Partnering with Service Agents to Lower Foodservice Operating Costs

In response to the slower-than-expected business climate, foodservice operators can look to their service agents for ways to lower operating costs.

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With foodservice operators reporting that business is starting to show signs of slowing, many will need to maintain their tight control on all expenses. One often overlooked way of doing so is by working with a service agent to identify ways to drive costs out of the operation.

"A lot of times it is not what you see. The opportunities lie more within the unknown aspect of the business," says Dan Farmer of Commercial Parts and Service in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to being FE&S' 2011 Top Achiever Service Agent, Farmer serves on the board of directors for the Commercial Food Equipment Service Association. "It's always helpful to be on a planned maintenance program, but not all facilities have the ability to do this. The service agents, in many cases, are a direct extension of the manufacturer and may know of ways to improve the performance of existing pieces of equipment."

Under the category of it is not what you see that can make a difference, consider lighting in walk-in refrigerators and freezers. Service agents can install LED lighting into these units to help lower electricity consumption. When used with a motion sensor, the LED lights go on as soon as an employee walks past them and they immediately illuminate the space. In contrast, the florescent lights common in many walk-ins take time to reach full illumination. As a result, many operators will leave the lights burning inside their walk-ins even when staff are not working in these spaces and that leads to wasted electricity.

"Now, instead of leaving everything on all the time, you use it when you need it," Farmer says. "So you will reduce your cash out payments on a monthly basis with a little bit of an upfront investment. And for most of these solutions, the payback on the initial investment takes less than a year."

Service agents can even assist operators in securing rebates for energy saving changes from local utilities, as pointed out in this article.

In contrast, other savings opportunities may be slightly more visible to the naked eye than others. For example, if an orange flame is visible on a gas range, that means the equipment is not properly calibrated and the foodservice operator is wasting gas. "Even if it is a one-time visit from a CFESA-certified servicer to make sure all of your equipment is properly calibrated, that will save money and ensure your equipment is operating at its best," Farmer says.

Water-consuming equipment such as water heaters, steamers, ice makers or coffee brewers, to name but a few, represents an opportunity for savings. Operators can work with their service agents to remove any excess scale or lime. "When you try to push your heat energy through a quarter inch of lime, you're wasting energy and losing equipment efficiency" Farmer says. "Get rid of the scale and your balance sheet and kitchen staff will thank you."

All in all, the only wrong way to go about researching potential energy savings is to not contact your servicer at all. "The pay back will vary depending on what you choose to address. But by adding efficiencies and calibrating the commercial kitchen equipment in your facility you will get an immediate payback," Farmer says. "All our customers are dealing with tough economic times, but the worst way to deal with the bad economy is to ignore it."

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