Foodservice Equipment Reports

How To Sell Efficiency As Value

I tell you, you can make money selling energy- and water-efficient equipment. I can prove it.

I spent last week in California, presenting our latest market forecast update at Pacific Gas & Electric’s Food Service Technology Center and at Southern California Edison. Richard Young, senior engineer and director of education at the FSTC, and I have done this now for five years. Most of you are familiar with my stuff, but you may not be familiar with Richard’s. His presentation provides 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.

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

I mention this only to remind you that the big folks care about these issues. Because efficiency is not just about saving money; it’s also about better performance. One of the key mantras of our FSTC friends has long been: “Energy-efficient equipment is always the best-performing equipment, too.” Why do you think those big chains drive the technologies and buy the most efficient stuff there is?

Let me pass on some of what I learned from Richard last week.

  • In the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of the hottest food trends, it’s all about 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. Richard 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.? Sales opportunity No. 1.

  • In case you haven’t noticed, water is the new oil. The average annual price increase for water and sewer facilities—it costs even more to clean it up than it does to get it nearly everywhere—has risen an average 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. Sales opportunity No. 2.

  • The cost of LEDs is plummeting. Many of the big chains already have taken advantage of the incredible energy and reliability savings. Chili’s, for example, switched more than 800 of its company stores from incandescent and halogen bulbs to LED lamps a couple of years ago. (We’ll do that story in February’s FER). In case you aren’t aware, manufacturing of standard 40W and 60W incandescent bulbs was phased out Jan. 1, 2014. Although most dealers don’t carry lighting products, just suggesting changes will make you a friend. Sales opportunity No. 3.

  • California, as usual, is on the leading edge of supporting energy- and water-efficient technologies. They have the most extensive and sophisticated rebate programs. And they have the FSTC, of course, to make sure there is real data behind the claims. A very clever program manager at PG&E came up with a creative way to promote high-efficiency fryers. She found out that one manufacturer put high-efficiency technologies in a fryer that costs about $1,500. Now this is still way more than the $800 or so a “standard economy” fryer sells for. But the better fryer qualifies for a $750 rebate. So the energy-efficiency payback was, like, immediate. Still, getting the typical end-user to pony up the extra cash and file for the rebate is a bit of a hurdle so, she worked with several California dealers to set up an "instant rebate" point-of-sale program. High efficiency at no extra upfront cost! The fryers are flying off the shelves. Few other states are offering California’s rebate deals, we know, but there are still opportunities everywhere to play with what your local utilities are offering or, better yet, prod them to work with you for mutual benefit. Sales opportunity No. 4.

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


Robin Ashton


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