking,” he says. “It’ll cost you 20 cents a day to run an induction burner, and the heat is much cleaner. The money you save is not just in energy, it’s in cleanup and wear and tear on your building.” Another advantage to induction cooking, he adds, is less chance of fires from grease or oil spillage onto hot open burners.

Next, “I would get rid of my traditional oven and go with a cook-and-hold unit,” Revella notes. “Those ovens give better energy efficiency, are cleaner for the environment and cook more evenly.” The consistent heat and precise temperature controls of cook-and-hold ovens also help reduce shrinkage, thus increasing the yield of product.

For a more radical idea, Revella suggests replacing deep-fat fryers with energy-efficient rapid-cook ovens. “I can pull out the deep-fat fryer, get rid of the grease and lower my operating costs because I don’t have to clean up so much. I’m going to get a little bit more efficiency from my kitchen air filters, too.” Revella believes rapid-cook ovens could be particularly beneficial to operations that serve a lot of kids’ meals, as they produce food with all the crunch of deep-frying but with the health benefit of using less oil. “With just a little bit of knowledge, you can make any fried food work out of these ovens,” he says. “Two rapid-cook ovens can replace your deep-fat fryer, and put out the same capacity. And you’re going to deliver fried foods with 50 percent less fat.”

First steps
If you’re looking for a starting place to find information about energy-efficient equipment and kitchen supplies, here are a few resources to investigate:

  • For a quick overview of the bottom-line, dollars-and-cents effect of purchasing energy-saving kitchen equipment, check out the EPA’s “Putting Energy Into Profit” brochure (www.energystar.gov/ia/business/small_business/restaurants_guide.pdf). The Energy Star website also has a kitchen equipment spreadsheet that automatically calculates the average savings you can expect by replacing standard equipment with Energy Star-rated equipment.
  • The Food Service Technology Center (www.fishnick.com) has an interactive equipment planning tool that lets you see energy-saving options for nearly every item in the kitchen. The site also features a comprehensive list of kitchen appliances that have earned the Energy Star rating.
  • Although its focus is primarily on sustainability, the NRA’s Conserve website (www.conserve.restaurant.org) offers case studies showing what some restaurants—both chains and local—are doing to be more “eco-friendly” and reduce their energy usage.
  • If it’s important that your customers know about your energy-saving efforts, The Green Restaurant Association (www.dinegreen.com) has information on standards for green certification for restaurants, as well as a short list of endorsed products.

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