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ENERGY STAR is Haute Cuisine

2012 August 15
Una Song

Una Song

By: Una Song

When I managed a restaurant in New York City, every evening I would take on a particular role depending on who didn’t show up.  Some nights I was the hostess, others the waitress, often the bartender.  Thankfully the cooks always showed up.  Later as a consultant, I helped restaurateurs develop business plans to present to potential investors.  In creating these plans, I was focused on ensuring that investors could visualize the restaurant experience and that the menu was fresh and exciting.  If I were to be involved in the restaurant business today, I would need to take into account another factor – sustainability.  According to the National Restaurant Association 2012 Restaurant Industry Forecast, over 40 percent of adults say they are likely to make a restaurant choice based on an operation’s conservation practices.  In addition, more than half of adults said they are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers food that was grown or raised in an organic or environmentally friendly way.

I have friends who are good cooks and love to entertain.  When they ask my opinion about opening up a restaurant, I tell them that it’s a good start that they like to cook and entertain, but that they need to think about whether they want to host a party every night for 100+ people.  Given how much restaurant owners need to deal with on a daily basis, it’s hard to imagine they can add greening their restaurant and menu to their plate.

The U. S. Environmental Protection Agency can help.  By looking for the ENERGY STAR, commercial kitchen operators can easily identify commercial food service equipment that is more energy efficient, which should be welcome news.  According to research done by the U. S. Department of Energy in 2010 and the California Energy Commission in 2006, restaurants and commercial kitchens are one of the highest energy consumers among building types.  They estimate that commercial kitchens use approximately 350,000 BTU per square foot which is roughly 5 – 7 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings, such as office buildings and retail stores.

ENERGY STAR certified options are available for commercial dishwashers, fryers, griddles, hot food holding cabinets, ice machines, ovens, refrigerators, freezers and steam cookers.  By reducing the amount of energy their kitchen equipment uses, kitchen operators can add to their bottom line.  Outfitting their kitchen with a suite of commercial food service equipment that has earned the ENERGY STAR could save operators about 340 MBTU/year, or $3,100/year.  Restaurants are taking advantage.  The National Restaurant Association 2012 Forecast also finds that a majority of restaurant operators are planning to invest in green equipment and fixtures in 2012, welcome news to me and to the environment too.

For more information on ENERGY STAR for restaurants, click here.

Una Song works for EPA’s ENERGY STAR program focused on commercial food service equipment marketing.  One of her favorite pastimes is trying new restaurants.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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3 Responses leave one →
  1. danny orlando permalink
    August 15, 2012

    I enjoyed your comments Una and indeed restaurants have a lot going on and often the facility itself is the least of their worries. Yet, a great deal of profit can be harvested from the kitchen equipment, refrigeration, HVAC, lighting, air sealing, and scheduling of when these are all on and off. I was recently in a Longhorn here in Atlanta and all lighting had been changed to LED’s. Now that is a menu item that makes me want to return.

  2. Elizabeth Wallace permalink
    August 24, 2012

    I’ll forward this article to my son, a restaurant manager in Silver Spring. Thanks!

  3. Craig Bernstein permalink
    August 30, 2012

    I too, enjoyed your comments. It is always nice to know that someone has a background in an area they specialize in. Your restaurant experience should really enhance your ability to make decisions about what works for restaurants. I grew up around a family owned restaurant and therefore, I really related to your comments. One thing I still see over and over is the rampant use of incandescent lighting in restaurants. If the owners only new how much they were paying for this outdated technology. It is quite common to walk in to a restaurant and easily see 50 of these bulbs. I recently, discussed this with a restaurant owner and he is actually in the process of changing out all of his lighting to LED’s. Not only will they use about 80% less electricity, he will not be changing them out constantly. He was having to change bulbs at an average rate of every three months. The LED’s should last for years!

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