Water, Water Everywhere… and 10 Ways for Restaurants to Stem the Flow

Water is used for virtually everything in a restaurant – cooking, dishwashing, cleaning, you name it. There is a huge variation in the amount of water that different restaurants use, not to mention huge differences in estimates generated by research reports of exactly how much that is. Costs vary even further than usage, since water rates can vary by huge amounts across the country. But, every restaurant manager will tell you that they use a lot of water – in fact too much.

EPA Water Use in RestaurantsWhile there are studies that suggest restaurant water usage of as much as 25,000 gallons daily, the more common estimate is that a typical sit-down restaurant uses 3,000 to 7,000 gallons per day, with an average of about 5,800. Another number that pops up in studies is 24 gallons per seat per day. Quick serve restaurants use about a third the total on average, although the usage per seat tends to be much higher.

5,800 gallons per day translates into over 2 million gallons of water per year. That’s thousands of dollars per year, literally going down the drain. At a not uncommon rate of .4 cents per gallon, this level of usage translates into more than $8,000 per year, but for many restaurants the cost is significantly higher.

There are factors other than size that can have a significant impact on water usage and costs. For example, as will be discussed below, the type of equipment in a restaurant can dramatically change the water equation.

And, that doesn’t take into account the impact of leaks – in faucets, toilets, dish machines, irrigation systems or elsewhere. A running toilet, for example, will use over 200 gallons per day, increasing the bill for an average QSR by more than 10%! Irrigation system leaks can use thousands of gallons per day.

The general consensus is that water is routinely wasted in large quantities in almost every food service operation, from the smallest café to the largest institution. The good news is that something can easily be done about it. Savings on the order of 25% - 30% are readily available through modest changes in practice and the replacement of some equipment. In many cases, the potential savings can be even higher. In the many areas of the country seeing drought conditions, water savings have an even greater benefit.

Here are 10 ways for restaurants to increase profits by better managing their use of water (with thanks to the various sources used to compile these suggestions).

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