From the Editor: Good Choices

Allison for WEB

My favorite burger place near my home redid its kitchen some time ago, and I called the chef to ask a few questions and find out if we might do a story on the renovation. He had purchased plenty of new equipment, but none of it was rated by Energy Star. It was too expensive, he said. He also didn’t shift the back-of-house design in any way. It wasn’t a story for FER, but I imagine it’s a story that’s all too common.

Equipment purchases are primarily driven by price, often without prior knowledge of potential energy use, says a report completed earlier this year by Frontier Energy called “Demonstration of High-Efficiency Commercial Cooking Equipment and Kitchen Ventilation Systems.” You can learn more about the report in “Bright Future” by Contributing Editor Kate Bernot on Page 87.

As for new restaurants, the report says, cooking equipment marks one of the last elements specified and so, the budget often takes a hit because of common construction cost issues. Operators end up buying inefficient equipment because of the reduced budget, it says.

Frontier Energy’s report helps make the case for energy-efficient equipment in that it doesn’t just say—but actually shows—the energy savings by replacing baseline equipment with more efficient equipment at different test sites. In one example, a grocery store reduced its gas consumption by 68% by switching out its rotisserie oven for a combi oven. On the other end, the report says, a restaurant reduced its gas consumption by 19%, even though it upgraded its cooking capacity with a larger broiler and griddle.

Along with the energy savings, one part of the report that stood out to me, that Kate also notes in her story, was the crucial role that employees play in the big picture. While it’s still in pilot stage, the report says, a restaurant-ready energy information system that displays the operating status of equipment could help “to build awareness of energy use among restaurant staff and impact operating behavior.”

Looking back, I can sympathize with my beloved burger place. After all, when I had to unexpectedly buy a new furnace for my home, I opted for the cheaper baseline model, not the pricier one with the variable speed motor. But next time, I like to think I’ll make a different choice.




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