Energy Efficiency for Restaurants

energy efficiency for restaurants

Your Best Guide to Running an Energy-Efficient Restaurant

Restaurants are some of the most energy-intensive businesses around, no matter where you live. An inefficient restaurant can mean you’re wasting thousands of dollars each month, but the sheer volume of restaurants around us means there’s a great big industry around getting you energy efficient.

You’re likely working on a variety of margins from low to razor-thin depending on the dish, so every place you can introduce restaurant energy savings can turn out to be a significant win. We’ve looked at equipment used in most venues and built an optimized list for you. These restaurant energy saving tips focus on inexpensive purchases, easy upgrades and simple maintenance you can do without having to hire a contractor.

With the great restaurant energy saving tips outlined below, you can potentially save tens of thousands of dollars on energy costs every year. Replacing a single deep fat fryer can get you started with a savings of more than $1,000 in restaurant energy consumption each year, according to the Small Business Association (SBA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Sometimes things like energy efficiency feel like more PR and less help to you. Let’s start our energy-efficient conversation by explaining why it matters, how you’ll save, and how you can even make more money by upgrading with our energy saving tips for restaurants.

Benefits of Restaurant Energy Efficiency

There are two chief reasons to invest in energy-efficient technologies: improving your bottom line by reducing costs and creating a stronger connection with existing and new customers.

It’s easy to understand cost savings when it comes to energy efficiency. If your lightbulbs use 80% less electricity when you switch to LEDs and fluorescents, with bulbs that last significantly longer than standard light bulbs, it can take just a few months for you to start seeing major savings.

upgrading your kitchen

With a series of upgrades to all of your kitchen, heating, lighting and storage locations, you could see an energy saving of up to 30% each year. To see how much you’ll save, expand this across five years, and you’re likely to not only break even with initial upgrades, but also pass the tipping point so you start saving money each and every year. Some restaurants will see savings long before this five-year mark.

Restaurant energy efficiency is a math equation you can easily and quickly solve to start seeing green.

Customers Will Love You

“Love” may be an exaggeration, but only a small one. Your customers care about the environment, and showing you care can be a significant boon. Let’s start with who cares the most about restaurant energy savings.

The Millennial generation is considered to be the generation that cares the most about sustainability, especially for companies and corporations where they spend their money. You can see this in the increasing demand for Energy Star appliances and a strong push in the consumer versions of upgrades your restaurant can use, such as LED lighting.

That means your restaurant energy use can be a major benefit if you introduce significant savings and are willing to market those changes. Millennials are willing to share information, so the stronger you market, the more you’ll reach them, and the more they’ll share your stats on social media and other channels.

Why should you care about Millennials? So far, there are 75 million of them and they’re expected to surpass the Baby Boomers by the end of this year. Of these Millennials, 68% prefer to do business with environmentally responsible businesses, and 89% are more likely to purchase from socially responsible companies, according to the Energy Efficiency & Sustainability Consulting group.

Hispanic Millennials in the U.S. are among the most compelling set of this group. They carry much less debt than other Millennials, their income is rising faster than any other group, and they tie their purchases to their identity. That means your restaurant energy management can attract these customers when you help them make sustainability part of their experience through advertising.

Restaurant Energy Management: Cooking Smart

Much of your energy use is in the kitchen, so getting smart about how you heat and cook can turn into great savings for your restaurant. Introducing the right restaurant energy saving ideas can work for any appliance in your kitchen.

There are a few general rules to follow, and this may help with your next menu change:

  • An oven is generally more efficient than a rotisserie
  • Griddles are more efficient than broilers
  • Steam cookers can use less energy to cook the same steamed dishes
  • Buying appliances with Energy Star certifications and timers can help you optimize your cooking.

Great restaurant energy saving tips live in the kitchen, and there are a lot of great ways for you to save. Reduce restaurant energy use in the kitchen with the right equipment:

Broilers: Getting a unit with a timer or smart technology to help you eliminate idle time can create great savings. If you remove a single hour of idle time each day, you’ll save $450 every year. That’s a great savings, since you’re wasting less and likely have a relatively low margin on the food you broil, according to Flex Your Power.

The latest generation of broilers reduces energy consumption by as much as 25%, and that’s savings you see before reducing idle time, turning off unused sections, and bringing your preheat schedule closer to your opening time.

Combination Ovens: A self-cleaning oven is always a blessing in the kitchen, especially when it comes with options to steam cook, use convection or combine the two. You can start seeing immediate savings by optimizing your cooking choice with its controls and setting your own savings. Shutting it off or reducing idle time by one hour will save you $400 each year, and many restaurants can reduce two or more idle hours each day. There are many new highly energy-efficient models on the market that can use 50% less water and energy compared to older models.

Convection Ovens: Upgrading to an energy-efficient convection oven can save you as much as $360 per year just on energy costs. More powerful units can cook quicker without damaging taste or quality. You’ll also be more efficient with your energy if you cook with it fully loaded and check it monthly to make sure seals are working correctly. Even tightening the hinges of your convection oven can make it use energy more efficiently.

Fryers: Your fryer is probably an energy hog, so the best way to get savings is by focusing on new equipment that automates some of your processes. Every four hours of idle time you can eliminate, such as the time between your lunch and dinner rush, can save you $250 each year.

Buying an energy-efficient model can save you as much as $450 each year through efficient heating. Upgrade to an insulated fry pot and a sealed cover to prevent heat loss and get back up to cooking temperature quicker and cheaper.

GriddleYour griddle is likely one of the most popular devices in your kitchen, and proper use can save you hundreds of dollars each year. Maintenance and recalibration can be done weekly, while daily cleanings of its traps can keep it at peak efficiency. If you upgrade to an energy-efficient model, you can save roughly $200 on annual energy costs while also getting a better cooking surface with sections you can turn off.

turning off holding cabinets

Holding Cabinets: 
Insulation is your best way to improve restaurant energy savings for your holding cabinets. To improve existing models, make sure to replace any broken control nobs, repair or replace poor seals, and shut it off at the end of the night. Simply turning it off when not in use overnight can save you $500 each year. You can easily double that savings by purchasing a new, energy-efficient model.

Ranges: Many restaurants file to adjust burners and properly maintain them as they switch menus and dishes. Using a lid on your range can also introduce significant energy savings. If you’re looking for an upgrade or investment, induction ranges offer significant savings for energy use, plus you’ll see reduced maintenance needs, reduced warm-up times, and improved controls.

Steamers: If you go connection-less and buy an Energy Star certified steamer, you can save more than $2,000 each year. Half of that savings comes from reduced water and sewer costs while the other half comes from reduced electricity costs. You’ll get the same savings whether it’s a gas or electric model. Buy a system that requires a timer and you’ll save even more through increased restaurant energy efficiency.

Controlling restaurant energy consumption starts in the kitchen. However, there are lots of great areas you can work on, even some that exist in every room.

Restaurant Energy Saving Ideas: Lighting

Energy saving tips for restaurants aren’t just limited to the kitchen. There are a wide range of lighting options you can introduce into your restaurant that generate significant energy savings and help you keep the atmosphere you’ve worked to create. Here are some great options that reduce your restaurant energy use:

Install Energy Star light fixtures and compact fluorescent lampsBy replacing the lighting in your dining area, you’ll not only reduce energy consumption by 75%, you’ll also knock out the heat your lights generate and see great energy savings in the summer, according to the SBA report cited previously.

Occupancy sensorsIf you want to keep your current restroom lighting, you can save money by installing occupancy sensors. These turn on your lights when movement is detected and can then be set to stay on for a certain amount of time. Solutions exist specific to your walk-in refrigerators, storage and even bathrooms — so no customers are left in the dark.

Replace your signageYou can start saving 80% of the restaurant energy use on signage by swapping older models with LED signs, according to the SBA. Customization options allow you to replace your window displays, open/closed signs and even the exit signs you’re required to have.

Your fridgeIt may seem strange the fridge is in this list, but if you install a compact fluorescent lamp in your units, you’ll reduce light heat by as much as 75%. Grabbing the pack with the lowest start temperature is a great way to reduce the heat and your energy costs (both from the bulb itself and from the cooling needed by your units).

What does this mean for your restaurant? Well, in testing by the SBA and EPA, restaurants save $330 per year for every eight incandescent bulbs they replace with compact fluorescent lamps.

Restaurant Energy Saving Ideas: Stay Cold as Ice

To keep your ingredients fresh and safe, you likely use a lot of different refrigeration techniques. Thankfully, this comes with a lot of great ways to save on your energy costs. New innovations have also changed which types of units can be highly energy efficient. Now you’ve got access to glass-door models and more freezers that cool effectively.

For your large equipment, here are some great options to keep things clean, clear and control your restaurant energy consumption:

All Equipment: Picking up an energy-efficient model can save you up to $70 per year on refrigerators and up to $325 on freezers, according to the SBA. If you keep your existing equipment, you’ll see improved energy use if you take the time to clean off coils, set defrost timers, and replace doors and old gaskets.

Walk-In Fridge: The staple of the restaurant industry has a lot of different adjustments you can make to see savings. Adding strip curtains and automatic door closers is inexpensive and can reduce warmth from outside air by as much as 75%. If you check the doors and insulation lines on a regular basis, you can also keep from seeing energy costs rise during the year.

Ice Machines: New ice machine models can use 15% less energy and 10% less water than the model that’s in your kitchen right now, about $150 each year. You’ll also have options that are cleaner and have less mold and mildew buildup. You can optimize the use of any ice machine by installing a timer to reduce use at night. One secret tip is larger ice machines are usually more energy efficient than smaller units. If you need to expand, go bigger instead of doubling up.

ECMsAn electronically commutated motor for all of your units with evaporator and condenser fans will cut down the energy your fans use by 66% and give you added benefits of improved circulation.

Cooling operations have many great restaurant energy saving tips for you to use. The biggest tip to keep your operations running smoothly is simple maintenance. Check your liners, seals and more to stay cool.

Other Energy Saving Tips for Restaurants

While we’ve run through the major areas where you can see significant savings, there are plenty of other ways to improve your restaurant energy management. Restaurant energy saving ideas exist for every room and space in your store.

turning off dipper wells

Here are some additional ideas to consider when performing a revamp of other areas of your business:

  • Set zone heating to keep customers and staff comfortable while avoiding wasted energy on areas that aren’t being used.
  • Adjusting your heating and cooling systems by 3°F (warmer in the summer and colder in the winter) can cut your HVAC costs by between 12% and 15%.
  • Install insulation around piping to save on hot water costs. Restaurants use roughly 40% of their energy to heat water and oils, so improving your plumbing and helping it keep heat will reduce your costs almost everywhere in the kitchen.
  • Energy Star-certified ventilation fans use 70% less energy than those without the certification.
  • Demand-based kitchen exhaust vents can cut down on your exhaust system energy costs by 30% to 50%, with many retrofit options available.
  • Limit patio heaters to the time when you have a rush or existing customers, and cut back on slow days. You’ll save $500 per heater if you cut back its daily use by three hours.
  • Turning off down dipper wells when the kitchen is closed can save you as much as $1,000 each year.
  • Restaurants save an average of $1,000 annually by repairing sink leaks, mop stations and dishwashers.
  • Using only the “Auto” mode on your conveyor dishwasher optimizes electricity and water use, helping you see savings every single day.

These are just a few energy saving tips for restaurants you can use to improve your energy efficiency. Look for every opportunity you have to manage restaurant energy consumption, even the layout of your kitchen. If you can move heat-generating equipment away from those that keep things cold, they don’t have to work that hard.

The best step is to get a plan for your kitchen. You can make one yourself or work with a company like Shipley Energy to develop a customized energy strategy. Shipley has commercial energy specialists who can help you start saving money today.

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