Posts Tagged ‘energy efficiency’

Our post today is from a guest writer, Greg McGuire, from The Back Burner.

If your restaurant or commercial food service operation uses steam tables to keep food hot before you serve the customer, then this post is for you. If this post is for you, then you already know how integral steam tables can be in your day-to-day operations. You also know they can eat up a lot of energy on a daily basis.

Making steam tables more energy efficient is easier than you might think. If you’ve got an older unit, the first thing to consider is buying a new steam table. Newer models are more efficient, more reliable, and create a better impression with your customer.

I know, you thought I said this would be easy. In the likely case you’re planning on keeping your current steam tables and just want to make them more efficient, read on for the really easy part.

Steam table pans are the essential moving part that keeps a steam table going. Those pans also act as a lid that helps trap the heat the table is creating to keep food warm. And as anyone who has worked with those steam table pans knows, over time the corners and edges become bent and wavy. In fact, my personal experience is that it only takes a trip or two through the dishwashing station in a busy kitchen for those corners and edges to start bending upward.

The problem with bent corners and edges on steam table pans is that their role as the lid on the heat generated by the table is compromised. The gaps between the edges of the well and the edges of the table allow steam to escape, and anyone watching a pot of water come to a boil knows that one without a tightly sealed lid is going to take longer.

It may not seem like a big deal to have a little steam escaping from a couple gaps where the pan meets the well, and by itself for an hour or two it isn’t. The problem is that if you’re using steam tables to keep food warm, you’ve probably got it running for several hours at a time many days in a row. Over time, those little gaps end up costing you significant amounts of money – as much as $30 per well per year!

This is where the easy part comes in. A pair of pliers and some time should be enough for you to straighten out the curled and bent edges of your existing steam table pans.

When you go to buy new pans, I would highly recommend The Edge steam table pans by Polarware. These pans are made from 300 series stainless steel and have a reinforced edge and corners that resists bending or curling. The edges are also specially designed for easy gripping, making the constant chore of replacing steam table pans much easier on your staff.

Sometimes the simplest solution, like making sure all the edges on your steam table pans are straight, can make a huge difference, especially in a business with historically thin profit margins like the food service industry. And sometimes, when all new steam table pans look the same, one has features that make it stand out from the crowd. Polarware’s The Edge steam table pans are definitely a standout.

Greg McGuire blogs about restaurant marketing and management at The Back Burner, which is written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant equipment and other food service supplies.


Our post today is from a guest writer, Greg McGuire, from The Back Burner.

The presence of a large multi-burner gas range at the heart of the cooking line is about as fundamental as it gets in any restaurant. That iron and stainless steel behemoth uses a lot of energy, throws a lot of heat, and requires a dedicated ventilation system just to keep the cooks from getting overwhelmed.

For decades no proper chef would have it any other way. That’s beginning to change, and the catalyst of that change is the induction range. Induction cooking works in a completely different manner than traditional gas or electric ranges. Instead of using a superhot medium like burning gas or an electrically heated element, induction ranges use the energy created by two opposing magnetic fields driven by an electric current to make the metal in the cookware itself become hot.

Sound a little geeky? It is, in a cool science project kind of way. For professional chefs, the most interesting thing about induction cooking are the practical advantages it can bring to the process, including:

Precision temperature control. While there is certainly a steep learning curve in the beginning, once a chef gets an induction range dialed in based upon the numbers on the knob, you can be sure you’ll get consistent, perfectly even heat every time. This is especially beneficial for low temperature and simmering applications, because an induction range can maintain a much lower heat than a traditional gas or electric range.

Speed. You’ve never seen a pot boil faster or oil heat up quicker than on an induction range. Because the metal of the pot or pan sitting on the burner becomes the heating agent instead of the medium, induction is by far the fastest way to heat whatever you’re cooking.

electric-induction-rangeEfficiency. An induction range uses a fraction of the energy used by a traditional range. There’s also almost zero energy waste since the energy used to heat food is created in the metal of the cookware instead of below it. This energy is also created by a relatively weak electrical current, which can be much more inexpensive than natural gas.

Safety. An induction burner that’s turned on to full heat is still cool to the touch. As it heats metal cookware it will become hot, but the burner itself creates no heat. This makes induction much safer than traditional ranges. Some induction ranges even have automatic detectors that shut off the burner when there is no pan present, when the pan is empty, or when foreign objects fall onto the surface of the range.

Ventilation. Because induction ranges don’t burn fuel like a gas range, minimal ventilation is needed, and much less heat is created, even if you’re running induction all day on a busy line. This can save any restaurant a boatload of money on the ventilation and cooling costs normally associated with a traditional gas range. Make sure you consult the local regulations in your community when deciding how much ventilation you need to install for an induction range. In general, however, the requirements should be a fraction of those for a gas range.

Induction cooking isn’t for every restaurant. Some chefs don’t like the fact that cookware cools off rapidly when it’s not in contact with the burner – a distinct disadvantage for techniques that call for using the pan to flip or sautee ingredients as they cook. Induction also supports only certain types of cookware – usually stainless steel or cast iron – which means your aluminum cookware will be useless on an induction range.

If you are interested in induction cooking, Vollrath has been a pioneer in developing induction ranges, countertop burners, and even chafers for the food service industry. So far another factor slowing the widespread adoption of induction technology in restaurants has been the cost of equipment. As energy prices, especially natural gas, continue to rise and the cost of quality induction equipment comes down, however, induction cooking starts to make more and more sense.

Greg McGuire blogs about restaurant marketing and management at The Back Burner, which is written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant equipment and other food service supplies.


1. Start-up, Shutdown Schedules
Not everything needs to be turned on right away when the first cook arrives. Equipment start-up schedules similar to just-in-time ordering saves energy with no investment.

2. Low flow aerators
These are potentially one of the lowest priced efficiency measures a restaurant can buy. Aerators range from .50 to a several dollars and return the investment almost instantly.

3. Pre-rinse Sprayers
At about $60, these devices pay for themselves in about a week depending on your usage and prior sprayer. Some of the newest units on the market use as little as .65 gallons per minute compared to the old units that use around 3.5 gpm. New regulations require all pre-rinse sprayers to use no more than 1.6 gpm so go as low as you can find.

4. Turbo Pots
Research from the Food Service Technology Center shows that Turbo Pots use about half as much energy to boil a pot of water compared to a standard pot. If you have a pot of water boiling all day in your kitchen these pots are a must have.

5. Thawing Meats
A little bit of organization and scheduling could save many restaurants thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of dollars a year. If you must thaw meats with running water make sure the faucet has a low-flow aerator, and turn the flow down to just enough to keep water flowing across the product – not full blast.

6. CFLs
They are simple and almost old school at this point, but CFLs save a lot of money. Today’s CFLs are cheap and high quality, but don’t buy the cheapest ones you can find. You get what you pay for. Use them in hoods, storage areas, offices, back halls and walk-in coolers.

7. Training
All the green gadgets and gizmos in the world don’t save money unless the users are using them correctly. Moreover, training staff to be conscious about the resources they are using will go much further than any piece of energy efficient equipment.

8. Recycling
Even restaurants that currently recycle should audit their garbage once in a while. More than likely, recyclables are being thrown away and potentially costing the business extra hauling fees. Recycling is a simple task, and can cut a garbage bill in half if the restaurant is not currently taking part in the practice.

9. Composting
Food waste makes up something around 50% of the volume and 75% of the weight of most full service restaurants. Implementing a composting program can be a little more involved, but like recycling it soon becomes second nature to the staff.

10. Food Waste Tracking
Before starting a composting program, start tracking the restaurant’s food waste, and make changes to reduce that waste. Whether through simple paper logs or more complex digital systems like Leanpath, food waste tracking helps chefs and management actualize their waste and make adjustments to par lists, menus or schedules.


I’m not sure what prompted the sudden surge, but there have been three different reports (one, two, three) published lately on the green awareness of foodservice operators. Two of the reports are from England and the third is from the US. The reports analyzed the perceptions and practices of restaurant owners and managers in regards to sustainability. The reports surveyed a wide range of restaurants from “Mom and Pop” diners to billion dollar multinational franchises and food product manufacturers. The affirming outcome of the studies is that restaurants are very interested in sustainability though they sometimes don’t practice it or know how to practice it. That bodes well for myself and all the suppliers and vendors offering green products, but signifies that we have a challenge ahead of us.

For me, it is great to see that people are getting it. For instance, 94% of respondents in the American study said they would invest in technologies that reduce their energy consumption.

Efficiency is and should be a major goal in sustainability initiatives, but I am little disappointed to see water conservation a distant thought to many questioned in the study. Energy is always in the media and minds of many, but one way or another we can produce endless amounts of energy. We will never run out of energy, maybe oil but not energy. Alternatively, water is the single most important finite resource on the Earth, and fortunately for the restaurant industry water conservation is one of the simplest and most cost effective green measures.

The major barrier to sustainability becoming second nature seems to be the perception that anything green means spending money – lots of money. On the contrary, many green options for restaurants come from simple changes in practices and procedures that cost little to nothing. Even with expensive upgrades the long-term savings in energy, water or waste hauling cost always make the investment worthwhile. The restaurant business is an industry to single digit profits, but the industry as a whole needed to see the light that pitching pennies today loses them dollar tomorrow.

All the studies show a great trend for our industry. We are moving in the right direction of acknowledging sustainable operations, but many of us still need a little prodding to get the ball rolling. If you or your company needs a kick in the pants to get on the right track, give me a call and I’ll help you get on track to sustainability.


The National Restaurant Association released its annual Kitchen Innovation awards last week, and not surprising the list is dominated with green innovations offering everything from green cleaners to energy efficiency. Not all the items are necessarily new to the market or new technology, but it appears that the commercial kitchen manufacturers have caught on that saving their customers energy and money is a good strategy.

My current favorites are the heat recovery systems on the Champion and Hobart dishwashers, and the Vegawatt system. I love the idea of capturing waste heat, which we tend to have a lot of in commercial kitchens, and making your own energy from waste products. I’m looking forward to a Mr. Fusion style system that uses not just waste oil, but all the kitchen and table scraps to power the lights.

Here is a list of the KI products that have some sort of green accolade:

Activeion Cleaning Solutions, LLC – The ionator EXP
A hand-held, on-demand power cleaner that converts tap water into ionized water — a powerful dirt-removing, bacteria-killing agent. When used as directed, the ionator EXP kills 99.999 percent of harmful bacteria without the use of toxic chemicals.

Champion Industries – E2series Flight with Quad Rinse
A unique linkage between the conveyor and the water flow control conserves water and energy use, as hot water input is reduced proportionately, when the speed of the conveyor is slowed.

Champion Industries – Heat Recovery Unit with Temp-Sure system
This innovation eliminates the need to pre-heat the final rinse water, to conserve energy, while the temp-sure system continually monitors outlet temperature and adjusts airflow to maintain the proper rinse temperature.

Henny Penny Corporation – iControl for Evolution Elite
The Gas Evolution Elite Open Fryer now offers the new iControl, which monitors all fryer activity. iControl provides the operator with data to improve oil usage, meet product quality standards, and continuously optimize frying operations.

Hobart Corporation – Ventless AM Warewasher
The Hobart AM Ventless eliminates the need for purchase and installation of a hood. It’s the first ventless door-type that recaptures water vapor, and condenses it, to heat the incoming cold water inlet for the final rinse cycle.

Middleby Corp. – Middleby Marshall Mini WOW Oven
This high speed conveyor oven with the Middleby Marshall patented energy-eye and motor sleep mode technology automatically powers down between uses and saves 30 percent in energy compared to prior models.

Vegawatt – Vegawatt Cogeneration System
Vegawatt is a fully automated and work-flow integrated energy cogeneration (CHP) system that generates on-site electricity and hot water for foodservice operations by using the waste vegetable oil from the fryers as a fuel source.