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Sustainability in Food Service Equipment: What Works & How?

October 23, 2023

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Shifting from why to how – sustainability is not just a trend anymore.

Embracing sustainability has become imperative for businesses in the food service industry to become more efficient, competitive, and profitable.

But what does sustainability mean in food service? Sustainability in food service means minimizing environmental impact, conserving resources, and supporting ethical practices throughout food production and distribution.

Therefore, implementing sustainability in food service equipment remains a powerful lever that extends beyond traditional CSR.

Moreover, sustainability is not limited to protecting the environment but is also concerned with energy and water efficiency, composition, material recycling, food composting, and bulk servicing. These initiatives will foster operational efficiencies, reduce costs, boost profits, and create a win-win situation for the food service provider.

But how do you pull this off? In this blog, we’ll walk you through:

  • The Environmental Impact of Food Service Equipment
    • Energy Consumption in Commercial Kitchens
    • Resource Consumption and Waste Generation
    • Equipment Waste
  • How can Equipment Improve Your Food Service Sustainability?
    • Use Efficient Equipment
    • Use of Renewable Energy Sources
    • Install Energy Management System
    • Invest in Composting Equipment
    • Reusable Food Containers and Kitchen Utensils
    • Use Water-Saving Equipment

Let’s explore sustainable food service equipment that drives real change.

The Environmental Impact of Food Service Equipment

Energy consumption, resource consumption, and equipment waste lead to adverse environmental impacts in the food service industry. From using electromagnetic radiation to heat food to heating plates for serving food, there are several environmental impacts of food service equipment.

Energy Consumption in Commercial Kitchens

We often don’t realize, but energy consumption in commercial kitchens contributes to increased carbon emissions, straining resources, and impacting climate change.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, restaurants consume three times more energy per square foot than other commercial enterprises. The global electricity consumption has grown to over 20,000 terawatt hours per annum.

Resource Consumption and Waste Generation

According to the data published by Statista, By 2050, worldwide waste generation is expected to have increased by roughly 70 percent to 3.4 billion metric tons.

Excessive resource consumption in food service, from water to ingredients, depletes natural resources and generates substantial waste.

Equipment Waste

Food and equipment waste in food production contributes to a high carbon footprint. Discarding kitchen equipment improperly can lead to environmental harm through resource depletion and landfill congestion.

How can Equipment Improve Your Food Service Sustainability?

Many options are available when looking to ‘green’ your operations and equipment in the food industry. Sustainability is associated with a holistic approach in the food industry, considering the entire production process and logistics.

For example, you may use solar-powered equipment rather than regular commercial energy sources. Or use composting equipment to reduce food waste to a dry, soil-like substance you can safely put in your garden.

Consider these food service sustainability solutions you can implement to improve your food service business.

  • Use Efficient Equipment
  • Use of Renewable Energy Sources
  • Install Energy Management System
  • Invest in Composting Equipment
  • Reusable Food Containers and Kitchen Utensils
  • Use Water-Saving Equipment

Therefore, sustainability in food service can be improved by striking a balance between economic, environmental, and social profitability to move closer to your sustainability goals.

Use Efficient Equipment

Efficient equipment refers to appliances and equipment that use technology and are less energy-intensive to reduce the amount of electricity used per product. This encompasses various aspects, such as cooking equipment, storage and handling equipment, warewashing equipment, food and beverage preparation equipment, and serving equipment.

Using efficient equipment is one of the most prominent hospitality industry trends that will help you save costs, reduce your monthly energy bills, and help your business conserve and protect the environment.

Efficient equipment can benefit food and service businesses in several ways:

  • Reduce the need for frequent replacements
  • Designed with energy-efficient features
  • Optimize resource usage
  • Results in less waste generated from discarded or obsolete equipment.

For example, commercial-grade blenders are valuable equipment for a sustainable kitchen. These blenders are designed for durability and heavy use to reduce the frequency of replacements, allow for efficient blending, and reduce food waste by processing ingredients more thoroughly.

Another example of efficient equipment includes combination ovens, which combine the functionality of convection ovens, steamers, and sometimes even grills in a single unit. This versatility allows for various cooking techniques, from roasting and baking to steaming and poaching, all in one appliance. Combi ovens use dry heat and steam while retaining moisture. This reduces cooking time and saves energy in your daily food service operations.

Use of Renewable Energy Sources

produce-free-energy-using-renewable-energy-sources

You can produce free energy using renewable energy sources and benefit in the long run.

Energy costs hold significant weight in food service operations and affect profitability. Commercial kitchens have notoriously high energy consumption, so they must find suitable renewable energy sources, and solutions to reduce costs are crucial.

Renewable energy sources don’t require high-cost maintenance. Solar systems can be easily installed on the roof of restaurants or as a solar canopy over a parking lot.

Most importantly, the use of renewable energy and solar power can help food service businesses protect electric-operated food storage, refrigerators, freezers, ice machines, and large chillers without additional cost of maintenance due to electricity failure or power outrage.

Benefits of using renewable energy sources:

  • Energy cost savings
  • Reduced environmental impact
  • Renewable energy source
  • Sustainability promotion
  • Potential tax incentives
  • Energy independence

For example, you can use induction cooktops as they generate heat directly in the cookware, reduce energy loss, and decrease cooking time, making it efficient for the business.

A solar-powered commercial dishwasher is an excellent example of a food service kitchen. It uses energy from solar panels to heat water for cleaning dishes, reducing energy costs and environmental impact while ensuring efficient dishwashing operations.

Install Energy Management System

benefits-of-implementing-heat-management

Thermal efficiency represents the effectiveness of equipment in converting energy into proper heat for cooking or holding food. It measures how efficiently a device utilizes energy, which is critical for minimizing energy costs, reducing environmental impact, and improving restaurant operations.

Thermostatic controls us to maintain consistent temperature, automatically cycling equipment on and off. In contrast, infinite controls provide a continuous range of temperature settings. Whether you opt for thermostatic or infinite controls, you must identify the desired level of precision in temperature your commercial kitchen requires.

Benefits of implementing heat management approach:

  • Temperature accuracy ensures precise temperature for cooking and holding food safely and consistently.
  • Energy efficiency prevents unnecessary energy consumption by maintaining desired temperatures.
  • Consistent temperature regulation enhances food quality, preventing overcooking or drying out.
  • Reduces energy bills and contributes to overall operational cost-savings.

For example, adequately insulated food service equipment, such as ovens or holding cabinets, minimizes heat loss, retains consistent temperatures, and reduces the need for constant reheating.

Another way is to use a zone system, which divides the space inside your commercial kitchen into different zones that receive variable heating and cooling based on specific needs at a particular time.

For example, drawer warmers equipped with thermostatic-zoned controls exemplify this concept. It helps maintain different temperature zones and accommodate various food items while conversing energy. It minimizes the need to purchase multiple pieces of equipment for the kitchen and optimizes energy usage.

Invest in Composting Equipment

invest-in-composting-equipment

According to the non-profit ReFED, the restaurant industry generates about 11.4 million tons of food waste annually at $25 billion.

Therefore, when looking for sustainable food service equipment, composting equipment will help you lower your waste hauling and disposal costs.

So, by composting, you can use food waste to enrich soil and reduce carbon emissions. Composting will turn the organic waste into a dark, rich substance that provides nutrients for plants and helps them to overgrow.

For example, a commercial food waste shredder is a machine that efficiently shreds food scraps and organic waste, preparing them for compositing to reduce landfill waste and promote sustainable waste management practices.

Likewise, composting bins are commonly used to decompose waste, scraps, and food leftovers by speeding up the process and minimizing odor and pests in the kitchen.

Reusable Food Containers and Kitchen Utensils

Reusable food containers and kitchen utensils significantly reduce costs, improve efficiency, and contribute to sustainability. By replacing single-use items with durable, reusable alternatives, businesses can drastically reduce the amount of disposable waste they generate.

Benefits of using reusable food containers and kitchen utensils:

  • Reduced waste
  • Cost savings
  • Environmental impact
  • Health and Safety

Also, by implementing these sustainable practices, food service establishments can improve their brand reputation and align with the growing consumer demand for environmentally responsible choices.

For example, using stainless steel food containers and utensils will replace disposable plastic or paper alternatives, reducing waste and contributing to sustainability.

Use Water-Saving Equipment

starbucks-has-adopted-sustainability-in-food-service-equipment

Leaking water is money down the drain!

Water is a precious resource. We need to save water to make our planet more habitable. Conserving water is easy. It’s all about the little changes in our food service equipment.

For example, high-efficiency dishwashers with advanced technology help you clean and sanitize dishes and utensils with significantly less water than traditional methods. These dishwashers optimize water usage while maintaining the standards required for commercial kitchens.

Another great example is sensor-activated faucets. These faucets use motion sensors to deliver water only when hands or objects are detected, preventing unnecessary water wastage from taps being left running. It contributes to water conservation and sustainability choices for commercial kitchens.

For example, Starbucks has actively adopted Sustainability in food service equipment. Their business has shifted from single-use to reusable packaging, investing in regenerative agriculture, reforestation, forest conservation, and water replenishment in the supply chain and tracking the responsible ways we produce and purchase our coffee, tea, cocoa, and manufactured goods.

To Sum Up

Sustainability in food service equipment is dynamically changing the landscape to respond to the growing consumer focus on health, well-being, and sustainability.

From commercial kitchens to restaurants and cafes, sustainability has become an imperative to improve efficiency and customer experience and create a sustainable future.

As the food service industry evolves, staying up-to-date with emerging trends in sustainable equipment is essential to remain competitive. As discussed in this blog, there are various ways that food service businesses can implement to stay sustainable.

In a nutshell, the future of the food service industry needs to adapt to eco-friendly practices to reduce costs and attract eco-conscious customers.

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