Water Consumption: The Often Unexpected Budget Bully
It’s safe to say that most restaurants go through just as much water (if not more) as they do food. It’s a valuable resource in the restaurant industry, and whether you’re using water for dishwashing, cleanup, cooking, or serving to guests chances are your water bill holds its own in the battle of your monthly expenses. Keeping an eye on your water consumption, both inside and outside the kitchen, is a growing concern, and the ever-present pressure from consumers for you to be more sustainable is growing with it.
To some, being sustainable is just how they operate. To others, the thought of being sustainable is a new concept. If implementing a recycling program, replacing restaurant equipment with more efficient models, and re-training your staff sounds a little daunting don’t worry. There are a handful of water conservation steps you can take to start the ball rolling smoothly.
Fix those faucets. Believe it or not an idle drip can add up and will drain your budget substantially if left for a long time, especially if you’re paying to heat that dripping water. Fixing a leaky faucet shouldn’t require a plumber and can often be done with inexpensive parts a little know-how. Brush up on how your sinks work and be sure to check that pipes and faucets are leak free on a regular basis.
Monitor your dishwashing. Just like leaky faucets, washing half-full loads in your dishwasher may seem like an insignificant piece of your larger restaurant puzzle. Unfortunately the water that goes into washing a load of dishes is the same whether you wash a full load or one that’s a few dishes short. Inform your staff that no racks get washed unless they’re full to get the most out of your washer and to cut back on the number of loads your doing daily.
Watch your water outside. Water use often stretches from the kitchen to the dining room and then outside your restaurant’s doors. Watering the grass and accompanying flora with water conservation in mind can be just as important as your indoor practices. Limiting watering times to when the sun is down and having an automatic timer are great ways to keep consumption under control.
Bathroom and kitchen sink retrofitting. Rather than letting water flow unhindered, install a few aerators in your kitchen and bathroom sinks to ensure you’re using less water. Invest in a 3-compartment sink so you have space to scrape, wash, and rinse dishes in a single sequence instead of doing everything under a constantly running faucet. Although a little more expensive, automatic faucets are a good way to control water flow in restrooms. Little tweaks to your current fixtures can go a long way when every lost drop can cost you money.
Hand and foot pedal placement. Another method for monitoring faucet flow is installing hand or foot pedals on high-traffic sinks. Employees can avoid dirtying hands by turning faucet handles and the convenient little pedals shut off automatically. Just like automatic faucets in your bathrooms, hand and foot pedals save an unbelievable amount of water.
Serve water only when asked. A glass of water doesn’t need to be a complimentary addition to every guest’s meal. Assuming each guest wants a glass can lead to filling a table full only to dump out a handful of glasses when the meal is over. Limit your water service to request only, but don’t exclude it from your server’s repertoire.
Train and trust. In the end, it’s up to your staff to keep your water conservation practices in mind and put them to use. Without properly trained employees, and with only your head in the game, a well laid out plan can crumble quickly. If you’ve got a sustainability plan in place, make sure water conservation is its own element. If water conservation is the cornerstone on which your sustainability plan will someday rest, express to your employees how important it is to start off on the right foot. Regular staff meetings and constant training reminders go hand in hand with a will to see things done.
The added benefit of implementing sustainability steps like water conservation is that you can tell your customers about what you’re doing without hesitation. The public loves to hear when a restaurant or business moves towards being a greener part of the community. Take a marketing approach to your green efforts and don’t be afraid to spread the word. You’ll be surprised how many customers were on the fence about giving your restaurant a shot until you publicized your new practices!
Andrew Call provides blog insights regarding restaurant management and marketing at The Back Burner. The top-rated food service blog is written by the employees of Tundra Specialties, a company specializing in restaurant supply, parts, and a wide variety of food service equipment and sundries.