Article contributed by Mike Berman, COO, Day & Nite/All Service
Last month, I was reading about celebrity Chef Jose Andres receiving a waiver to cook with gas for his new restaurant in Palo Alto. It left me scratching my head because as I read my paper everyday in Metro New York, it kept telling me that New York governor Kathy Hochul wanted gas banned for residential cooking.
I’ve always thought of commercial kitchen cooking as anyone competing with my wife or someone’s mother to serve food and beverage. Okay I’ll keep my day job and I know it’s no joke but exactly what is going on with the politics of gas and or versus electric cooking?
At Day & Nite, we service both gas and electric ovens 24/7. As I look at this with that background, I started by searching for the the differences between cooking with gas and cooking with electric? In a word efficiency, with radical differences defining efficiency. Gas stoves have proven to be far more efficient from a culinary perspective, but electric stoves are more energy efficient. Theoretically, we could cut right to the cash, because if you are asking for a dining patron to pay a premium for a great meal which in many cases requires cooking at higher heat, the choice is going to be gas.
Why has the industry limited itself to building agendas that just reflect the politics of counties we serve? Smoking, trans-fats and foam have all been eliminated as the restaurant and foodservice operator listen intently to what their dining public want from them.
We all listened intently as Governor Hochul made the use of gas for cooking an issue especially when it appeared earlier this year that her agenda included commercial/restaurant cooking. However, like many issues in the current political environment, really hard to tell if this is an issue in search of governance or elected officials in search of an issue. What we do know is, starting in 2026, New York will ban the use of gas stoves in new residential buildings.
It’s also vital to look at the politics of Palo Alto. It is considered one of the most environmentally conscious cities in the nation if not world. So much of California’s leading ESG legislation was driven by its citizens, politicians, even resident corporations. Yet Palo Alto also exempted Zaytinya from the gas stove ban. It used to be NIMBY revolts against prisons, power plants and the like. I guess Palo Alto is flipping the equation to Definitely In My Back Yard when it comes to exceptional dining experiences.
With that, I wonder if Chef Andres in California or any great chef around the world, could get an electric range the necessary temperatures to cook a $75 steak in a restaurant? I would never underestimate the industry’s pure genius, determination and proven ability to figure things out. However unlikely this seems today, commercial foodservice’s entire history is defined by its resiliency, coming up with answers to previously impossible questions. For instance, did we ever think NYC would favorably respond to outdoor dining in the winter?
In all fairness to the industry’s visionary manufacturers, as I tour trade shows there are some truly incredible advances in electric cooking. In many of the major cities on the East Coast that Day & Nite/All Service/Popular Plumbing operates in, it has meant that high end commercial cooking is now a reality without the need and expense of ventilation. Yes, I believe this combines at least a couple of sentiments: (1) efficiency, and (2) resilience. On the one hand, the knock is commercial foodservice is slow to change. Yet on the more practical hand, commercial foodservice is often far nimbler than it’s given credit for.
To me, the raging debate over gas vs electric is an opening act of far greater consequential changes the industry must demand from its downstream suppliers. Even if these are uniquely polarized political times, government tends to not get involved with commercial matters when an industry innovates. Restauranteurs ultimately always figure things out, but everyone would be far better off if throughout the industry’s demand chain key suppliers and influencers proactively stepped up with meaningful solutions.
With all of this said, it’s important to read the politics of what is going on. At present, we do not see any state-by-state patterns on this or other high-impact industry issues. To on extent or another, every state in our self-performing Atlantic seaboard operation has one bill or another floating at/around the committee level. But I honestly believe all the legislative attention is misplaced. Best way to avoid having laws shoved down the industry’s throat is for the industry to identify and solve its most pressing problems.
Let’s get away from the politics and look at how successful restaurant operators make it happen regardless of obstacles. NRA’s longstanding statistics that 80% of all restaurants fail within 5 years of operation, 60% within the first year is a huge issue. No other business segment on the planet lives with that kind of carnage. Deep examination of the prevailing model, introduction of new methods and means to assure greater industry vibrancy, prosperity, profitability is very much in order.
So, when I hear prosperity and profitability, I think economics. Both gas and electric are pretty much always the same: well-maintained equipment always produces more favorable yields both in quality output as well as reduction in overall energy and labor expenses. Going back as far as the earliest covid stages we publicly advocated commercial foodservice adopt more agile budgeting models, one early example here: Planning and Purposeful Pivoting For Foodservice & Hospitality. How much of the anti-gas legislation prompted by poorly maintained equipment? When equipment maintenance is managed as a distinct line item, treated as a cost to marginalize, the boomerang hits much harder in the most sensitive of all areas.
However, there is the reality of my very own electric bill. Even with signs inflation is leveling off, we’re still nowhere near The Fed’s targeted 2% goal. It’s really hard to imagine how anywhere close to 2% inflation can be realized, with recent events suggesting more interest rate hikes will create a host of newer, different and larger problems. Yes, cost of energy is and will likely be an inflation leader for a long time coming. This ties back to our advocating for integrated expense management where, at minimum, effective equipment maintenance is a prerequisite.
But the age of equipment is likely an even bigger issue. Commercial foodservice is one of the few industries on the planet still running equipment to fail. Older equipment poses greater risk and cost. Consider this one of the most critical prevailing industry model aspects in need of deep examination, new solutions.
I opened this column emphasizing one word—efficiency—and will close with an equally important word that should be uppermost on every operator’s mind: sustainability. From the energy sources used to prepare exquisite delicacies to the useful equipment performance lifecycle to our planet and literally everything else under the sun, an operator prioritizing efficiency and sustainability will always flourish.
Lots to think about and we are here to help. The Day & Nite family of companies is more than prepared to help operators think these important matters through, recognizing our accountability we have a myriad of customizable proprietary solutions poised to deliver. Best way to get started is an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.