Sustainable Planet, Sustainable Business: Connecting the Food System and Commercial Kitchens of the Future

Still, waste happens — so, how do we handle it? Do operators need a massive composting infrastructure? No, Christian says. But the foodservice operators need to assign at least one person to pick up the compost and handle it appropriately. A walk through Christian's former catering kitchen, now occupied by another caterer, shows how easy it is to store a closed compost bin at the back of a walk-in cooler. Since the compost is stored at cold temperatures, it won't "cook" and smell up the kitchen. Even though the health department approves this setup and a HACCP plan can be created, resistance to this practice still exists. "People think these guys are going to dump their garbage all over trays of fresh vegetables in the cooler," Christian says. "Not the case at all."

Sustainable Selves

"Sustainable food systems have a lot to do with our own bodies — our health and well-being," Turenne says. "Many times people don't even think about that. We mostly think about the environment when talking about sustainability."

Not only are more consumers looking to "eat clean," meaning consume less processed, fried and charred food, but healthy eating is also becoming more regulated nationwide. Menu-labeling legislation has forced chains to disclose nutritional information, and trans fats have been banned in New York City, where there has also been talk of banning soda. New federal dietary guidelines encourage cutting back on salt, sodium and saturated animal fats in general.

This has led to more foodservice operators — both commercial and noncommercial — cooking from scratch, Turenne and Christian say. A kitchen making its own bread and butter needs better proofers, rack ovens and even churners and food processors (yes, butter can be made in those).

Reitano is seeing more demand for customized cooktops as a result. "We are seeing a full variety of cooking suites with every type of top you can imagine," he says. And induction cooktops are gaining ground as an alternative to energy-draining charbroilers. Some operators are going the sous vide route to gently cook proteins without the use of extra oil and energy. Fryers? In time they may become a thing of the past.

And at the B&I level, Reitano says, operators want to expand their retail sections to offer healthy, prepared meals and snacks for take-out and for patrons to take home for later consumption.