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Publisher's Viewpoint - Robin Ashton

Publisher's Viewpoint - Robin AshtonFounding partner Robin Ashton, president and publisher, is a true industry veteran in spite of is boyish appearance, he's covered foodservice since 1978, and E&S exclusively since 1982, as an editor and publisher at several magazines.

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Advances On The Efficiency Front

February 03, 2014

Two events last month reminded me of how advancements in energy and water efficiency as well as programs and technologies that push sustainability in foodservice facilities are accelerating. 

Early in January, Richard Young, senior engineer and director of education at Pacific Gas & Electric’s Food Service Technology Center, San Ramon, Calif., and I presented our latest market forecast update at the FSTC and at Southern California Edison’s facility in Irwindale, Calif. Young’s presentation provided a great overview of what’s happening in energy and water efficiency, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design and Energy Star standards, upgrades in lighting products and a host of other issues.

A couple of weeks later, all of us at Foodservice Equipment Reports headed to Austin, Texas, for our biennial Multiunit Foodservice Equipment Symposium. We had 70 big- and fast-growing-chain folks join us for two days to hear and see what the absolute leading-edge technologies will do for them. And the symposium was all about energy and water savings; fats, oils and grease management; and other sustainability issues. The folks from the FSTC were a key part of the program, as they have been since we launched MUFES in 2002. 

Let me just pass on some of what I learned from Young last week:

• In the National Restaurant Association’s annual What’s Hot survey, the strongest trends are local sourcing, sustainability and the like. When asked which current food trend will be the hottest menu trend 10 years from now, environmental sustainability topped the list. 

Young had a brilliant addendum to this data: Why do culinary folks spend so much time worrying about sustainable agriculture and fisheries management, local sourcing and the like and continue to use inefficient equipment, burn incandescent lighting, etc.?

• In case you haven’t noticed, water is the new oil. The average annual price increases for water and sewer facilities—it costs even more to clean it up than it does to get it nearly everywhere—have averaged 6.1% every year since 2004. New warewashers use remarkably less water, as do boilerless steamers, new boilered steamers, new combis and even steam tables. 

• The cost of LEDs is plummeting. Many of the big chains already have taken advantage of the incredible energy and reliability savings. You can read all about how Chili’s, for example, switched more than 800 of its company stores from incandescent and halogen bulbs to LED lamps in this month’s issue. In case you aren’t aware, manufacturers can no longer make standard 40W and 60W incandescents as of Jan. 1, 2014. You now have lots of replacement choices.

• The FSTC is working with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Restaurant Facility Management Association, the NRA and other groups on a new benchmarking study for all types of foodservice facilities. The goal is to create standards and benchmarks so an entire foodservice facility can receive an Energy Star score. For information on participating, you can check with the FSTC at or go to the RFMA’s website at

• Speaking of Energy Star, a new specification for convection and combi ovens is expected to drive innovation in technologies and testing.

I hope this gets you thinking. For Young’s presentation, which also includes areas the FSTC is researching—espresso machines!—go to My market forecast update also is there.

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