Money Down the Drain

When diners consider water at a restaurant, they’re thinking about the liquid in the drinking glasses at their table. But that’s a small fraction of the water restaurants use—and they use a lot.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates foodservice and hospitality businesses account for 15 percent of the water in America’s commercial facilities.

Most of the agua employed by restaurants—52 percent, the EPA reports—is associated with equipment and processes in the kitchen, while restrooms follow at 31 percent. Drinking water is less than 1 percent.

Operators have many options to reduce water usage: Serving water only if diners request it, fitting aerators on faucets, making sure dishwashers are full, installing efficient toilets and sensor-activated faucets, and using water-catching landscaping devices.

“The technology has increased greatly,” says Michael Oshman, founder and chief executive of the Boston-based Green Restaurant Association (GRA), which helps eateries become more sustainable. “You can get incredible efficiencies.”

For instance, most full-service restaurants have pre-rinse units with high-pressure spray valves to cut the time workers spend scraping dishes before loading them into dishwashers. A low-flow spray provides a quick, environmentally friendly return.

“Considering what you’re paying for heating water and what goes down the drain, you can save thousands of dollars per year on a $60 investment,” Oshman notes.

Major equipment purchases like energy-efficient dishwashers, ice machines, and steam cookers can add up to big savings, although these investments take more time to recoup, he says. “Each has a payback; the question is how much and how quickly.”

Water thrift can be found throughout a restaurant, says Marcus Guiliano, a food activist, lecturer, and chef and owner of Aroma Thyme Bistro in Ellenville, New York.

“First off, we installed low-cost, low-flow aerators in all the sinks,” he says. “Where it really helps is in the kitchen. Chefs love to turn on the water and let it go, for cooling, defrosting, and so on. It’s a drastic difference in terms of water usage.”



Those are some staggering stats regarding water use in the restaurant! The Grey Plume really seems to be doing it right when it comes to water conservation. There was nothing mentioned about how many gallons of water your ice machine can use on a daily basis though! We cover that here Note- The right ice machine can save you from wasting hundreds of thousands of gallons of water over the lifetime of the machine!

Energy Star dish machines and low-flow/high-impingement pre-rinse nozzles are a great start to conserving water in the dish room. Just be sure your staff are not rewashing racks of dishes due to poor procedures, low-quality or insufficient amounts of chemistry or poor/no maintenance of your dishmachine. An operation washing 300 racks per day with a 1.02 gal/rack machine but rewashing 20% (a common occurrence) will use over 22,000 gallons of water a year! One way to know how many racks of dishes you are washing and correlate that to your business volume is to use a system like this:


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