23 Ways To Save Water In Restaurants You Must Know

It’s no secret that the restaurant business is a huge water waster in the world because it involves farming, meat production, the beverage industry, and many more. Even saving water in the restaurant end can seem small and worthless, but it’s a good sign that you wondered about this article because individual actions add up if many people are taking action.

In this article, you will learn the best and effective water-saving tricks that a restaurant can take, but also the ”lesser” water savers that will also save water. No matter how big or small the saving, if it doesn’t require enormous efforts, it’s worth the shot that’s for sure.

Food waste is a huge problem in the world and restaurant business which makes us wonder why do restaurants waste food. When it comes down to wasting water, food waste is the same thing but only on a larger scale. Let’s start our techniques on how to save water in a restaurant.

Reduce food waste

As we briefly discussed this matter above, reducing food waste will save huge amounts of water because water is used to produce food and if the food is wasted, well, you do the math!

Water is used to grow the crop and as a drink to the animals which are then used for food, therefore if parts of that animal go to waste the water lost in the process is astronomical when compared to water lost when leaving the tap open for too long. The same principles affect all ingredients such as nuts, liquids, and vegetables. See the chart below for some examples of how much water is really used for specific ingredients.

Food ItemBeef SteakHamburger
Serving Size6ozBread, meat,
lettuce, tomato
3oz1 17oz1cuptomato, lettuce,
Water Footprint674 gallons660 gallons135 gallons52 gallons46 gallons34 gallons21gallons
These statistics are provided by: Water Footprint Network

As we can see from this table, the amounts of water needed for food production are huge, especially meat production seems to need huge amounts of water and it is no wonder that food waste is the number one water waster in the restaurant business. Let’s move on and see other aspects that matter!

Read also: How To Reduce Food Waste In Restaurants: Our Top 30 Ideas

Train employees to save water

Restaurant environment is a busy and hectic place to work, therefore it is important that each employee understand the importance of saving water. Tell the employees on how to save water and what the consequences are of not saving it. You can show the table above, you can educate them on what really is wasted when these things are neglected and how does it affect to our planet.

Wash only full loads in the dishwasher

Washing only full loads of dishes in the dishwasher has been proven to result in a significant reduction in water usage. Kitchen staff should know how many dishes are needed for each dishwasher load and wash them accordingly, as well as knowing what detergents to use. Effective detergents can help the dishwasher to be more effective so the dishes don’t need a second wash after the first one, therefore it will save water.

Washing full loads only will also be a financial benefit to you because if everyone washes half-full loads only it really will show in the bill because heating water is expensive and if you could have cut the dishwasher bill in two, it will save hundreds of dollars annually.

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Upgrade to energy star equipment

There are energy star options in nearly every equipment type such as dishwashers, ovens, and microwaves. The energy star label on a dishwasher tells you how much water it saves in gallons per cycle compared to old models; the more stars there are after “energy” the less is used for each load of dishes washed by that machine

For example, A three-star rated model will use up to 40 gallons less water per cycle than a one-star rated model and up ¼ the energy. You can also use more efficient dishwasher detergents, which are concentrated formulations that allow you to get away with using only half of what is normally used in liquid or powdered form.

The energy star label on an oven, microwave, or range tells you how much it saves in kilowatt-hours per year compared to old models.

Mop and sweep the floor instead of spraying

Using a sweeper, mop, and a bucket of soap water to clean the restaurants’ floors will save a lot of water when compared to full spraying. Of course, the floor needs to be sprayed from time to time so you can reach all the hard corners, etc. however, this doesn’t need to be done every single day so mopping and sweeping perhaps every day expect one will keep the floors as clean as ever but will save a lot of water in the process.

Use low pressure when pre-rinsing

Turning the water pressure a little bit lower when pre-rinsing the dishes will save a lot of water in the long run. Imagine if you pre-rinse hundreds of plates with a lower water pressure instead of the highest option, it will certainly save some water as well.

Instead of that, you can rinse the supplies with a little cooler water temperature instead of the absolute hottest, therefore you will save money in the process even more.

Serve water only when asked to

Don’t place water bottles on the table without the customers asking because many people don’t drink water with their meals, instead, they take some other beverage, beer, wine, etc. This is the smart thing to do because after a while the water has been unused too long and needs to be refilled with a new one and the previous water wasn’t even touched.

This is a great way for some upselling as well because if the water isn’t available to the customer at first as they sit at the table, they won’t just settle for water and there are much higher chances of selling them additional beverages instead of water. We all who work in the restaurant business know the margins on beverages so the profits will be worthwhile as well.

Don’t sell water bottles

Selling water bottles can waste water and it’s bad for the environment. An investment in a filter system will ensure that customers can purchase high-quality, filtered water at your restaurant without all of those wasteful plastic containers. If you suddenly change from selling bottled to filtered tap water, this may raise some questions with your customers but simply explain the why and they will surely understand.

Install hand dryers to bathrooms

Installing quality hand dryers will cut down on paper towel usage which will save a lot of money in the process. Hand dryers are great for water-saving as well because it doesn’t require any further washing after the soap is removed from the hands.

There are various studies that show when using a hand dryer is the better solution in terms of carbon dioxide emissions, in fact, the usual emission from a single hand drying with hand dryers are between 9-40 grams, whereas when using two paper towels the emission is 56grams. And let’s face it, most people use 3 or 4 paper towels in one drying session, therefore, hand dryers are a way better option in 95% of the cases if you don’t like to dry your hands in your shirt.

In terms of money, hand dryers will usually pay themselves back within the first year and the time after that is just pure savings! The usual amount that a restaurant spends on paper towels in a month is approximately $65-$80 in a restaurant that has 200 towel users in a day. The final sum of course depends on the quality, size, and brand of the towels. However, the sum doesn’t even cover the cost of trash bags and paper towel dispenser maintenance.

Now let’s review the costs of a hand dryer. Typical hand dryer costs around $250-.$500 however you can get decent ones even cheaper than that. You don’t need to be a math genius to understand that it doesn’t take long that the hand dryer pays the investment back very quickly.

Use the three sink method

The tree sink method is an important method to understand if you want to save water. In this method, you use one for washing, the second for rinsing, and the third for sanitizing. Check out the video below and see the simple steps that need to be done in order to use the three-sink method in your restaurant.

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Don’t use water for defrosting

Defrosting anything underwater is just a simple waste and short-sighted. Rather than wasting a ton of water, you should take the ingredients that you need to thaw and place them on the countertop or in the refrigerator well in advance.

This step doesn’t require much, only that you examine the next day’s recipes and act at least the night before so the ingredients will be ready to use the next morning.

Install a motion sensor faucet to the handwashing sink

Every restaurant needs to have a separate hand washing sink for many reasons. The first reason is that it is required by sanitation foundations and even by the law in most cases and the restaurant shouldn’t operate without one.

The second reason is that proper handwashing sinks should be in use for hygiene reasons so you can use that sink only for handwashing. Using one with a motion sensor is just simply the best.

The motion sensor will save water because it only runs the amount of time that you’re using it. Additionally, when your hands are dirty and full of dough, oil, or whatever, you won’t need to touch a sink’s handle since there isn’t one so everything stays more hygienic!

Use low-flow faucets

Low-flow faucets are the way to go because they use less water. Every little bit of savings counts! A regular pull-down faucet in a restaurant haves a flow rate of at least 1.75 GPM (gallons per minute) however, there are many pull-down faucets that have 1.4 GMP which is considered a low-flow faucet.

The same principles can be used when choosing other faucets for your restaurant and even for the bathrooms. If you don’t think about it you won’t really notice the difference except when using a pull-down faucet for pre-rising, however, the differences aren’t that big that you shouldn’t at least consider the change.

Keep an eye for faucet and pipe leaks

Imagine that you have a leaky pipe behind your sink, that is hard to notice by accident. If the water is dripping constantly for 24 hours per day, this would lead to huge losses of water in just one week or even if not noticed until months later. It may be helpful to make up an inspection schedule where each faucet or tap can be inspected at the same time every week, therefore your team would be able to fix them as soon as possible before they become worse problems and cost you even more money!

Have a regular maintenance appointment

It’s important to have a professional come and check all your equipment from time to time because if there is any slow leak in the system it can be fixed before too much damage happens. We know what will happen when critical aspects like this are neglected. Eventually, something major will break badly and you’ll end up paying multiple times as much for repairs as just one small repair appointment would set you back.

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Use a waterless wine cooler instead of ice buckets

There are many special equipment and supplies you can use to cut back the water usage and one of them is a wine cooler. Instead of serving the sparkly in an ice bucket, you can use a stylish and modern wine cooler which will do the same trick with more style! Wine coolers will also keep the wine at a perfect temperature for sipping instead of melting away in an ice bucket!

Use an air-cooled ice machine

One of the biggest water consumers in a restaurant is the ice machine. Switching to an air-cooled ice machine will save water, energy, and your budget! The difference between water consumption between water-cooled and air-cooled ice machines is large, in fact, water-cooled ice machines use typically 5 times more water than air-cooled ones! In addition, air-cooled will also save you time because you won’t need to worry about the ice all the time.

Wash ingredients at the same time

Washing ingredients at the same time in a colander or perforated container will save water and time. While doing so you can quickly run water on all of the ingredients and wash them quickly that way.

You can also use a sealed container that you simply fill once and use that water for washing your potatoes, apples, or other ingredients.

Use boilerless cookers

Boilerless cookers will save a lot of water because these types of cookers are designed to allow for a continuous steam flow, which will react quickly with the food.

The main benefit is that you can save up on water and still have your ingredients prepared in time! These cooks also use much less energy than other devices because they’re more efficient when it comes to heat distribution which also means lower electricity bills!

The one downside is that these types of cookers are more expensive than your traditional stovetop. However, this doesn’t mean they’re not worth buying and they will pay your investment back at some point as well!

Don’t melt the ice with running water

Melting ice under running water can be fun, but it’s a waste of resources and there are more efficient ways to do so. If you have nothing else to entertain yourself with at the time, try dropping them over your main drain or let them melt in your pre-rinse sink so they will melt during the necessary rinsing process.

Offer more vegan choices

As we discussed before, meat is a huge water consumer so offering more vegan choices may be the best solution of these all because the water savings from just one burger are just unbelievable. Veganism is also becoming more acknowledged and it will continue to raise its popularity as it has steadily done in recent years.

However, if you are running a steak house or such you technically could add a vegan choice or two there, however, be always aware of your customer base before making any quick decisions!

Use biodegradable cleaning supplies

Biodegradable cleaning supplies are in the favor of our environment for multiple reasons. First of all, they are much safer for your general health because they do not contain toxic chemicals that could be harmful to you. Second, since these cleaning supplies degrade in the environment it leaves less residue and pollution which also means better water quality! And third, it is much more environmentally friendly to use biodegradable cleaning supplies because they also don’t produce as many greenhouse gases that can contribute to climate change.

Everyone has their own reasons for choosing their cleaning supplies but there’s virtually no reason not to choose at least a couple of these products to try on your restaurant.

Offer non-polluting products to customers

Offering non-polluting products to customers will help save water and the environment in the long run. It’s important for business owners or managers in charge of purchasing items to know which brand and material would best suit them, so they can make environmentally conscious decisions on behalf of the whole company. I have listed some great examples below that you should consider replacing your current ones with.

  • Metal/Paper straws instead of plastic
  • Paper carryout bags
  • Paper cups
  • Fiber bowls
  • Eco-friendly napkins
  • Sustainable cutlery


In this article, we learned quite a bit about different water-saving techniques and ideas. It’s important that we all take these steps into consideration and try to reduce our water usage as much a possible for the greater good and for us individually in our businesses.

I sincerely hope that you got real value from this article and that you learned a lot of new things. I also hope to see the changes in your restaurants and kitchens as I have seen in many others!

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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