For many foodservice operators and members of the supply chain, the concept of sustainability focuses on the sourcing of locally or organically produced raw ingredients that eventually occupy the center of the plate.

Richard Young of the Foodservice Technology Center
Richard Young of the Foodservice Technology Center.
What many foodservice professionals fail to realize, though, is that the concept of foodservice sustainability is far more encompassing and includes the facility's design, the way it is illuminated, the equipment it uses, the processes staff apply to executing the menu and much more. That was the overarching message of the inaugural International Foodservice Sustainability Symposium, which took place in Chicago immediately following the National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago this past May.

The following is a quick look at some of the key foodservice equipment and supplies-related points made during the two-day event.

Cutting Edge Technology
Foodservice equipment continues to become more innovative and efficient, presenting foodservice operators with the opportunity to lower their cost of doing business.

"Not all foodservice equipment is the same. And what makes the difference? Better engineering," said Richard Young of the Foodservice Technology Center in one of the symposium's first sessions. "People in foodservice do not realize there is that much diversity among equipment."

While energy efficiency can appear to be a pretty broad concept, Young attempted to simplify matters. He defined energy efficiency as the energy a foodservice operator sold (meaning the cost of the electricity and gas, etc. that went into making a menu item) divided by the amount of energy the operator purchased. "Energy efficiency is all about matching your needs to your load," he added.

Digital Controls
For more than 20 years, your automobile had more brainpower than the average piece of foodservice equipment," Young said. That's changing, though.

An increasing amount of foodservice equipment now comes with digital controls. These provide foodservice operators with precise ways of managing equipment use and better reporting capabilities, which ultimately can lead to reducing energy consumption. For example, many ice machines now allow operators to schedule the time these units will make ice and by setting the machine to do so during off-peak hours, the foodservice operator can lower their electricity costs.

Heat Recovery
Manufacturers of refrigeration units, and now warewashers, are introducing ways to harvest the heat their units naturally exhaust and use it to create hot water for various applications. "Each of these emerging technologies have their benefits and challenges but this is the direction we are going to go," Young said.

This trend embraces the notion of constant improvement, as foodservice operators and their supply chain partners look for new opportunities to drive efficiencies. Young challenges operators to "look at your systems and ask 'Is there a better way?' What can we do to change the way we do things?"