Foodservice Equipment Reports
Kitchen Design

UNIT DESIGN: Deep-Green Makeover: The Next Course

A groundbreaking kitchen makeover at the flagship restaurant of the Listel Hotel, Vancouver, B.C., is proving—with real-life numbers—that spec’ing energy- and water-smart kitchen equipment does send significant savings straight to the bottom line. 

The project, dubbed The Next Course, was a group effort that pooled the talents (and restaurant) of the Listel Hotel together with Vancouver utility company BC Hydro, the Green Table Network, the Pacific Gas & Electric Company’s Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) and key kitchen equipment manufacturers. 

Their target: Listel’s 40-year-old O’Doul’s Restaurant & Bar, which would be transformed into an uber-green, contemporary restaurant called forage.

The Next Course team set four goals as they sat down to create forage: To reduce kitchen energy use by 30%; make it a zero-waste facility; incorporate a local, sustainable food supply; and use environmentally friendly materials for the front-of-house design. 

Most of all, though, forage and its revamped kitchen were developed as an education tool—a path to green kitchen savings that other operators can follow. “Rather than showcase all green technologies,” says Andre LaRivière, executive director, Green Table Network, Vancouver, B.C., “we opted to be strategic on the pieces we chose. We wanted to create a prototype for restaurants to learn from and be reasonably assured they could get similar results. This may not be the greenest restaurant kitchen on earth, but it’s a useful, practical model for others in the industry.”

The impetus driving The Next Course was BC Hydro’s mission to help its customers reduce energy consumption. “We recognize there’s an opportunity in the restaurant sector to leverage energy efficiency that’s otherwise left on the table when traditional renovations are done,” says Irfan Rehmanji, technical innovation manager at BC Hydro. 

“The 15,000-plus restaurants, bars and entertainment venues across British Columbia consume about 2,700 gWh of electricity every year. Conserving 30% energy at current rates that average 10 cents per kWh would represent $64 million worth of annual savings for these businesses.” 

Along with LaRivière and Rehmanji, The Next Course team included Listel Hotel’s Jim Mockford, regional general manager, and Chris Whittaker, executive chef; Don Fisher, manager of the FSTC, San Ramon, Calif.; Patricia Baker, consulting engineer, Prism Engineering, Burnaby, B.C.; and David Nicolay, principal, EVOKE Int’l. Design, Vancouver, B.C..

The integrated planning team was critical for success. Often, sustainability is a secondary consideration in kitchen design, LaRivière says. “In this case, making sustainability decisions early on allowed us to achieve the energy impact we were seeking.” 

Preparation

“You can’t get where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been,” goes the old saying. With the Next Course team, step one required precise measurement of the restaurant kitchen’s utility use before as well as after the renovations.  

Four months before O’Doul closed, the team installed meters at main junctions for gas, water and electric supplies. “It took us a while to figure out exactly where to place meters so we weren’t also measuring, say, water heating costs for bathrooms,” LaRivière says. “Each area of the kitchen had its own meter.” The team gathered three months worth of usage data from O’Doul’s operations. 

At the same time, the team also did a full analysis of the kitchen’s operations, from daily sales to banquet/catering and room service, to be able to correlate the metered energy savings to the actual levels of operation, pre and post. “The best number, and value incentive, we could provide to the industry would be an average of 30% energy cost savings per meal served,” LaRivière says. 

Greening The Kitchen

The Listel kitchen’s makeover kept the same layout, but upgraded and replaced equipment that was near the end of its usable life. The team focused on the cold storage, ventilation and cook- and prep-lines.

The new pieces were spec’d with input and approval from forage Chef Whittaker. Overall, “the forage concept and menu guided all our changes, from becoming a can-free kitchen to using less energy to being more sustainable,” LaRivière says.

“The energy savings from this kitchen are really the ‘green’ in this green facility,” adds FSTC’s Fisher. “forage’s investment in equipment performance, from the LED lighting in the dining room to the Energy Star fryer on the cookline, is going straight to the bottom line in both customer experience and energy savings.”

Cold Storage Consolidation: The forage menu relies on farm-direct purchasing, and staff processes local produce and meats on site. The shift to all-fresh ingredients—along with Listel’s plans to expand its banqueting and catering business—required a larger, more efficient cold pantry. The solution was to replace existing reach-in units with a single oversized ultra-efficient walk-in. 

“The new walk-in cooler is all electronic, so we eliminated a lot of the defrost functions, a lot of the valves and coils. And it’s got thicker insulation. The cooler consumes a lot less energy as a result,” says Whittaker. “We also were able to get rid of three reach-ins, each with its own compressor that was heating kitchen air. This new walk-in compressor is remotely located—it’s down on the parking level—so the kitchen stays cooler.”

Hood: The Next Course team partnered with a leading ventilation supplier to retrofit a demand control ventilation hood. forage’s new smart hood can run at different speeds across the cookline using a common duct and fan system. The variable speed fans are expected to reduce hood energy use by about 50% and heating and cooling costs by about 25%. To maximize heat and smoke capture, Fisher oversaw the addition of simple yet proven-effective side panels at the hood’s right and left edges.

The forage team is enjoying unexpected side benefits. “Chef Whittaker told us that on top of the energy savings, the new hood system is quieter, keeps the kitchen cooler and makes it a more comfortable place to work,” LaRivière says.

Cooking Battery: Upgrades and innovation mark forage’s new cooking battery.

• The Energy Star-approved fryers heat faster and use less energy both in cooking and stand-by mode. An automatic filter system saves an estimated 6 gal. of cooking oil per week.

• A mini combi oven has replaced the six-pan steamer. “The mini combi is more versatile, with programmable cycles and more actual cook space than the steamer had,” Whittaker says. “Its specs say it’s nearly 40% more efficient, and its boilerless technology is expected to conserve some 65,000 gal. of water annually.”

• The range and ovens were upgraded to a six-burner open range with warming tops and dual ovens. The old gas griddle—oversized for forage’s menu—was replaced by a smaller custom-built induction griddle capable of transferring 80% of its energy to cooking (vs. as little as 20% of energy transferred with gas griddles).

First Three Months Results

At press time, preliminary energy-use reports revealed more than 25% energy savings for forage compared with O’Doul’s operations. While it’s still short of the team’s 30% reduction goal, “we expect the numbers to go up,” LaRivière says. 

“For others to emulate what we’re doing here, the road gets easier and easier as time goes by,” adds Listel’s Mockford. “[In the past,] it used to be difficult to find the right products, the right processes for handling sustainable ventures. Now it’s a piece of cake. Our takeaway from the project is the ability to do this kind of project in a mainstream fashion. Sustainability is not the realm of futurists anymore. It’s now. The products, processes and the people are out there to make this work for us and for anyone.”



SIDEBAR

Greening Your Kitchen

The Next Course team is well aware that swinging a total kitchen makeover is tough in this economy. But as equipment reaches the end of its useable life, swapping it out for more efficient models will save money in the long run. The top four pieces to focus on, says LaRivière, are:

• Older generation steamers: “Anything with a boiler should be replaced with a boilerless unit or a combi oven.”
• Refrigeration: “Take a hard look at your cold-storage needs. It may be time to reorganize and consolidate reach-ins and walk-ins.”
• Fryers: “Install Energy Star-approved models wherever possible.”
• Ventilation: “Given the amount of energy used by exhaust hoods and the HVAC system, it’s worth working with hood manufacturers to do a retrofit and install a demand-control-ventilation system.”

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