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 Glasses) 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!

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

Wasting Away: Reducing Food (and Energy) Waste for Restaurants

Richard Young, Director of Education


The Food Service Tecnology Center (FSTC) held two educational seminars in June covering the relationship between food and energy waste. The seminar at the PG&E facility in San Ramon featured presentations from the FSTC’s Richard Young and Claudia Pingatore who were joined by guest speakers Samantha Sommers (ReThink Disposable), Mike Goldblatt (Copia), Kerry Flickner (Foodservice Sustainability Solutions), and Anne Baker & Kimberly Lam (Republic Waste Services). At the San Diego presentation, Richard Young was joined by Ana Carvalho from the City of San Diego and Island Restaurants’ Mike Schuster.

A variety of food and energy waste-related subjects were presented during the two sessions including composting, recycling, hardware technologies for reducing pre- and post-consumer food waste streams, software solutions for food rescue, and reducing the use of disposables. The discussion was lively and the speakers covered all aspects of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. The big take-away: “Reduce” is by far the most cost effective and sustainable approach to cutting food waste. That said, it was agreed among all participants that there is still work to be done to improve consumer behavior/expectations, kitchen inventory management, and worker training before significant food waste reduction becomes a reality.

Republic Waste

Anne Baker (left) & Kimberly Lam with Republic Waste Services present at the FSTC food waste seminar on June 14th, 2017 in San Ramon, CA.

One interesting question that the FSTC asked concerned the relationship between pre-consumer food waste and energy use in the kitchen. Specifically, if you cook less food, does that lower the energy bill? Using the FSTC online cost calculators, we ran a series of simulations on different appliances in which the amount of food cooked was reduced by 10%. The results varied for different types of appliances, but a 10% reduction in food cooked resulted in an average 4% reduction in energy use – demonstrating that food waste reduction does have an impact on the energy bill. This also reinforced the fact that, from a sustainability standpoint, everything in the commercial kitchen relates to everything else and nothing can be taken for granted.

While 4% is not a huge number, it’s not trivial and certainly helps the bottom line. If you combine pre-consumer food waste reduction with a tight appliance ON/OFF schedule, it’s not hard to cut energy use by 5% to 10% across the cookline. Food waste reduction is THE hot topic in the foodservice sustainability world and for good reason: it’s something everyone can agree on and it’s a challenge for which there are numerous good solutions.

Foodservice Sustainability Solutions

Kerry Flickner with Foodservice Sustainability Solutions explains how their equipment technologies can be used to reduce the waste stream created by commercial foodservice.

Here’s a list of resources to help get you started on your own food waste reduction journey:

The PG&E FSTC champions Meals on Wheels while Promoting Energy Efficiency

Mark Duesler, Chef Consultant/Program Advisor

markdOn Sunday May 21st, the PG&E Food Service Technology Center was invited by The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards to help support their booth at the 30th annual Meals On WheelsStar Chefs and Vintners Gala donor event at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco.

For those not familiar with Meals on Wheels, it is a program dedicated to providing seniors with friendly visits and nutritious meals. Their mission is to fight against senior neglect and malnutrition. As a way to help fund the project, they hold the Star Chefs and Vintners Gala annually, which has become a culinary who’s-who event for San Francisco. The Bay Area’s biggest chefs and winemakers come out to give donors an extraordinary culinary experience as a show of appreciation. It starts with a reception featuring small, savory bites paired with local wines and moves to a plated dinner prepared by some of San Francisco’s finest chefs. This year’s event included dishes from Stuart Brioza of State Bird Provisions and Thomas McNaughton of Flour and Water among many others. All in all, the event raised nearly $3.2 million for Meals on Wheels, which will result in some 640,000 prepared and delivered meals for seniors across San Francisco.


Pastry Chef, Melissa Duesler, and Executive Chef, Mike Ward, of The Restaurant at Wente prepared beet macarons with deviled egg filling, Passmore Ranch caviar, and garden chive blossoms for Meals on Wheels’ Star Chefs and Vintners Gala on Sunday May 21st in San Francisco.

This was a rare opportunity for the PG&E FSTC to gain exposure with some of San Francisco’s premier restaurants that may not know of the FSTC’s various consulting services like our new equipment demo program, Try Before You Buy, and our upcoming educational seminars, which are free to PG&E customers. The event was a fantastic way for us to give back to the community, while also having a chance to work alongside the chefs and operators we look to serve. It also gives us a chance to find out what challenges or projects they are working on. Whether it be to save money on energy, streamline their operation, or tackle labor and consistency issues, we can offer viable solutions or resources to point them in the right direction.

Anyone who knows restaurant operators, knows that time is of the essence and being able to meet with them before and after the event was extremely valuable. As a former chef at Wente, I’m fortunate to still have such a strong relationship with the organization and the chef team. The ongoing FSTC connection with Wente has been a real gateway into finding and helping restaurants understand the mission of the FSTC and what we can do to help them save energy and money. As such, we are looking forward to supporting more events of this type in the future.

For more pictures from the event, please click here.

On This Earth Day…

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst


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

Equipment Maintenance: Too Many Stories to Tell…

Richard Young, Director of Education


I was recently invited to moderate a panel on Foodservice Maintenance and Repair at the Gas Foodservice Equipment Network’s (GFEN) Commercial Foodservice Workshop. The meeting was held at Piedmont Natural Gas’ (PNG) Demonstration Kitchen located in PNG’s John H. Maxheim Natural Gas Technology Center. Not only is this a great test kitchen with an excellent chef (Thanks Chef Doug Allen for all the good eats!), it is just up the road from the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association (CFESA) headquarters, which meant that CFESA’s Director of Training, Dan Reese, would be joining us as a panelist.

For anyone not familiar with CFESA, they are the U.S. trade association of professional service and parts distributors. Their mission is to train and certify service agents and work with manufacturers to make sure agents have the requisite technical resources and OEM parts. Considering how much a broken piece of kitchen equipment can hamper operations, having a knowledgeable service tech walk through the back door armed with the right tools and high-quality parts is a no-brainer. Your cousin’s wife’s neighbor may be a brilliant fix-all, but if your combination oven goes down, you need to be on the line with a CFESA trained and certified pro.

Joining Dan on the panel was Mick Jackson, a veteran technician and area manager for Whaley Foodservice out of Charlotte, NC. Both Mick and Dan are veteran service technicians, so I was truly looking forward to our session. In preparation for our panel, I read several Back Story articles in Foodservice Equipment Reports Magazine (one of my favorites is called Karate Kid, which you can check out here).

GFEN Panel

(Left to Right) CFESA’s Dan Reese, Whaley Foodservice’s Mick Jackson, and the FSTC’s Richard Young conduct a panel on Foodservice Maintenance & Repair at the GFEN Commercial Foodservice Workshop on April 5th, 2017 in Charlotte, NC.

Anticipating that both my panelists were great storytellers, I started by asking each about the “craziest thing they have ever seen on a service call.”

Dan immediately replied, “…what haven’t we seen? If you can name it, we’ve seen it! There are too many stories…” They proceeded to regale us with a collection of oddities and some major themes began to emerge:

  • Many appliances are not installed properly. A common story involved an operator adding new gas appliances to an existing service that was too small to accommodate them. A call to the service tech inevitably followed because the appliances would never reach cooking temperature. The moral: You do not have an infinite supply of gas or electricity coming into your kitchen!
  • Once installed, most appliances are never commissioned on start-up. Efficient combustion requires the right mix of fuel and air and every kitchen gas supply is a little different. Likewise, water using appliances require a certain water quality and composition that can change radically depending on locale. When you install a new appliance, you must work with a qualified technician if you want your appliance to live long and hit maximum food production.
  • Deferred Maintenance (appliance neglect) is the norm. Kitchen professionals know that this one needs no further explanation. Most appliances need regular TLC. Dan & Mick had plenty of stories about unwanted service calls related to deferred maintenance. Their bottom line on deferred maintenance: An expensive last-minute service call will definitely put you in a bad mood (please don’t take it out on the service technician).

Some good news: Horror stories are fun, but making money is more fun and the ultimate goal of our panel was to investigate how to reduce expensive and unnecessary service calls. Mick and Dan had good news for the audience. Technology is coming to the rescue and making it easier to:

  • Train service technicians using online, on-demand training modules.
  • Diagnose appliance failure using built-in control boards in newer, high-tech appliances.
  • Expand the knowledge base of service technicians using 3D electronic versions of service diagrams and exploded views loaded on laptops and tablets.
  • Track inventory and service records using RFID, scan codes, and databases.

Moving towards a technology-enhanced future will require foodservice operators to overcome their tendency to ignore appliance maintenance while service techs will need to embrace some new and unfamiliar tools, but the potential for energy, cost, and time savings will be worth it. Perhaps we will reconvene our panel in a few years and there will no longer be “too many stories to tell…” Hopefully, we will be down to just a few really good gems.

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

Richard Young, Director of Education


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.


(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.


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.

Introducing Chef Mark Duesler!

Michael Karsz, Research Technician

markdThe FSTC is proud to introduce the newest member of our team, Mark Duesler! Mark will fill a vital role as Chef Consultant/Program Advisor at Frontier Energy and oversee the new equipment demonstration program at the FSTC facility. With 20 plus years of experience in foodservice including 15 years working in commercial kitchens, Mark will have the opportunity to share his knowledge and expertise with the FSTC technical staff and restaurant operators alike.

Duesler is a professionally trained chef who has worked in multiple full-service kitchens from small, family-owned restaurants and multi-course, fine dining establishments to chef-driven farm-to-table concepts. Duesler graduated from the California Culinary Academy in 2004 and has worked in many restaurants including the Restaurant at Wente and Bacara Spa Cafe.

Mark debuted his culinary acumen at the FSTC’s Greener Restaurants: The Power of Green seminar on December 7th. The seminar focused on environmentally responsible and sustainable foodservice management including discussions of proper waste handling, locally-sourced food procurement, energy efficient equipment, and water conservation practices. Mark set out to create a custom menu to capture the essence of the sustainability theme while delighting attendees’ palettes along the way. Attendees enjoyed such menu items as pancetta and mustard seed-topped deviled eggs (a big hit!), crispy brussel sprouts with pumpernickel creme, and slow-braised short ribs with gremolata. For a full look at Mark’s menu for the event, click here.


Chef Mark Duesler’s spread for the Greener Restaurants seminar on December 7th, 2016.

With a successful event under his belt, Mark is now focused on building out the FSTC’s equipment demonstration program known as Try Before You Buy. The program offers foodservice operators a rare opportunity to cook on equipment (combis, smokers, induction cooktops, fryers, among many others) at the FSTC facility before committing to a purchase. The program will not only serve the practical interests of the restaurant operator, but will enable the FSTC to demonstrate live the myriad benefits of energy efficient equipment and new, energy-saving technologies. Charles Billies, owner of Souvla Restaurant in San Francisco, has already taken advantage of the program: “Our testing of the equipment was a complete success – certainly made possible by [the FSTC’s] generosity, superb facility, and extraordinary team. It was also through conversation with the FSTC that I was convinced to switch my existing fryer to an ENERGY STAR® certified fryer.”


New FSTC team member Mark Duesler prepares a custom meal for Greener Restaurants seminar attendees on December 7th, 2016.

FSTC Director of Education, Richard Young, is also excited to have Mark at the helm of the Try Before You Buy program: “Over the twenty-nine years that the Food Service Technology Center has been in operation, cooking equipment has evolved dramatically as have cooking techniques. Combination ovens, blast chillers, and rapid cook ovens coupled with farm-to-table, cook-chill, and sous-vide give operators a much wider choice of cooking platforms and techniques than ever before. Chef Mark Duesler speaks the language of the commercial kitchen while at the same time understanding the science behind the cooking equipment – offering visitors to the FSTC a bridge between food and technology that is not usually available to anyone outside of the largest chain operators.”

Mark’s exposure to a wide range of foodservice concepts gives him a unique understanding of the wants and needs of foodservice operators across the industry. Already having displayed his exemplary culinary prowess, Mark will look to strengthen the bond between the FSTC and its foodservice customers in the coming new year through education, demonstration, and shared experience. Welcome aboard Mark!

What’s On Tap?

Kiana Caban, Communications Assistant

KianaThe FSTC attended the 2016 California Craft Beer Summit, a three-day event with an interactive expo, multiple educational sessions, and a concluding beer festival in Sacramento, CA this past September. The annual event is hosted by the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA), an entity dedicated to connecting and empowering California craft brewers through advocacy, education, and communication. The Summit brings together craft brewers, visionaries, innovators, business partners, distributors, retailers, and beer lovers across the state to showcase and highlight the craft brewing industry’s growth and success.

Beer brewing is a water and energy intensive process. It takes about 20 gallons of water to produce one pint of beer. Most of that water is used in growing barley and hops, however, a significant amount is used in the brewing process itself. In addition, an essential part of brewing is heating and cooling liquids as rapidly as possible, which requires a lot of energy. Most breweries also operate taprooms and restaurants, which have their own energy and water demands (and where the FSTC could really assert its years of foodservice expertise!) Armed with these notions, the FSTC sought to learn more about the craft beer industry’s practices, while also educating the industry on water- and energy-efficiency at this year’s Summit.


FSTC team members (from left to right) Janel, Kiana, Michael, and Andre prepare the FSTC booth at the California Craft Beer Summit expo on September 8th, 2016.

Co-hosting the Water Innovations Showcase booth with the nonprofit group American Rivers, the FSTC created various displays showing how brewers and facility operators could save water (and energy) in their breweries.


The FSTC’s hands-on wort-chilling demonstration presented at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Making It Cold: Savings are Brewing. This hands-on brewing demo featured a copper coil immersion chiller, a (simulated) bucket of wort (aka not-yet-fermented beer), and three buckets of cooling water. The goal was to visually demonstrate the substantial volume of water required to quickly cool down hot wort before fermentation in the brewing process. Seeking a better grasp on the attending breweries’ operations, we asked, “How much water does it take to cool your wort?” Attendees had widely different answers depending on the size of their chillers. We followed with, “What do you do with your leftover cooling water?”

We found that most larger breweries already have sustainable mechanisms in place for water conservation that include reusing cooling water for cleaning brewing equipment, bottling lines, kegs, etc., or even using a glycol cooling system in place of water altogether. However, we learned that some smaller breweries and homebrewers still dump their used cooling water down the drain. With an ongoing statewide drought and the ever increasing price of water, we encouraged these brewers to find reuses for all that wastewater.

What’s Brewing in Your Business? The FSTC also displayed a “Think Tank Questionnaire” where we surveyed some of the attendees about the specifics of their brewery, their foodservice operation (if applicable), their heating/cooling system, etc. This provided a better understanding of California brewery demographics and how the FSTC can assist the brewing industry in its efficiency and sustainability efforts in the future.


FSTC members attend one of many “Tap Talk” sessions in which brewmasters discussed topics ranging from the rise of barrel-aged and sour beers to business growth and opportunities at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Alongside the interactive sections of the booth, we also had four stations equipped with different energy and water saving tips that most any brewer or brewery could utilize.

Refrigeration Savings are Brewing. Many breweries use custom walk-in coolers for fermentation and keg storage. As such, we recreated the FSTC’s “4-on-the-door” mnemonic to help brewers limit energy waste in walk-ins. “4-on-the-door” is 1) Install an auto door closer, 2) Check door hinge alignment, 3) Inspect and maintain door gaskets regularly, and 4) Add strip curtains as a secondary barrier to heat infiltration.

Water Savings are Brewing. For the brewery restaurant or taproom operator, the easiest and most inexpensive measure you can take to conserve water is to switch to a low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzle. By changing out that old high-flow nozzle to a 1.15 gpm or less nozzle, you can save approximately $1,800/year! Check out California rebate-qualified PRSVs here.

Dish Machine Savings are Brewing. By purchasing an ENERGY STAR® dishwashing machine, breweries can cut costs in half! A standard dishmachine costs $1,200/year to operate, whereas an ENERGY STAR® dishmachine costs $600/year to operate. For more tips on dishmachines, please visit fishnick.com


The FSTC’s Richard Young demonstrates the energy savings of switching from an incandescent Edison bulb to a LED Edison-style bulb at the California Craft Beer Summit on September 9th, 2016.

Energy Savings are Brewing. Efficient lighting can save you big money. With the power required to light one Edison bulb, you could light fifteen similar LED bulbs! A 60 watt Edison bulb’s annual cost to operate is $45/year, while a 4 watt LED Edison bulb’s annual cost to operate $3/year. What large savings for something so simple to change!

The craft brewing industry was built on innovation, collaboration, and a shared sense of environmental responsibility. With that in mind, the FSTC was heartened to learn that the industry has taken great strides in sustainability and energy efficiency with many of the largest craft brewers leading the way. At the same time, much more can be done to engender energy and water saving best practices industry-wide, not only in the back brewhouse, but in the restaurant and taproom too. The Craft Beer Summit gave the FSTC valuable insight into the scale and particulars of this exciting industry, while also working to expand the FSTC’s energy- and water-saving influence.

The FSTC Raises the Bar…

Claudia Pingatore, Energy Analyst


The Food Service Technology Center is thrilled to broaden its influence to the world of breweries and bars, both energy- and water-intensive industries. To kick off this budding relationship, the FSTC hosted Raising the Bar on October 11th, an evening event with presentations, conversations, and hands-on equipment demonstrations. For those that missed it, topics included chilling/distribution systems, ice, lighting, bar food menus, and the “farm-to-glass” movement.

Hunter Abraham with Chill-Rite presented on serving efficiency for draught beer and wine. He discussed how operators can cater their beverage temperatures to the particular type you are serving and the experience you want to impart. Hunter mentioned that most bar operations end up wasting 30% of their kegged beer through improper dispensing. This adds up to significant wasted potential sales for the bar operator. Installation of an efficient chilling and distribution system can drastically reduce this beer (and energy!) waste and improve temperature control of dispensed beverages.

Pete Palm WPD

Pete Palm of WPD discusses the three rules of ice making for the FSTC’s Raising the Bar event on October 11th, 2016.

Pete Palm with Western Pacific Distributors (WPD) presented on ice making and its inextricable connection to the bar industry. He began with three rules to remember for ice: 1) Ice is a food product, 2) Ice is not 100% water and, 3) Ice types are not equal. He went on to discuss how the right ice types can influence drink presentation and sales. For example, large “gourmet” ice cubes are ideal for craft cocktails since they have a perfect dilution rate (read: slow), their temperature maintenance does not obscure any of the cocktail’s flavors, and they are aesthetically pleasing to the customer, all of which can help justify a cost premium. Pete also talked about ice machines themselves being an excellent opportunity for energy and cost savings in bar service. Specify an ENERGY STAR®/rebate-qualified ice machine when possible. Please visit the FSTC’s ice machine page for more information. For a full list of rebated models visit: fishnick.com/saveenergy/rebates


The FSTC’s Richard Young demonstrates the 4 Watt LED bulb vs. the 60 Watt Edison bulb for guests on October 11th, 2016.

The FSTC’s own Richard Young then launched into a presentation on the importance of lighting to the bar manager. Studies have shown that lighting has a direct impact on patron’s moods and thus their willingness to spend, so bar lighting should be designed as welcoming as possible. Be intent with you lighting choices: choose lighting that highlights your food/drink options and menus. Drape your bar in soft, indirect lighting that draws people in and encourages them to stay. Also, stay away from the en vogue, but energy-guzzling Edison-style decorative bulbs! Instead, opt for the LED versions of these stylish bulbs that use a fraction of the energy. Check out PG&E’s lighting rebate catalog here.


Tim Nasty of Preferred Marketing Group (PMG) cooks quesadillas in the Merrychef rapid cook oven for Raising the Bar guests on October 11th, 2016.

When food is served at a bar, whether it’s small snacks or a full bar menu, the average customer stays a half hour longer! In addition, offering suggested food pairings with drinks is a great way to sell more of each. To help bars get in on this action, Wendy Akers with Boar’s Head described their comprehensive Bistro Program that not only supplies food to operators, but also offers menu consultation, pairing advice, and supporting products such as merchandisers, meal photographs for menus, etc. For more information, contact Wendy at Wendy.Akers@boarshead.com. Jeff Yates with Inform Marketing Group followed with another key component to successful bar food service: appliance ease-of-use and space efficiency. Combination ovens offer both with intelligent controls that make virtually every step of foodservice easier. With its impressive cooking versatility, Jeff claimed that a combi oven could very well be the only cooking appliance you need in your bar! Otherwise be sure to specify energy efficient small form factor appliances such as rapid cook ovens, microwaves, and toaster ovens.


Rational chefs demonstrate the cooking versatility of their combination ovens with short ribs, bacon-wrapped scallops, and many other treats for Raising the Bar guests on October 11th, 2016.

From the bar operator perspective, the dining trends of full service restaurants also apply to bar service. Specifically, sustainability remains of value to customers, even though the topic hasn’t seen much attention in the bar industry as opposed to the dining world. Mixologist James P. Gatts from Oakland’s Shakewell and Main Squeeze set out to change that through mixing organic beverages by sourcing sustainable cocktail ingredients and artisan small-batch spirits. Organic sourcing (though not necessarily local/seasonal) does often cost more, however, James has been able to offset that added cost through careful planning and use of higher priced liquor. He also noted that the organic sourcing endeavor could be overwhelming at first, but is worthwhile because it gives customers a “sense of time and place”—that is, a connection with your food and your establishment.

Once the presentations concluded, guests enjoyed a vendor fair with plenty of pub grub like flatbreads, gourmet charcuterie, and white anchovy crostinis with accompanying craft beverages. Guests networked with equipment reps and FSTC staff alike to ask specific questions regarding bar service and energy management. As a final note, remember that food prep is the biggest energy using component of the kitchen. So when purchasing new equipment or making changes in your facility/operation, be sure to consult fishnick.com for more tools, tips, and rebate information!

The FSTC Takes a Ride into the Food Truck World…

Kiana Caban, Communications Assistant

KianaHave you ever thought of taking the wheels off your food truck and transitioning to a brick-and-mortar restaurant? Or, conversely, putting some wheels on your foodservice establishment? Not sure what questions to ask or what potholes to avoid?

The PG&E Food Service Technology Center (FSTC) recently took a ride to the food truck side by bringing in Chef Walter Abrams of Dabba to tell his story at our Foodservice in Motion: From Food Truck to Brick & Mortar seminar on Tuesday, July 26th. Foodservice in Motion focused on how to transition your food truck to a brick-and-mortar establishment while saving energy, water, and money along the way.

Dabba Truck

The Dabba food truck parked outside the Food Service Technology Center prior to the Foodservice in Motion seminar on July 26th, 2016.

Chef Walter shared how his Marin-based, East Indian-inspired Dabba (Hindi for “lunchbox”) food truck transformed into a San Francisco restaurant with all its accompanying challenges and successes. FSTC senior engineer Mark Finck discussed how the FSTC was able to help Chef Walter & Dabba achieve this dream and offered attendees tips and tricks for making their own transition to opening a restaurant.

Foodservice in Motion

The FSTC’s Mark Finck (left) and Dabba’s Chef Walter (right) present ways to attract foodservice customers.

Finck and Chef Walter did a Q&A session hitting the following four key topics:

Dabba food truck initially focused on taking the truck to different round-up groups (e.g. Off the Grid) in Napa and catering private events (e.g. Bottle Rock). Participating in these different events helped engender a customer following for Dabba. That was an advantage as Dabba’s restaurant eventually took root in the San Francisco Financial District, where professionals go out five days a week for lunch. Mark Finck also stressed that, “The best restaurants thrive on their location, location, location.” When searching for a restaurant location, an operator must consider the surrounding city culture, foot traffic, and local demographics.

Value to the Customer
Dabba focuses on serving high quality product to their customers – 90% of their food product is organic or pesticide free, which stems from building partnerships with local farms. When serving customers from the food truck, ticket time for guests is usually under 10 minutes. If it runs longer, they try to foster relationships with their customers while they wait for their food. In the restaurant, ticket times are between 2-2 ½ minutes. Chef Walter’s vision is to deliver “delicious, healthful food by including a higher quality service experience for guests. I want you to sit down and use cloth napkins and silverware, while a host floats around and connects with guests.”

Chef Walter’s central takeaway: “Food trucks are a great way to raise money, market your brand, and build a concept.” The Dabba food truck experience was a crucial step toward establishing itself with its customers and the industry before venturing into the restaurant arena.

Dabba Truck 1

Dabba food truck prepares lunch for FSTC seminar attendees.

Operational Cost
The FSTC’s Mark Finck discussed how choosing ENERGY STAR® efficient equipment can dramatically lower operational costs. When selecting equipment, appliances using less energy will still meet your cooking requirements while significantly saving you in utility costs. This is an important consideration when moving from a food truck with limited gas supplies and electrical power from generators. When transitioning to mortar, power is no longer limited, so utility costs will significantly impact your profit margins.

Chef Walter stated that Dabba food truck’s profit was determined by event location and the most lucrative events were the ones that had a fixed number of meals to serve (e.g. catering events). When attending an event that was based on customer draw, often times the amount of food prepped did not align with the amount of food sold, which affected Dabba’s bottom line.

Signature Menu
Chef Walter discussed how Dabba is inspired by a restaurant known as Avatar’s, an institution in Marin County. Dabba restaurant serves East Indian flavored tacos, burritos, rice bowls, and salads. They focus on serving high quality product with “ethnic confusion… healthy and bold flavors.”

Dabba Truck 2

Foodservice in Motion seminar attendees wait in line at the Dabba food truck for seared chicken rice bowls.

The Dabba food truck was on-site for the seminar providing attendees with the opportunity to taste Chef Walter’s unique flavors for lunch.

With so many different food truck attendees looking to transition to a brick-and-mortar restaurant (or vice versa), the FSTC hosted a vendor fair for the final part of the seminar. Vendors included: BlueCart, California Restaurant Association, Central Contra Costa County Sanitary District, Contra Costa County Environmental Health, Food Craft Institute, and Mr. Food Safety. Attendees had the opportunity to pose questions and start connections with these valuable foodservice resources.

The recent food truck boom has equipped many foodservice operators with an ambition to “go brick-and-mortar”. As this seminar demonstrated, the FSTC’s energy-saving expertise and numerous resources give food truck operators the support they need to succeed in any endeavor.

For the full Foodservice in Motion presentation, please visit http://fishnick.com/handouts/07262016/