Dawn Before the Darkness: What the Upcoming Solar Eclipse Means for Food Service Operators

On the morning of August 21st the sun over California will dim by about 70% as America experiences its first coast-to-coast solar eclipse since 1979. Back in the 70’s, solar was a futuristic technology, but now we are living in that future and on some days, California meets as much as 40% of its electric demand with solar power1. No one knows exactly what effect the loss of solar radiation will have on the State’s electric grid but best guesses put the loss of peak generation at about 6000 Megawatts or enough electricity to power up 6 million homes2.

Don’t worry, the folks who operate California’s electric grid have been planning for this event and will ramp up natural gas and hydroelectric generators to make up for the lost solar power. They do not anticipate any power outages or brown-outs but, they will have to keep a sharp eye on the continuously changing solar supply and adjust the power mix carefully as the moon’s shadow passes over the State2.

The eclipse will be a big event for astronomers and science nerds like me (I have already ordered my Bill Nye Eclipse Glasses3) but, the spike in carbon output, as those natural gas-fired power plants are turned on, is kind of a bittersweet side effect. I plan to help ease the load on the grid that morning by turning off any unnecessary lights and deferring other electric use – like clothes washing and drying and dishwashing until later that evening.

As a commercial food service operator, you can do your part to make up for the missing solar by taking a few simple actions. As a bonus, you will also save money even when the solar comes back online and you will still be cutting carbon. Here are a few easy ways to save electricity:

  1. Install efficient lighting: If you haven’t already upgraded to LED lighting, now is the time. You can definitely screw in some LED replacement lamps between now and August 21st. For some really big bang-for-the-buck, replace those 60 watt incandescent Edison lamps with 4 watt LED Edison lamps – that’s a 15-fold reduction in electric power use. Also be sure to turn off any unneeded lights (empty dining rooms, storerooms, offices) or signage.

  2. Clean your refrigeration coils: Really dirty coils can double the electricity use of your coolers and freezers. It’s easy to clean the coils and it will also make your equipment last longer. This is particularly important since refrigeration energy use is directly related to outdoor temperature. If August 21st turns out to be a hot day, then clean coils will take even more load off the electric grid.

  3. Make sure the temperature in your refrigerators and freezers is set properly – don’t overcool – and during the eclipse, try not to load your boxes or run your defrost cycle. Keeping compressor use at a minimum that morning will take a big load of the system.

  4. Don’t turn your exhaust hoods on until you need them: Wait until you fire up your appliances before turning on your exhaust hoods. Running the hoods when they are not required is a waste of fan power.

  5. Service your air conditioning units: Poor maintenance is a major cause of rooftop AC unit failure and a drag on the electric grid. Get a preventive maintenance plan in place before the <21st and tune up your AC units. Then on the morning of the 21st, try to raise the AC setpoint a degree or two if possible – just until a little before noon. The sun will be close to full brightness by noon and you can lower the temperature for lunch service if you need to.

  6. Be very efficient with your Dishmachine operations: Load your racks as fully as possible so you run fewer racks through the machine. This is especially important for high temperature dishmachines that have both electric tank heaters and electric booster heaters.

There may be an effort by organizations opposed to renewable energy to use this eclipse as an example of why renewable energy is not a good idea. But, the bottom line is that the eclipse will not take down the electric system and it will not disrupt commercial food service operations. Still, if you believe that renewable energy is an important part of California’s energy future, and you are interested in limiting carbon emissions, saving money and sending a positive message, then please join me on Monday morning, August 21st as we walk lightly on our electric system and also step outside to witness a truly amazing astronomical phenomenon. You’ll be able to spot me – I’ll be the one with the nerdy Eclipse Glasses on!

Sources:
1 A Solar Eclipse Could Wipe Out 9,000 Megawatts of Power Supplies by Naureen S Malik, July 13th 2017, Bloomberg Technology: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-07-14/a-solar-eclipse-could-wipe-out-9-000-megawatts-of-power-supplies

2 Solar power will take a hit during the Aug. 21 eclipse, June 9th 1017, Washington Post Health and Science: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/solar-power-will-take-a-hit-during-the-aug-21-eclipse/2017/06/09/0f43c9aa-4c7c-11e7-9669-250d0b15f83b_story.html?utm_term=.f6207dadd498

3 The Planetary Society: https://www.chopshopstore.com/collections/planetarysociety/products/bill-nye-eclipse-glasses?variant=44084054030

On This Earth Day…

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst

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On Earth Day, we pay respect to the bounty and beauty of our world.

Here at the FSTC, environmental stewardship is at the foundation of our daily work to educate and incentivize the foodservice industry to use energy and water more efficiently. It’s important for all of us – even the busy kitchen operator – to step back and remind ourselves of why we work to protect the environment.

We all rely on Earth’s resources for our lives and our livelihoods—our economy, our culture, and our quality of life are directly related to our environment. If the Earth suffers, we suffer with it. It’s easy to forget this intimate relationship in our daily lives, especially when we have control over our immediate surroundings. We have to look outward – to glacial recession, extreme weather events like severe drought becoming commonplace, and the extinction of otherwise healthy species – to recognize the impact our behavior has on the planet and the impact climate change can have on us.

Impending doom aside, exercising environmental stewardship is an expression of appreciation, a humble “thank you” to the beautifully complex ecosystem that makes our world possible.

In turn, we’d like to express gratitude to the people that help us help the planet: the state government and utilities that recognize the importance of resource conservation, the ratepayers that support these efforts, and especially the business operators that care about their environmental influence.

Karen's Garden

An example of the FSTC’s ongoing commitment to waste diversion: The FSTC’s Karen Ravipaty takes spent coffee grounds from the lab to fertilize her home garden. Pictured above: Roses (left) and California poppies.

So, what now? Take action – even if its something small – to honor Earth Day! Here is a short list of ideas:

  • Go for a hike or a swim in a lake. Pick up some litter. Get a little dirty and embrace the elements.
  • Educate yourself! From FSTC’s seminars to a world of online resources, knowledge is within reach.
  • Eat out on Earth Day! Support restaurants in the Bay Area (and around the world) that have resolved to fight climate change by pledging $1 for every customer they serve on Earth Day to offset their carbon emissions and support the foodservice-centric, climate change-fighting non-profit, ZeroFoodprint.
  • Show your support for the international Paris Agreement (a cooperative plan to both mitigate and prepare for the effects of climate change), which turns 1 year old this Earth Day and is facing the possible withdrawal of American support.
  • Look for energy and water conserving opportunities in your facility, such as those listed in our DIY kitchen audit guide.
  • Publicly express some love for the planet and all its creatures – post a picture or statement about how your life is enhanced by a healthy environment.

Whatever you do, we would love to hear about it! Tweet us @FishnickFSTC #EarthDay

Foodservice Forecast 2017: Has Cutting Waste Become More Profitable Than Unit Growth?

Richard Young, Director of Education

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The Food Service Technology Center kicked off 2017 with our annual Foodservice Forecast seminar featuring presentations by Foodservice Equipment Reports‘ Robin Ashton, the California Restaurant Association‘s Jot Condie and Jessica Lynam, and myself. This year’s seminar touched on the size and shape of the foodservice industry, challenges faced by California restaurateurs, and national sustainability trends.

During his Size and Shape of the Industry presentation, Robin noted that in 2016 Americans made 61 billion visits to restaurants, or about 189 visits per capita. That may seem like a lot, but despite high consumer confidence and strong personal disposable income numbers, 189 visits per capita represents a decline from the historical high of 210 visits in 2001. That drop in traffic is reflected in the fact that there are about 10,000 fewer restaurant units than the historical high of 635,000 back in 2014.

Speakers

(Left to Right) FER’s Robin Ashton, CRA’s Jot Condie, the FSTC’s Richard Young, and CRA’s Jessica Lynam present the 2017 Foodservice Forecast at the FSTC in San Ramon, CA on January 10th, 2017.

In fact, much of the restaurant industry has been in contraction for the last few years with independents, mid-scale, and casual dining taking the biggest hits. Meanwhile, the overall commercial foodservice industry continues to expand with other commercial operators (e.g. supermarkets and lodging) and non-commercial operators (e.g. senior living facilities, universities, and hospitals) grabbing more consumer dollars. The bottom line for restaurant operators is that “…the U.S. restaurant market is the most mature and saturated in the world”* and “…sliding same-store sales have chains in all segments slowing unit growth.”* However, many of these operators are buying new equipment to replace the aging equipment they held onto during the industry down years after the “Great Recession”. As a result, the equipment and supplies market remains strong. In fact, operators are buying even more equipment than they predicted they would need.

Here’s why Robin’s message is so important: The restaurant industry is not going to be increasing profits based on unit growth in the coming years. This is a saturated market and most of the building is going to revolve around refurbishing and refreshing existing spaces. The real estate boom is over. However, there is still plenty of profit to be made by cutting energy waste. Every dollar saved on energy is a dollar in pure profit. You normally must sell about $20 of food to make a dollar of profit (5%), but a dollar saved on energy goes directly to the bottomline. If the entire commercial foodservice industry cut their energy bill by 1%, the resulting savings would amount to about $400 million in profit! The surprising conclusion is that cutting waste has become more profitable than unit growth. Therefore, during this time of stalled growth and heavy equipment purchases, it makes more sense than ever to pay attention to what you are buying and opt for the most energy efficient appliances.

Forecast2

Richard Young presents the 2017 Foodservice Forecast at the FSTC in San Ramon, CA on January 10th, 2017.

The PG&E Food Service Technology Center is a great resource for identifying efficient equipment. The Center’s website (www.fishnick.com) hosts a library of research reports, lists of efficient equipment, and online calculators to help you quantify the potential savings of more efficient equipment. There is plenty of profit to be had by restaurants that learn to use energy as effectively as possible.

*Source: Robin Ashton, Publisher, Foodservice Equipment Reports magazine.The Foodservice Equipment & Supplies Market: 2017 FER Forecast Update.

Organic Waste Recycling for Foodservice: What You Need To Know

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst

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Until 2016, commercial organic recycling was limited to the dedicated few. Now, thanks to California’s AB 1826, there is a centralized system that businesses, cities, and haulers can – and in some cases, must – partake in. Let’s talk about what that means for you.

What do I need to do?
If you produce 4 cubic yards* (the size of a standard commercial bin, not the smaller ‘cart’) or more of organic waste per week, you must separate and recycle that waste. This is usually done by purchasing the service from your hauler (existing or otherwise), and is what we will focus on here. This will involve learning what is accepted in your area, setting up the proper on-site infrastructure, and training your staff.

Here is a brief overview of the terms used by the various stakeholders in the world of organic waste recycling, which often cause confusion:

Organic matter comes from a living organism; food waste is one type of organic matter. When people differentiate between these two terms, they could be talking about other non-food organic waste streams like landscaping waste and cow manure.

Recycling is a general term referring to the breaking down of materials in order to produce something else with them. Composting can be considered a form of recycling. It refers specifically to the breakdown of biodegradable waste (e.g. all organic matter) for soil amendments. In the case of food waste, many refer to it as “recycling” because the product could also be used for energy instead of soil amendments.

Items that are biodegradable break down into their components via natural processes. A compostable item is a certain type of biodegradable item that breaks down relatively quickly into humus, a substance that enriches soil.

An extensive list of composting terms and their definitions can be found here.

What will this cost me?
Costs vary by region and hauler, but should be comparable to your recycling service fee. In some cases, such as here in San Ramon, a limited volume of organic recycling is included in your existing recycling rate, so that you don’t pay anything extra! In addition, added costs could potentially be offset by reduced landfill collection – if you have enough organic waste to fill a whole trash bin, you won’t need to pay for that bin anymore.

What goes in the organics recycling bin?
Food scraps and other eligible compostable waste go in the green bin – this is in addition to traditional ‘green waste’ from landscaping. Collectively, this is organic waste, and all organic waste goes in the same bin. Food scraps are easy – anything from coffee grounds to meat (including bones) to bread can be recycled. The tricky part is paper and products labelled “compostable”.

What about my other products, such as compostable serving ware?

  • Any food- or oil-soiled paper product (e.g. napkins, plates, and pizza boxes) is accepted in the organics bin.
  • Any unsoiled paper products should go in the regular recycling bin.
  • Lined paper products, such as coated paper plates, are complicated since some coatings are plastic and others, like wax, are compostable. Since it can be difficult (if not impossible) to tell what material the lining is, the current rule of thumb is to put clean/unused products in the regular recycling bin with other paper and plastic.
  • Other natural fibers such as bamboo are fine for composting, as long as they aren’t treated or combined with other materials.
  • Bioplastics that are labelled compostable may or may not be accepted: products that are third-party certified as compostable (look for the below labels) certainly should be, however, any without a certification are questionable.
  • The important thing to note here is that each hauler will have slight variations on what they can and cannot recycle, depending on the process they use. So start by going to your hauler. All major haulers have information online, often times downloadable signage as well, on what they will and won’t accept.

Potential confusion over the compostability of certain products is one reason reusable serving ware is always ideal. While many products are likely a non-issue, green-washing can cover up myriad chemicals that we don’t want getting mixed up in potential crop soil amendments. The other reason, of course, is the significantly lower lifetime environmental impact. But if reusables won’t work for your operation, be sure to buy disposable products that you know are indeed compostable. Look for the following labels when making these purchases:

cedargrovebpi

How do I get my staff and co-workers on board?
Setting up a proper infrastructure on-site is the foundation of a successful organics recycling program. This includes:

  • Bin Placement: Put appropriately-sized green bins (or countertop pails) in all areas where food waste is frequently generated. Also, be sure to put green bins beside any other trash and recycling receptacles. Using uncoated paper bags or cardboard boxes is an alternative that requires less maintenance, since they can be thrown directly into the compost bin.

foodwastecomposting

  • Bags: If buying bags, make sure they are compostable (contaminating organics with a plastic bag would be unfortunate after all that separating!). Go for heavy-duty versions as compostable bags are notoriously problematic with heavy loads. Alternatively, skip the bag altogether by dumping directly from the pails/bins.
  • Signage: Signage is essential for behavioral reinforcement. Put signs on all pails and bins, clearly noting it is for organic waste. The most effective signs rely on pictures rather than text – and the more customized to your particular waste stream, the better. You can request signage from your hauler or CalRecycle.
  • Manage the Waste: Dump bins frequently to avoid odor and pest issues. Delegate duties fairly and if necessary get your custodial staff on board.

Aside from infrastructure, your approach to staff matters. Typically, explaining the importance – the “why” behind the system, rather than just the “what” – can spark a baseline level of cooperation.

What can I get out of this?
Sustainability in foodservice has been an upward trend for years with many operators already implementing measures that reflect the values of their customers. Tapping into that PR value with a little public boasting can help attract and retain customers. A well-designed dining room display, for example, can show how your kitchen team works together to reduce waste, making your customers feel like their patronage is also contributing to that sense of community. You can take this PR-approach to the next level by composting your own food waste, applying it to your garden, and incorporating the food into your menu, creating a true closed loop of sustainability. That kind of effort tends to get its own recognition, such as the Zero Waste platinum certification awarded to Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.!

Are there other options to getting a green bin?
You are not required to get a green bin from your hauler, you are only required to recycle organic waste. That is, if you have 4 cubic yards or more that would otherwise be thrown away. Therefore, other options include:

  • Compost on-site, as discussed above. This can be done in traditional ways such as an outdoor pile you tend to manually, or even low-maintenance vermiculture.
  • Other pricier options for on-site composting include equipment such as composters and digesters. See this helpful FES article for more information.
  • Haul your own green waste to an organics recycling facility.

food_hierarchy

  • Prevent food waste entirely to the point where you fall below the threshold. Prevention (or “source reduction”) is in fact the ideal diversion as outlined by the food waste hierarchy to the left. This doesn’t mean, however, that the amount you do generate should go in the trash!
  • Divert food waste from the trash in other ways. For example, donating edible foods to people or even livestock, both of which are the next best solutions in the food recovery hierarchy. The below organizations are just some of the options available for those in the East Bay Area:
facilities

What can I expect in the future?
Aside from more clarity on acceptable materials and generally more streamlined processes, slight regulatory changes can be expected in the near future. In 2019, the organics recycling requirement will extend to people who generate 4 or more cubic yards of overall solid waste, not just organic waste. In addition, the threshold for compliance might drop in 2020 to 2 cubic yards if a certain percent diversion from landfills is not met by then.

What if I still need help?
This mandate is enforced by the state agency CalRecycle, however, jurisdictions are charged with administering it at the local level since they hold the contracts with the haulers. As such, you have several resources for help:

  • Your hauler. Questions on hauling logistics, billing, and acceptable waste can be directed to your hauler. If unsure who that is, look on your waste collection bin or bill.
  • Your local jurisdiction and/or CalRecycle. Broader questions that can’t be answered by your hauler can be directed to either of these entities. If unsure of your local jurisdiction or where to find a regional CalRecycle liaison, refer to this search form.

Whether you are new to food waste recycling or a seasoned pro, instituting an organics waste recycling program in a cooperative commercial setting will have its hurdles. But the ultimate benefits are tremendous:

CO2 vs. Methane
The breakdown of organic waste releases CO2, the poster-molecule for greenhouse gases. However, methane is a 28-36 times more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Methane is released in oxygen-deprived environments such as landfills.

  • Millions of tons of energy-rich material will be delivered back to the biosphere or converted to useful power instead of going to the landfill.
  • Methane emissions (a significant
    contributor to climate change) will be
    significantly reduced.
  • Green sector jobs will be created.

 

*If you are wondering how to quantify your organic waste, you cannot accurately know without separating and measuring the volume. But simpler, albeit less accurate, options include (1) using the EPA’s estimated threshold for participation based on number of employees (for restaurants, its 51, including part time workers), or (2) eyeballing it, keeping in mind that 1 cubic yard = a cube with 3-foot sides.

Solid Fuel Cooking: Codes & Standards

Rich Swierczyna, Senior Engineer

RichWith the rise of exhibition and front-of-house cooking, solid fuel appliances are gaining a foothold in commercial kitchens, most notably in establishments like pizzerias and BBQ restaurants. These appliances are fueled by highly combustible material such as charcoal, briquettes, mesquite, or hardwood. Many restaurant operators prefer this method of cooking for the unique charred or smoked flavoring it lends popular food items such as pizzas, beef brisket, sausages, etc., that other types of fuel, like natural gas, do not provide. However, even though this cooking method imparts a desirable flavor, the process poses great fire and health risks making proper ventilation particularly imperative to the restaurant operator.

Nationwide, the International Mechanical Code (IMC) and Uniform Mechanical Code (UMC) models typically govern the installation of commercial kitchen appliances. For California, the California Mechanical Code (CMC) is based off the UMC. In either case, the model codes refer to National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 96 for the installation, operation, and maintenance of the equipment. In general, for safe operation and maintenance, the ventilation of solid fuel cooking appliances must be separate from all other cooking appliances. The exemption to the requirement is if solid fuel is only used for flavoring. The major point of contention has always been the definition of cooking with solid fuel vs. flavoring with solid fuel. How can an operator tell the difference?

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Solid fuel cooking appliances, such as the ubiquitous wood-fired pizza oven, require special ventilation attention and a vigilant inspection schedule (via Instructables).

The ASHRAE 154 standard on kitchen ventilation has the most conservative approach. It defines a solid fuel appliance as an appliance that combusts solid fuel such as wood, charcoal, or coal to provide all or part of the heat for the cooking process. It defines a solid fuel flavoring cooking appliance as an appliance that uses an energy source other than solid fuel to provide all of the heat for the cooking process, but combusts solid fuel solely for the purpose of imparting flavor to the food being cooked, e.g. a natural gas combination oven with a “smoker box” attachment. Essentially, if solid fuel is involved in any point of the cooking process, it is considered a solid fuel operation and requires a separate exhaust system.

However, the model codes typically rely on NFPA 96 which is more specific in determining the difference between solid fuel for flavoring and solid fuel for cooking. The CMC refers to Solid-Fuel Cooking Equipment as “cooking equipment that utilizes solid fuel” [NFPA 96:3.3.23.2]. This equipment includes ovens, tandoori charcoal pots, grills, broilers, rotisseries, barbecue pits, or other types of cooking equipment that derive all or part of its heat source from the burning of solid cooking fuel. The ventilation requirements of these appliances have been recently revised. Solid fuel cooking equipment requires a separate exhaust system with two notable exceptions: (1) If it is installed under a water-wash hood listed under UL300 (i.e., cooking equipment not requiring automatic fire-extinguishing equipment) or (2) If the solid fuel is used for flavoring only. For the second exception, the code limits the size, amount, and rate at which solid fuel is consumed by the appliance. This is to minimize the amount of available fuel in case of a fire. The solid fuel must be contained in a smoker box and the box must be protected by the fire suppression system. Spark arresters must be placed before the grease filters to minimize the passage of airborne sparks and embers into plenums and ducts. Sparks and embers can ignite built up creosote (a by-product of solid fuel combustion) in the exhaust ducts. Creosote adheres to the exhaust duct walls and because of its low flashpoint, poses a severe fire hazard. Monthly duct cleaning as recommended in the code should be strictly followed.

The wood-fired grill would require a separate ventilation hood apart from the other appliances in your commercial kitchen (via GrillWorks).

Incidentally, Demand Controlled Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV) is not recommended for solid fuel cooking. The cooking and thermal plume generated during cooking and ready-to-cook conditions are too similar to allow for any airflow modulation or potential energy savings.

The code clearly defines the parameters for the installation, operation, and maintenance of solid fuel appliances. However, vigilant oversight is necessary. During follow up inspections, inspectors have often found more than the allowable amount of solid fuel used as fuel instead of flavoring. As we have seen, there is a fine line between the definitions, but the results of too much solid fuel can be disastrous.

The 2016 SCOCO Leadership Awards Gala: Contra Costa Celebrates Sustainability Through Partnership

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst

Claudia-HeadShot03CropEvery time I go to the Sustainable Contra Costa (SCOCO) Leadership In Sustainability & Green Building Awards Gala, I am filled with inspiration. I get to see old friends and meet new people, all coming together to celebrate the concept of sustainability: that is, bettering our quality of life through not only caring for our environment, but strengthening the interpersonal connections of all its inhabitants for the greater good.

This was the 8th year for the event that included not only the awards presentation, but plenty of networking with nosh and libations provided by local establishments like Captain Vineyards of Moraga and Corners Tavern of Walnut Creek. The gala theme this year was “Inspired by Nature” in honor of the U.S. National Park Service’s Centennial. Contra Costa County supervisors presented leadership awards in these categories: Sustainable Communities, Food System Innovation, Resource Management, Green Building, Rising Star, and Lifetime Achievement. I’ll cover some of the winners that are of special relation to the Food Service Technology Center.

2016 SCOCO Gala

Guests enjoy a wide array of food and drink at the SCOCO Leadership In Sustainability Awards Gala on September 21st, 2016. Source: sustainablecoco.org

Larry Sly was the winner of the Lifetime Achievement award for his 40 years of work providing hungry people in the community with meals through the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano. Larry’s years of work have demonstrated the connection between sustainable food practices and taking care of your neighbors. The FSTC is proud to have partnered with the Food Bank of Contra Costa as our primary test food donation source over the past five years.

Larry Sly

Larry Sly of the Food Bank of Contra Costa & Solano accepts the SCOCO Lifetime Achievement Award. Source: sustainablecoco.org

Mt. Diablo Unified School District (MDUSD), who won the Food System Innovation award for their integrated Farm-to-School Program, expressed gratitude toward the team of dedicated people that were crucial in its implementation. The FSTC has collaborated with several schools within the MDUSD in recent years including bolstering our laboratory summer internship program and hosting educational events with Mt. Diablo High School. The video below explores MDUSD’s Farm-to-School Program in more depth:

I also connected with Contra Costa native Blaine Landberg of Calicraft Brewing when I casually mentioned my favorite beer style (IPA!) and he told me all about Calicraft’s sustainable brewing processes—as well as the sustainable design that went into their new taproom in Walnut Creek. The FSTC is working on future collaborations with the brewing industry to help engender sustainable brewing practices through energy and water efficiency. Stay tuned!

All SCOCO gala winners stressed the importance of collaboration and partnership. The FSTC continues to nurture its relationships with these Contra Costa sustainability leaders. Whether working with restaurant operators or school districts, we seek to educate, assist, and ultimately empower people to make sustainably conscious business choices.

Fishnick Makes Footprints at the NRA Show

Kiana Caban, Communications Assistant

KianaOn May 21st, the FSTC team hit the road to Chicago, IL for the NRA Show 2016. Everyone on the team had different tasks they were trying to accomplish on this trip, from project meetings with manufacturers and attending various educational sessions to launching our Twitter account and our new online training program, Fe3 (!). It being my first time at the NRA Show, my goal was to build up our social media presence and attend several educational sessions.

On day one of the show we walked the floor to get the lay of the land. The first stop was the Frymaster booth where Frymaster received the Blue Flame Award for their Frymaster Integrated Oil Quality Sensor (OQS), a built-in system that monitors oil health and indicates when frying oil needs replacement.

Blue Flame Award

The FSTC’s David Zabrowski congratulates the Frymaster team as winners of the Blue Flame Award for their Integrated Oil Quality Sensor.

The next stop was the Kitchens Innovations Award booths where the FSTC’s David Zabrowski and Richard Young visited this year’s winners such as Vulcan’s Low Water Energy Steamers, Blodgett’s “Hoodini” Ventless Mini Combi Oven, and Champion’s Ventless Heat Recovery Dish Machine amongst many others.

We also stopped by the Rational booth with their impressive “pop-up” restaurant where Richard Young and I got to meet Chef Thomas Keller and ask him a few questions about sustainability.

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From left to right: The FSTC’s Kiana Caban, world-renowned chef Thomas Keller, and the FSTC’s Richard Young.

Richard then participated in a story telling session, “Expert Advice Along the Path to Sustainability” alongside Chef/Owner/Author, Rick Bayless; Director of Sustainability and Public Outreach in the Americas of Asia Pulp and Paper, Ian Lifshitz; and President and CEO of LeanPath, Inc., Andrew Shakman.

Richards_Presentation

From left to right: Asia Pulp & Paper’s Ian Lifshitz, Chef Rick Bayless, the FSTC’s Richard Young, and LeanPath’s Andrew Shakman.

They discussed the tried-and-true tips for beginning a journey toward sustainability. The following were the expert’s four key takeaways:

Rick Bayless: “Invest in staff because running a restaurant consciously takes teamwork. Once everyone understands the greater importance of those efforts, they’re much more willing to make the extra effort.”

Ian Lifshitz: “Take a holistic view of sustainability: from lighting, packaging, and napkins to water consumption and transportation practices, among other factors, to enhance and strengthen your sustainability success.”

Richard Young: “Energy (for cooking, refrigeration, cooling, etc.) is just another ingredient in your menu! Use it effectively and reap the cost savings! Start by swapping out a few old school energy-guzzling light bulbs for high-quality LEDS – it is easy to do and will save you money.”

Andrew Shakman: “Changing behavior at scale is an uphill battle…that we can win. Perseverance is the key ingredient.”

On day two, the FSTC’s David Zabrowski participated in the panel discussion “The Future of Restaurant Design” with moderator Joe Carbonara, editor of FE&S Magazine, and panelists Karen Malody, owner and principal of Culinary Options, and Marc Jacobs, partner and executive VP of Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. The discussion explored how evolving customer expectations are changing the way restaurants are designed, outfitted, and operated. The one trend that each panelist expressed is that kitchens are becoming more and more flexible in smaller spaces.

Davids_Presentation

(Left to Right) The FSTC’s David Zabrowski, Culinary Options’ Karen Malody, Lettuce Entertain You’s Marc Jacobs, & Foodservice Equipment & Supplies’ Joe Carbonara present “The Future of Restaurant Design”.

The FSTC team had a very successful NRA show this year and looks forward to another year of innovation and collaboration with the food service industry!

Check out our Facebook page to see more pictures from the NRA show: https://www.facebook.com/fishnick.fstc/

What’s Up 2016?

2016 Forecast

The FSTC’s Richard Young and Robin Ashton, publisher of Foodservice Equipment Reports magazine, present the 2016 Foodservice Forecast: Step Into The Future at the FSTC on February 9th, 2016

Every year, I polish up the FSTC crystal ball and create a Forecast seminar that looks at the coming year in terms of food trends, equipment innovations, energy prices, sustainability, and FSTC lab and field research. The seminar program also includes an economic forecast created and delivered by Robin Ashton, publisher of Foodservice Equipment Reports magazine (www.fermag.com). This year the Robin and Richard Forecast Roadshow made stops at the PG&E FSTC as well as the energy centers at SoCal Edison (SCE) in Los Angeles and SDG&E in San Diego. Turnout was good, conversation was lively, and a lot of great information was shared. At the SCE event, Robin and I were introduced by Chef LaLa (www.cheflala.com), an amazing Latina chef, nutritionist, business woman, author, and media star. Was I star struck? You bet!

lala

The FSTC’s Richard Young meets the amazing Chef LaLa

Here are some of the highlights from the 2016 Foodservice Forecast:

Robin offered up good news for the CFS industry: 2016 looks like a great year for business and here’s why: Employment is up and the numbers show the US at near “full employment”. Gasoline is cheap, which has put billions of dollars back into the pockets of the dining public. To top it off, “real income” has inched up just a little bit. This is important because real income has been flat since the meltdown back in 2008. To sum it up: working people with stable jobs and disposable income will go out to eat a lot in 2016. The one potential hitch is that Wall Street has been in panic mode since December 2015 – the bankers could possibly reign in investment and dampen the party a bit. However, as Robin pointed out, Wall Street and Main Street are two different things and if the bankers can keep cool, foodservice will have a banner year.

…Wall Street and Main Street are two different things and if the bankers can keep cool, foodservice will have a banner year…

The Forecast seminar always includes a look at the NRA’s What’s Hot Chef Survey to see how food trends are evolving and how that might impact the world of CFS equipment and energy efficiency. According to the American Culinary Federation (ACF) survey, chefs think the hot trends now and for the coming decade will include “locally grown”, “natural”, and “environmental sustainability”. The subject of “locally grown” spurred much discussion around the elephant in the room – the potential compromise of food safety as demonstrated by Chipotle last year. Food safety is “priority one” in foodservice and Chipotle is going out of their way to make “local” and “safe” fit into the same sentence. Everyone else will need to follow. The Forecast asked the question, “What might happen in the kitchen to ensure safety for all produce?” One suggestion was that we may see more equipment-based solutions like produce washers or increased safety practices like blanching.

…what might happen in the kitchen to ensure safety for all produce? One suggestion was that we may see more equipment-based solutions…

Another major trend that chefs agreed upon was “Chef Driven Fast Casual” which suggests highly focused menus and kitchen equipment packages that will need to be fast, flexible, and efficient. Also, small plates continue to be big business, which means that dishmachines are not going anywhere. The FSTC has been digging in deep on dishmachine energy and water use and some of the findings are surprising. Stay tuned for reports and seminars!

And, of course, food trucks are still red hot as both an entry into the foodservice business and a stepping stone toward brick-and-mortar for more experienced professionals. The California Energy Wise program – a workforce education and training partnership between PG&E, SoCal Edison, SoCal Gas, and SDG&E  foodservice centers – is offering several workshops this year on starting restaurants, food trucks, and small, fast, and flexible equipment. You can find all the dates and locations for these free events at fishnick.com/education/seminars/events.

The California Energy Wise program is offering several workshops this year on starting restaurants, food trucks, and small, fast, and flexible equipment

Animal proteins are giving up more center-of-the-plate space to plants as broiled veggies are gaining popularity, which means that we need more high-efficiency, high-performance broilers. The FSTC will be studying underfired infrared broilers in the field in 2016 to see what the potential savings may be. Preliminary numbers suggest savings in the $1,000/year range.

More plants on the plate also suggest that there might be more steamers in kitchens. In the FSTC lab, we just tested three high-efficiency, high-production steamers – two counter-top units (Vulcan C24E3/5-LWE) and one two-compartment institutional style unit (Cleveland 24CGA6). These boiler-based steamers really deliver on food production and incorporate controls to cut energy and water use. One steamer even has a “set-back” mode that cuts idle energy and water use when the unit is not cooking. You can find hot-off-the-press research reports from November and December 2015 right here: fishnick.com/publications/appliancereports/steamers.

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Dishroom Water-Saving Innovation Not Yet Ready for Prime Time

Michael Karsz, Research Technician and FSTC Videographer

Amid this dire drought, California restaurant operators have been looking for various ways to save water anywhere they can in their establishment. Out of necessity comes innovation. A popular news segment highlighted a coastal restaurant that employed a standard air compressor in their dishroom instead of a typical pre-rinse spray nozzle. According to the story, the restaurant saved gallons of water daily, while also ostensibly ridding their dishware of food debris.

Curious and excited about the viability of such a water-saving dish-cleaning instrument, the FSTC put the air compressor to the test alongside two staples of dishroom cleaning: the manual scraper & the pre-rinse spray nozzle. FSTC researchers also used two notoriously resilient food products to dirty the test plates: egg and chocolate cake. Watch the results below!

The FSTC found that a standard, unmodified air compressor failed to clean the plates adequately before they entered the dishmachine. Food debris was launched in all directions if the compressor was not angled just right. The compressor motor was loud when in use, which could cause issues with occupational safety and health standards.

The scraper faired better, but the pre-rinse spray nozzle cleared the plates most effectively. Although the pre-rinse spray nozzle does use a fair amount of water, specifying a low-flow (< 1.15 gpm) nozzle can drastically reduce your water usage in the dishroom, while not compromising effective plate cleaning. You can find a list of rebate-qualifying pre-rinse spray valves here.

Recently, the FSTC learned that the air compressor is undergoing numerous modifications to make it more suitable for dishroom cleaning, such as adding a pressurized water component to the air nozzle. The FSTC looks forward to testing a prototype once it is developed!

Until then, however, the FSTC recommends a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle, a handheld scraper, and implementing water-saving best practices, which you can read all about here.

The Greener Restaurant: Saving More by Using Less

Richard Young, Senior Engineer and Director of Education

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The FSTC’s mission is to educate the restaurant workforce on ways to reduce energy and water consumption so they can operate greener restaurants. Another key component of becoming a greener restaurant is monitoring and reducing food and solid waste so, when the FSTC held their annual Spring Greener Restaurant’s seminar, along with energy and water efficiency, this year’s program focused on how to reduce, reuse and recycle with an emphasis on food and solid waste.

Food waste in restaurants is a huge issue – up to 10% of purchased food may be wasted before it ever reaches a plate. This pre-consumer waste is due to spoilage, excess trimmings, and over-production. One company, LeanPath, has a technological solution to this challenge that includes an innovative approach to measuring and tracking this waste stream.

LeanPath’s system incorporates a scale, an overhead camera, and proprietary software to document the type and the amount of food wasted. By pushing a button, the system records the image and the weight, which is then summarized and reviewed on a local or remote computer. Reviewing the waste allows operators to determine what areas need improvement, raise employee awareness of the issue, and implement training to minimize food waste.

Patricia explains the LeanPath system

During the FSTC hosted seminar, attendees participated in an experiential learning exercise to determine how education and awareness influence behavior. While Chef Nick Truby of Rational prepped the food for lunch, Patricia Kelly with LeanPath demonstrated how the LeanPath tablet-based Zap system could be used to measure and log the 7 pounds of pre-consumer food waste resulting from the trimmings.

Chef Nick preps for his demo of the Rational Combination Oven

Then, while lunch was cooking, Chef Nick demonstrated various features of the Rational Self Cooking Center Combination oven, which was a real crowd pleaser because many in the audience had never seen a combination oven in action.

As part of the classroom lecture on how to reduce energy and water waste in the greener restaurant, the FSTC team asked the audience to join in a brainstorming exercise where the whole group tried to list all the ways a single piece of equipment (a combination oven) influences the energy, water, solid waste and food waste stream. Everyone was impressed with the list of inputs and outputs – few had any notion of just how many ways a single piece of equipment interacts with all the other systems in a kitchen and ultimately how that impacts the environment.

When lunch was served, the guests were told that any food left on their plates would be weighed post-lunch to determine the amount of post-consumer food waste. They were then free to decide how much food they wanted to take.

The FSTC team invites the audience to join in an experiential learning exercise

Would people consciously change their behavior knowing that they were being monitored? Would they take less food because they knew their leftovers would be weighed? It was an interesting experiment because, even knowing that their left-overs were under scrutiny, the post-consumer food waste for all 25 people still added up to almost 10 pounds. Did people change their portions? Yes, many people admitted to paying more attention to how much food they served themselves, taking slightly less. They were also surprised that, even paying attention, there was still so much post-consumer food waste. It was a great learning experience.

Anne and Kimberly with Republic talk about solid waste

So, what happens to all that food waste, and all the other solid waste generated in the kitchen? Kimberly Lam and Anne Baker from Republic Services generously shared their knowledge of solid waste, food waste and recycling – clearing up some misconceptions and giving the audience some real world strategies for starving the landfills.

The FSTC teams’ experiment with experiential learning turned out to be a great success. It took a little courage to mix food, garbage, high-tech equipment and on-line calculators but, the audience gave a big thumbs up and everyone walked away with action items, resources and new strategies for cutting waste and being a little greener.