Sustainability in foodservice is a collaborative process

Hobart's Rob Geile outlines why sustainability is so important to the foodservice industry


Over the last decade, many companies in the foodservice industry have come to realize the importance of developing the tools and resources necessary to create more sustainable products, reduce energy and water usage, and to increase recycling and efficiency. In the United States, sustainability initiatives such as Energy Star and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) have had measurable impact in promoting these efforts.

As a world leader in commercial food equipment and service for the foodservice and food retail industries, Hobart is committed to supporting the sustainability movement and the efforts of all of its end users. Through continued research and development and the sharing of best practices that make food retail locations and foodservice facilities alike more efficient, end users are becoming more sustainable and profitable.

These types of efforts are not only good for business, but they also improve both customers’ return on investment (ROI) and have a positive impact on the environment.

The Hobart Center for Foodservice Sustainability (HCFS) is one such example of these efforts, offering thought leadership and counsel in the drive for sustainable design and execution. The HCFS is intended to serve as a forum for foodservice directors, builders, designers and contractors to share case studies, customer best practices, innovative ideas and accomplishments in foodservice sustainability. To promote new thinking in sustainable design, the HCFS has established a yearly grant for the individual or company that submits the case study judged by a panel of industry experts as the most innovative and impactful new concept and execution of a sustainable design project.

As the newest panelist of HCFS, I want to personally encourage readers to submit their own case study for consideration.

The Duluth Grill in Duluth, Minn., was the 2013 HCFS grant winner, recognized for sustainability efforts that included replacing older equipment with Energy Star qualified models, reducing waste and implementing Farm-to-Fork programs. As the restaurant invested in various sustainability projects and partnered with diverse organizations, it has been able to compare additional ideas and solutions and share resources that make these sustainable practices a reality.

In fact, the sustainable practices at Duluth Grill have lowered utility, electric, gas and trash costs by 51.6%. The restaurant has put HCFS grant money toward the construction of a 12-foot-by-140-foot raised permaculture bed that is currently being built in the back parking lot of the restaurant.

Owners of the restaurant plan to plant this orchard and rain garden with an assortment of native and unusual fruit trees, shrubs, vines, herbs, edible flowers and perennials.

Not only will it provide the restaurant a harvest for its kitchen, but it will also beautify the neighborhood and mitigate the 900,000 gallons of runoff that usually go directly into a nearby creek flowing into Lake Superior.

In addition to promoting the sustainability of foodservice operations through HCFS, Hobart strives for a balance of environmental, economic and social goals internally. As part of sustainable development, the company adopts business strategies and activities designed to meet the needs of today while sustaining the resources required for the future.

Such tactics include:

– Decreasing energy use in Hobart’s manufacturing facilities around the country

– Reducing packing materials

– Making products that are as energy efficient as possible, with sustainable technologies that improve ROI or prolong the equipment life cycle by reducing water, energy and waste in commercial kitchens, yet still get the job done

– Manufacturing with 100% recyclable stainless steel

Hobart was the first commercial food equipment manufacturer to join the US Green Building Council (USGBC), and it has a strategic partnership with Energy Star that has resulted in its successfully promoting and delivering 512 Energy Star qualified products. Energy Star estimates that qualified products can save customers up to 50% over conventional counterparts on electric, gas, water and sewer bills while having a positive impact on the environment. Hobart has been recognized as an Energy Star Partner of the Year Sustained Excellence award winner since 2010, and it was named an Energy Star Partner of the Year award winner in 2008 and 2009.

Continued sustainability is a team effort, and foodservice partners benefit from both learning and applying those lessons learned to their operations. Hobart is committed to this collaboration while balancing the social, environmental and economic aspects of how it does business, both today and in the future.

Rob Geile is director of consultant services at Hobart, a LEED-accredited professional by the USGBC and is a NAFEM-certified foodservice professional.