In the pot- and dishwashing area, staff use energy- and waste-saving equipment such as high-intensity pot washers, a pot machine, an upright dishmachine, a conveyor dishmachine, and garbage disposal units connected to pulpers that grind solid waste, thereby minimizing compostable food garbage and make handling easier. All of this helps Xanterra meet the goals of its environmental program initiatives. Staff also use garbage-can washers and a grease-collection system.
The pot- and dishwashing area is just one of many green features introduced in the Old Faithful Inn project. The largest, according to Johnson, is the adaptive reuse of an existing building and the repurposing of underutilized space to limit the need for new construction. Other green initiatives include the chiller loop for condensing the unit rack system; use of a variable-speed hood exhaust system to adjust hood exhaust volumes based on cooking volumes; and the recycling and reuse of existing building components along with sorting and tracking of the waste stream to document waste reduction.
"Our food production and service efficiency has improved greatly compared to previous seasons because of the layout and all the new equipment," Dean says. "But, we've had challenges – though temporary – evaluating our production systems and figuring out where, when, how and who will be working in each area to meet daily requirements. We wrote our menus based on historical data and the floor plan of the old kitchen. As we've seen how the menu and production fit the new kitchen systems, we've done some adjusting where possible, and we'll know how to better utilize the spaces and equipment as we write future menus."
Similar challenges arise with staffing, Dean says. "We've had to calculate the number of people and hours required to staff each area because the floor plan and equipment changed. Shifting some hours from one area to another has been necessary simply because of the new flows through the employee dining room and the dishwashing areas."
The greatest challenges facing the Xanterra team each year seldom change, and relate to the seasonal nature of the operations. "Most of our facilities operate on a seasonal basis, so we open in the spring and close in the fall. We hire staff from around the world for a three- to six-month agreement, and many of these employees have little or no food experience and are coming to Yellowstone more for a summer vacation than a professional experience," Dean says. "Once we get our buildings open in the spring or early summer, we hit peak business volumes within weeks, requiring a simplified but effective training program that can prepare for the high demands as quickly as possible. Then the reverse happens in the fall, as we begin our closing process a few weeks before each building actually closes to the public."
After one season in the new facility, the initial challenges are fast becoming part of the historic legend that will be passed along to generations of foodservice employees. New equipment plays an important role in allowing the staff at Old Faithful Inn to provide visitors with delicious meals as they experience nature's splendor.