Like a new car driving off the lot, exciting cutting-edge technology eventually becomes everyday and reliable. Solar panels, automatic faucets, motion-sensor soap dispensers and energy-saving light bulbs are so commonplace that even the latest models no longer feel new.
But that’s exactly the goal of sustainability and green operations: Make energy-saving elements the norm, and welcome the innovations ahead.
Pizzeria Mozza in Newport Beach, California, for example, takes advantage of technology such as converting cooking grease into biodiesel and reusing graywater in the plumbing. The restaurant opened in 2011 with the goal of stretching sustainable efforts beyond the menu ingredients. “We reduced air conditioning costs, for instance, by painting the roof white to deflect heat,” says General Manager Doug Zamensky.
More so than ever, sustainable technology is becoming the core of modern restaurant construction and design. It’s no longer just a fashionable feature.
“People buying restaurants now have been hearing about things like wastewater reduction all their lives,” says Michael Oshman, CEO of the nonprofit Green Restaurant Association, which helps restaurants implement sustainability initiatives. “It’s just become normal, and from an ethical standpoint, they also want to become responsible stewards.”
Fortunately for the green-minded, the cost gap is closing between sustainable technology and conventional products and equipment. With the upfront costs involved in conversions or new build-outs, operators can feel good about being green while simultaneously saving money.
“Most people think when you talk about ‘sustainable,’ you’re talking about food,” says Crista Martin, director of strategic initiatives and communication for Harvard’s dining services. “We’re talking about operations as well. In traditional kitchens, you fire up the oven just so it’s ready. Does it really need to be turned on at 7 a.m., or do you not really need it until 11?”
As exciting as the technologies are, many operators are still reluctant to invest financially. Yet maintaining the status quo no longer makes sense. Oshman says the return on investment is relatively swift.
“Restaurants are getting the message, why wait a year? What’s really become mainstream is that there are no more arguments against using sustainable technology,” he says, “The conversation has shifted, the tipping point has passed.”
Green Savings by the Numbers
20-30 The reduction in waste with composters that dehydrate to save water
6 gallons per minute. The amount of water expended by older model sink spray valves
0.6 gallons per minute. The amount of water high-pressure sink spray valves use
Ways to Go Green
Some noteworthy examples:
Lucy Restaurant and Bar, Yountville, California
LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design)-certified in the Bardessono Hotel
- Equipment is Energy Star rated.
- Solar-powered garbage compactor reduces number of weekly pickups.
- Triple-filtered water system eliminates bottled water.
Harvard University Dining Services, Cambridge, Massachusetts
30 foodservice locations
- Melink Intelli-Hoods (over stovetops) are equipped with optical temperature sensors that monitor for smoke and fumes, so that they don’t run continuously all day. Energy costs were cut by half; life of the fan motor extended.
- Sensors in refrigerators and freezers signal when temperatures are off register. Self-management reduces likelihood of spoiled food.
- Heat-capturing technology in the kitchens converts existing ambient heat into power that preheats water.