Spend The Energy To Save Some Energy

restaurant energy usage

Just like Food and Labor, your Energy Costs can be a controllable expense to bring more money to your bottom line.

Eric Schechter Sendaguy
Eric Schechter, SendaGuy Now

Many restaurant owners don’t think about energy usage as a controllable expense or know how to reduce their energy costs. When they do they’re often too busy to do anything about it. That lack of knowledge and time allows hard earned dollars to slip away from your bottom line.

Let’s take a look at some ways you can reduce your energy usage in your restaurant to save hard earned money and improve your bottom line. You don’t have to be an expert in energy efficiency to implement an energy savings program in your restaurant.

A large amount of energy savings can be accomplished just by modifying the behaviors of the staff and training them in energy efficiency can save the restaurant as much as 18% on your monthly bills.

With the need to combat rising costs of electricity and gas in an industry that traditionally uses so much of both, training your staff is the single most effective way to reduce costs without having to upgrade equipment or add energy controls. The training should aim to ensure that your staff has both the knowledge and motivation to adopt energy efficient procedures.

Your restaurant should create a schedule for start up and shut down for air conditioning, ventilation, cooking equipment and lighting. This schedule will indicate when staff should switch each item on and off. Often equipment does not need to be turned on as early as it is – turning it on a few hours later can save a lot of energy and not affect the quality of the food produced or guest experience.

Here are some examples of ways staff can save energy:

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• Create a start up and shut down procedure for all kitchen equipment. When does the equipment really need to be turned on, and in what order? Do you need to turn on everything first thing when you get to the restaurant, or can the equipment wait until just before it is needed before it is turned on? If you have multiple pieces of equipment, ovens, fryers, etc. do they all need to be on during slow periods? Does the pass through heat shelf need all sections on or can you turn some off during slower periods? Fryers are idle almost 75% of the time. Eliminating just four hours per day of idle fryer time could save up to $150 per year. Likewise, if you turn off an idle broiler for just one hour per day you can save up to $400 per year in energy costs.

• When are the air conditioning units turned on? Do you need to cool down the dining room when the restaurant is not open to customers? Can you cool it down just prior to open?

• What lights do you need to have on when the restaurant is not open? Can you only have the lights on where the staff is working prior to opening? Are lights being left on in stockrooms, basement, walk-in coolers and freezers, etc. when not needed?

• Coolers and freezers, make sure the gaskets are in good condition and doors are never left open, thermostats are properly set.

Even your menu options affect business energy costs.

Every Chef knows that any dish they prepare requires certain pieces of cooking and preparation equipment. However, when it comes to energy consumption, the more items turned on, the higher the cost of running your kitchen.

To keep your energy costs down, it may be beneficial to look into what you’re serving on your menu and see which dishes require which pieces of equipment so you can work out whether or not you’re wasting
energy keeping equipment on that isn’t needed.You could even fashion a delicious menu orientated around this, so you know that you’re not wasting those kilowatts.

Here are some basic energy-saving areas:

Lighting. Too many restaurants still use incandescent light bulbs that consume 60 or 100 watts of electricity per hour. Restaurants can shave their lighting costs by 75% or more by switching to CFLs (compact fluorescent lights) or even LEDs (light-emitting diodes). Many utilities now offer rebates to help reduce the upfront costs. (LEDs are also a better choice for dimmable fixtures.)

Energy-efficient kitchen equipment. Cooking and warming equipment consumes a lot of power. Carefully managing how the equipment is used – making sure it’s turned off when not being used – is the first line of defense. But beyond that, upgrading to high-efficiency ovens and steamers can greatly lower energy use.

Air Conditioning. Ensure the air balance in your restaurant is correct so you are not sucking up all of your expensive cool air into the kitchen ventilation system and sending it outside. Set thermostats at a comfortable temperature, but not too cold. Every degree lower takes money off of your bottom line. Preventive maintenance – ensuring air filters are changed, belts and fans are checked and coils are cleaned – is also extremely important.

Ventilation. The kitchen “hood” – the ventilation system that exchanges smoke-filled kitchen exhaust with fresh air – consumes a lot of energy. Make sure you only operate the system when needed and have it cleaned on a regular basis to keep it running efficient.

Refrigeration. Some basic maintenance of your refrigeration equipment can help keep it running efficiently and save you money. This includes: checking the rubber gaskets that keep refrigerator and freezer doors locked tightly and replacing any torn or loose ones; making sure the thermostats on refrigerators and freezers are set appropriately; and cleaning the refrigerator coils to prevent blockage. Regularly scheduled preventive maintenance will ensure your equipment is operating efficiently and cost-effectively.

Water Heating. Fully load your dishwashing machine whenever possible. It takes as much heated water to wash a partially full dishwasher as it does a fully loaded one. Install low-flow pre-rinse spray nozzles. Set the water heater thermostat no higher than it needs to be: 140°F for dishwashers, but only 110°F for hand washing. Consider using chemical sterilizers instead of higher water temperatures in dishwashers.

As the resident Certified Facilities Management Professional at SendaGuy Now, I let all of our clients know that spending a little time to focus on saving energy usage can save your restaurant business a significant amount of money each year.


Click here to read more of Eric’s articles for Total Food Service.

The SendaGuy Now app is free and is available for download at the Apple App Store and Google Play App Store. Interested restaurant operators and potential repair service partners can also go to sendaguy.com or call 800-214-5410 for service.

Eric Schechter is a Certified Restaurant Facilities Professional (CRFP) with over 25 years’ experience in the restaurant facilities industry. Eric is also Chief Business Guy at SendaGuy Now, the mobile app for restaurant repairs on demand, where he’s in charge of Strategy, Product & Service, Development & Evaluation, Go-To-Market Strategy and Product Management. Eric can be reached at eschechter@sendaguy.com