13 ways to painlessly improve profitability in 2013: Kitchen equipment
By Jay Fiske

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Is it really possible just one tiny change in your kitchen could be the equivalent of increasing annual sales by $9,000? According to the International Facility Management Association, just by rolling back your broiler on-time by an hour a day, you can save $450 a year — that's pure profit that drops right to the bottom line. For an operation with a 5 percent profit margin, it would take an increase of $9,000 in sales to yield that $450 in profit. And that's just one piece of equipment. So what profits are lurking in your kitchen? Here are some tips to ferret them out.

INDUSTRY PULSE

Do you have a maintenance schedule for your kitchen equipment?
  • 1. Yes
  • 2. No
  1. Keep your equipment clean. Seems simple, but in the high-pressure, food service industry, this is a job that often sinks to the bottom of the list. Unfortunately when that happens, it's your money that goes down the drain. Daily cleaning prevents the build-up of dirt, grease and food scraps that can impede energy efficiency and shorten the life of your equipment.

  2. Maintenance — an ounce of prevention. Going hand-in-hand with cleaning, regular maintenance also optimizes performance and extends the life your equipment. Using the equipment manuals that came with your equipment, develop a maintenance schedule and repair log. Look for leaky gaskets, clogged burners, misalignment of doors and the accuracy of thermostats. At Foodservice.com, scroll to the bottom of the page and link to some templates to get you started. If you can't locate your owner's manuals, they can usually be downloaded from the manufacturers' websites, even those for older equipment.

    There are eight types of commercial food service equipment that can earn EPA's ENERGY STAR. Click on this illustration to learn more.


  3. Use a reputable repair service. Authorized companies can be found in your owner's manuals or online at the manufacturer's website. Once you go beyond simple repairs like gaskets, this isn't an area for a do-it-yourself economy. You may void the warranty or — even worse — botch repair that could ruin the equipment or create a safety hazard.

  4. Cook efficiently. Select the most energy-efficient cooking mode. For example, broilers require a great deal of energy and have low cooking efficiency, using the same amount of energy to cook one hamburger or 25. Broilers use more energy than it would take to operate six fryers. Beyond cooking mode, always cook with your equipment fully-loaded when possible. Keep all lids and doors closed.

  5. Fill up that warewasher. Another big energy hog in the kitchen, the cost to wash a rack of dishes is the same whether it's one plate or 30, so get your money's worth and reduce the number of loads.

  6. Turn it off. When equipment isn't needed, turn it off. For example, hot tops are commonly preheated in the morning and left at maximum levels throughout the day. Not only do they consume a great deal of energy, they also radiate more heat than any other type of range top and that must also be mitigated. This one's a "two-fer" that no one needs.

  7. Check out the Food Service Technology Center Green Sheets. The independent laboratory that does all of the commercial equipment testing for ENERGY STAR, these sheets from FSTC provide equipment-specific tips, purchasing guides and a wealth of other information to keep your restaurant operating in tip-top shape.

  8. Replacement may be the answer. Sometimes old equipment is so inefficient that purchasing new may be more cost-effective. FSTC's life-cycle and energy-cost calculators can provide you with all the information you need to make a decision that's right for your operation. And keep in mind that sticker price is just one component of cost. You'll also want to factor in energy costs, life cycle and any rebates that may be available from your local utility.
See related stories: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

Jay Fiske is vice president of business development for Powerhouse Dynamics, developers of the eMonitor energy, asset and water management platform for homes and small commercial facilities. Fiske is responsible for leading the company’s overall sales and marketing strategy, developing and growing market channels, and establishing strategic partnerships.