Posts Tagged ‘Waste Reduction’

Waste Free Restaurant

Author: Paul

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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.

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Reusable Takeout

Author: Paul

Reusable Takeout ContainerA Calgary man named K.B. Lee recently launched an interesting website called TakeOutWithout.com. The site is creating a campaign to encourage diners and restaurants alike to reduce the amount of packaging they use in when ordering takeout.

TOWO asks people to reduce the amount of unnecessary packaging they take when getting takeout (think a stack of napkins), bring their own reusable containers, and change their dining habits. I assume the last one means eating out less, which since we’re in the foodservice business I’ll take to mean dine in rather than not eating out at all…

Though his idea nothing new, I like the concept – particularly the idea of bringing your own takeout container. This is great idea if someone is dining out, (or dining in rather) and has some leftovers they want to take home. If they have their own container for their own leftovers, it can be as big or dirty or cumbersome as they are willing to deal with. The restaurant never has to touch the thing. I’ve seen this done a lot by environmentally minded customers, but the whole concept relies solely on the customers. I would like to see some restaurants (particularly those that tend to have a lot of leftovers) encouraging their customers to bring their own containers for leftovers. Maybe offer them a coupon for a free scoop of ice cream for using their own containers. It’s a loss for the restaurant in terms of takeout containers saved versus ice cream lost, but it brings them back – maybe again and again.

One of the more dicey issues is using outside containers for the takeout food itself. A lot of restaurant owners don’t want outside containers in their kitchen, and for good reason. If the containers were not washed in a commercial dishwasher (which they weren’t) it’s a health code violation, and even if they were they would be contaminated by the time the container makes it back to the kitchen. The simple solution to this is to run the customer’s container through the dishwasher. Inevitably the dishwasher will already be running with other items so adding a piece of Tupperware doesn’t add any major labor to the process. Of course, this may take a little longer, but any customer that is willing to bring their own containers for takeout will be more than happy to wait an extra minute or two if you use their container.

I’ve also heard of restaurants plating the food on their own dishes then letting the customer transfer it to their own containers. This option is nice for the kitchen staff that doesn’t have to adapt to a countless variety of containers and avoids the health code issue, but does dirty an extra dish in addition to the difficulty of the customer transferring the food to their containers – more than likely in the entrance of the dining room.

Another option is to offer a reusable takeout container with a deposit. College campuses are starting to use reusable takeout containers, and it could work great for a lot of restaurant. Reusable containers and deposits won’t work for every takeout customer, but for regulars, office workers around the corner, or in campus situations (school or business) it is a great, sensible option.

Of course disposable containers are not going away, but sustainable restaurants should provide a greener option, and accommodate guests that wish to bring their own – maybe to go as far as to encourage and possibly compensate their guests for bringing containers from home for leftovers. It’s a small step, but they all add up.

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I recently posted a couple articles about food waste in the news section of sustainablefoodservice.com. One was on the regulation of food waste, and the other about a restaurant group that has installed an on-site composting machine called the eCorect. I don’t normally post articles about specific restaurants going green, but this one brought up some specific thoughts for me.

What does sustainability mean when it comes to composting?

In the big picture, there are a lot of interworking systems that go into composting, and therefore carbon footprints. Large-scale industrial facilities have enormous infrastructure including aerators, heavy machinery and some sort of distribution system while small-scale systems like the eCorect have a large initial carbon footprint in the manufacturing of the machinery, and continue to consume energy throughout the machines life.

Restaurant Worm Bin

Large-scale worm bin that processes 120 gallons of restaurant food waste a week.

Smaller, traditional composting bins don’t use any power or need a huge infrastructure, but can’t process large amounts of material or any meats or dairy. They are usually just not practical for most restaurants. Other systems like large vermiculture systems are simple to build and can process large amounts of material, but you still need the space on-site to process the food waste. There are also anaerobic digesters and several types of on-site composting machines.

Despite the carbon footprint from the infrastructure of large-scale composting facilities that most restaurants will use, composting is the most sustainable option – there have been studies done… Ideally we would all have a compost bin out back, but that is obviously not practical nor is a composting machine in every restaurant.

I do think there is a place for every system depending on the foodservice operation. Small, rural restaurants may have enough room to have their own compost pile, an on-site composter or send their food scraps to a farmer, while urban restaurants are generally going to use composing machines or a commercial composting facility with regular food waste collection.

Whichever service is available or system used, restaurant owners need to start thinking about food waste if they are not already. As noted in the article from the UK, regulations on organic waste are on their way. San Francisco recently enacted mandatory composting, and many areas will soon follow as they build composting infrastructures.

This should be viewed as a good thing for restaurant operators. Composting whether with a hauler or on-site is cheaper than waste hauling and will only get more economical as landfills run out of space and gasoline prices continue to rise.

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Food Waste Calculator

Author: Paul

The EPA recently released a new food cost calculator that estimates the financial savings of source reduction, donation, and composting of food, and recycling of yellow grease. The calculator takes user input such as food costs and amounts of waste (so you will need some in-house data) and calculates savings and environmental benefits based on several scenarios. The calculator is created in a Microsoft Excel file and you will need macros enabled to run the file.

In addition to the calculator, the EPA also provides a wealth of information on food waste.

The food waste calculator is available on the EPA website.

I will also post a link to in on www.sustainablefoodservice.com under the Tools section.

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