Striving to cut utility costs and don the mantle of “greenness,” more operators are turning to eco-friendly equipment and design features and operational practices.
“More and more restaurants really are appraising this, which is a big change from years past,” said Jim Maxwell, co-owner of Architects II in San Francisco, an architectural firm that consults on green restaurant design and operations.
At Province, a weeks-old restaurant in Chicago, chef-owner Randy Zweiban’s approach to equipment and design issues is informed by the same sustainability ethic as his menu.
“We wanted to serve a menu driven by seasonality and the freshest products possible,” Zweiban said, who plans to shop the local farmer’s market in season. “What better way to do that than to work in an eco-friendly setting that says the same thing.”
For starters, Province is located within the Chicago Transit Authority building, which has been certified by two sustainability benchmarks, the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, or LEED, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star designation. Building infrastructure includes low-flow plumbing, high-efficiency mechanical systems and floor-to-ceiling windows that reduce the need for daytime lighting.
Zweiban has taken additional measures such as specifying Energy Star-labeled refrigeration equipment that use less energy than conventional pieces and implementing eco-friendly water and beer programs. Instead of shipping in bottled water and disposing of the empties, he has a compact in-house filtration system for tap water that produces chilled still and sparkling waters that are served in refillable bottles. Similarly, he serves only draft beers from a regional microbrewer, thus avoiding any bottle issues in that regard as well.
Well-publicized green practices and a largely organic-food menu have won customer good will for Pizza Fusion, a 12-unit chain based in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., company officials say.
“We certainly attract an environmentally conscious customer because of the things we do,” said Eric Haley, vice president of communications.
Pizza Fusion’s long list of sustainable practices include building LEED-certified restaurants, using energy-saving compact fluorescent bulbs, driving hybrid delivery vehicles, and using energy-efficient refrigerated prep tables.
At Dosa, a new South Indian restaurant in San Francisco, investments in energy-efficient refrigeration and ventilation systems will pay back its owners over time with lower utility bills, Maxwell said.
For example, a computer monitoring system reduces the cycling of Dosa’s refrigeration condensers overnight and at other low-demand times. Refrigeration compressors are located on the roof of the building, so they don’t discharge heat inside the kitchen and increase the cooling load on the HVAC system. Remote compressors are “a little pricier to install, but well worth it in terms of energy conservation,” Maxwell said.
Another innovation is an energy-management system for ventilation hoods that detects the heat load in the kitchen and adjusts the exhaust and make-up air accordingly. Compared to conventional hoods that run continually at high speed, these will use significantly less energy, Maxwell said.