Usually when anyone starts talking about going green or general sustainability one of the first words out of their mouth is “energy.” Energy is a big thing, particularly right now. There is a huge push for green energy, we were recently smacked in the face with $4 gas prices that are sure to return, and things like solar panels are just cool. However, while energy efficiency might be sexy and a great marketing tool, water is a much more important long-term issue. We can have clean energy as long as the sun shines and the wind blows, but clean water is a finite resource and should be high priority for restaurants – if not for the environmental implications, the costs associated with water use. Fortunately, water conservation is one of the easiest green efforts.

I’ve been in a lot of different restaurants lately, and one of my main recommendations to all of them has been water conservation. Nearly every restaurant I’ve been in had a leak in at least one faucet somewhere in the facility. Some were fairly minor inconsistent drips while others were near constant flows that had to be wasting hundreds of gallons of water a day, which chalks up a significant cost very quickly. In addition to ignored leaks, not one foodservice operation had low-flow aerators on their faucets. Most had aerators that allow 2.0 to 2.2 gallons per minutes while a low-flow aerator will use anywhere from .5 to 1.5 gpm, which is considered a standard “low-flow” aerator. By replacing a single 2.2 gpm aerator with a 1.5 gpm, restaurants could save nearly 32% out of that faucet alone, 55% with a 1.0 gpm aerator and over 77% with a .5 gpm aerator.

To make matters worse, every restaurant I’ve audited lately also had at least one faucet without an aerator all together. Besides the fact that non-aerated faucets consume about 5 gpm, a faucet without any sort of screen poses a food contamination issue. Take an aerator or screen off a faucet sometime and see what they have caught: bits of plastic, rubber from gaskets, metal from the pipes, weird goo from God knows where, etc. All these things are possibility ending up in food because the majority of faucets without aerators tend to be in vegetable sinks. Why in vegetable sinks? Because kitchen workers want and need to fill buckets and sinks quickly. So rather than wait around a few minutes for a 1.5 gpm or even a 2.2 gpm faucet to fill their five gallon bucket, they take the aerator off and fill that bucket in less than a minute. It’s hard to blame them for doing this. Commercial kitchens are obviously fast paced environments, and every second counts. No one wants to wait around for a bucket of water to fill. The problem arises when that faucet is used for something other than filling a bucket, like thawing froze meat under a water stream. This is a bad practice to begin with, but even worse when the volume of water is four or five times what it could be.

How does one balance the kitchen’s needs with conservation? First, almost every faucet in the house should have a low-flow aerator installed on them, particularly hand sinks. Bathrooms and kitchen hand sinks are great places to spend a couple extra dollars and purchase aerators that use under 1.5 gpm. For sinks that have a single use like water filling stations I recommend only a screen on the faucet if and only if it is only being used for filling water carafes and not hand washing, rinsing rags, etc.

To prevent the kitchen staff from removing aerators in vegetable sinks I recommend providing them with a designated faucet for filling stock pots, buckets and the like. You may need to add an additional faucet to the vegetable sink, but the long term savings are well worth the effort. Make sure to use signage that reminds them which faucet is used for what.

Water conservation may be not a sexy marketing campaign option, but it is a simple, very cost effective sustainability measure every foodservice operation can implement. A few dollars in investment will have huge returns at the end of the year.

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3 Responses to “Restaurant Water Efficiency”

  1. Steven Says:

    In this article you mention how frozen meat is thawed under a constant stream of water. That’s currently the practice that the restaurant that I work at follows. What other procedure would you recommend? I know this is most likely the way water is wasted.

    I also am going through the restaurant I work at and looking for energy efficient replacements. I’ve used the aerator replacements in my home and knew it would make a huge impact in a place like a restaurant. I also thought of the idea of replacing all the incandescent lights to compact fluorescent lights to save money. And after what I’ve calculated out. It will definately produce returns.

    I’m interested in what you have to say about a better procedure for thawing frozen meat. Please email me back.

    Thank you.

  2. Paul Says:

    The best option is to thaw meats in the refrigerator. A lot of places struggle with this because it takes a better par setup because you have to start thawing the product a couple days ahead of time. It also takes extra refrigeration space, which may or may not be available. Regardless, it can be done with a little practice, good par sheets and scheduling.

  3. visit Says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on aerators. Regards

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