According to the Food Service Technology Center (FSTC), an energy-efficiency and appliance testing facility funded by Pacific Gas and Electric, the industry has a $40 billion utility bill and is five to 10 times more energy intensive than other commercial customers. Since food service employs one in 10 U.S. workers, the chances are good that you have at least one restaurant in your service territory. That gives you the opportunity to help an important customer segment succeed, support your local economy and conserve critical resources.
Teaching food service employees to manage energy and water costs the same way they manage their food cost has the potential to reduce billions of dollars of waste annually. But behavior change takes education, and delivering training to a diverse, busy and mobile workforce is a big challenge, to put it mildly. FSTC has tackled this challenge by introducing online sustainability training to turn food service professionals into energy-efficiency experts: FE3 certification.
Based on 28 years of lab and field work, energy surveys and design consultations by industry experts, FE3 has built a practical curriculum focused on results. Like most industries, food service encompasses not only those involved in day-to-day operations, but also a wide network of supporting trades and employees. FE3 training can help all of these professionals understand their role in improving sustainability.
Restaurant owners, managers and staff will learn how to operate and maintain an efficient kitchen and how to choose more efficient equipment. Utilities and suppliers will learn about the industry’s energy challenges so they can develop programs and services to help restaurants become more profitable. Facility designers, equipment manufacturers and service agents can gain skills that will make them resources for restaurants seeking to increase sustainability.
Culinary and hospitality schools can add the sustainability curriculum to their programs. FE3 derived the online course material from classes taught live to university, college, community college and culinary students for over a decade.
Convenient, comprehensive learning
Recognizing that hectic schedules can be a big barrier to training in the food service industry, FE3 makes the six modules available online 24/7.
Each module covers a different area of food service energy and water use with interactive exercises. Topics include:
- Intro to energy efficiency – How energy use relates to sustainability and why energy efficiency is a necessary component of a commercial food service sustainability program
- Efficient and effective lighting – The basics of electric lighting and how to choose lighting products that use less energy, look good and meet the special needs of commercial food service
- Efficient refrigeration – The basic principles of refrigeration and how to select and maintain energy-efficient refrigeration systems
- Water conservation – The basic principles of water use and conservation in a food service operation and how to select and compare energy- and water-efficient dish machines
- Energy-efficient cooking equipment – The basics of food-prep and cook-line energy use and how to reduce cooking appliance operating costs
- Commercial kitchen ventilation – The basics and best practices to optimize kitchen ventilation systems
The material is narrated, loaded with easy-to-understand graphics and employs gamification and avatars to make learning more fun. Modules conclude with a short exam that reinforces learning.
After successfully completing the FE3 training, students will understand basic energy terms and have practical skills that will positively impact their restaurant’s bottom line. They will be prepared to choose the right lighting for specific tasks, calculate the cost of water leaks, properly maintain refrigeration, select energy-efficient cooking appliances with online tools and troubleshoot and optimize commercial kitchen ventilation systems.
Help for key accounts
Although FE3 training was developed by the California-based FSTC, the curriculum is relevant to food service employees across the country, as are many other resources the center offers.
Utility key account supervisors should explore FSTC, bookmark it and share it with their food service customers. Let restaurant owners and operators in your territory know about the recommendations for energy-efficient kitchen equipment, design guides for water and ventilation systems, equipment test results and a variety of calculators. Tell them about the presentations from FSTC seminars and webinars archived online. Share the industry links and publications with your local coffee shop or five-star dining establishment. In an industry with notoriously thin margins and high turnover, utilities can make a difference.