California restaurants look for ways to help conserve water

The Fresno BeeFebruary 26, 2014 

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Laj Tsua Lee pours a glass of water at the Best of The Valley California Restaurant Association Banquet at the Ernie Vasquez Exhibit Hall on Monday evening Feb. 28, 2005.

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The California Restaurant Association urged restaurants Wednesday to conserve water as the state deals with a historic drought, including only serving water to customers upon their request.

Local association representatives say there's even more that restaurants can do, despite an existing emphasis on water conservation learned in past droughts.

Many Valley restaurants stopped serving glasses of water to customers unless they requested them years ago after drought put a spotlight on the practice. And although Fresno homeowners recently had water meters installed, restaurants have had them for as long as restaurateur Tom Ferdinandi can remember.

Ferdinandi is the chief operations officer of the company that owns Me-N-Ed's pizzerias and Piazza Del Pane restaurants, and past chairman of the statewide association.

"We're practiced at doing our best to conserve water," he said.

Low-flow toilets and efficient dishwashers are common in restaurants. But there's room for improvement, he said.

He recommended restaurant management fix leaky faucets, not start dishwashers until they're full and sweep sidewalks instead of hosing them down.

Waiters and waitresses might also consider asking customers if they want their water glasses refilled, instead of automatically refilling, said Roman Cota, managing partner at Wedgewood Wedding & Banquet Center and president of the Fresno chapter of the California Restaurant Association.

Although customers notice the water left behind in glasses on the table, water is also wasted in kitchens and other parts of the restaurants that customers don't see, he said.

"The No. 1 thing is talking to your staff about ... how to conserve," Cota said.

They're the ones who will be running dishwashers and otherwise using water.

"All these little things can make a difference," he said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6431, bclough@fresnobee.com or @BethanyClough on Twitter. Read her blog on fresnobeehive.com.

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