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Restaurants require significant energy to operate and most owners who evaluate ways to improve their energy usage can uncover substantial cost savings. Though large amounts of power are needed for the kitchen, lighting and heating, there are many ways restaurant owners can go about lowering energy usage and reducing these operational costs. Just as important, improving restaurant energy efficiency ties into the larger mission of becoming a greener business overall.

How To Improve Restaurant Energy Efficiency

Four major areas of improvement to consider are:

  • Lighting
  • Heating
  • Air Conditioning
  • Appliances

By taking just a short time to examine exactly how energy is used in these areas, it is possible to find simple solutions that reduce energy waste, use energy more efficiently and lower your utility bills.

Restaurant Lighting

The lights you use in your restaurant are a very easy and inexpensive place to start improving energy efficiency. Switching to energy-efficient bulbs like LEDs across your restaurant can yield huge potential savings, at minimal costs. Studies have shown that approximately 90% of energy used by traditional iridescent bulbs is given off as heat, and this is wasted money not being used as light. Another quick and easy fix is switching to motion-activated switches for areas that do not need to be lit during all hours of operation, such as bathrooms, walk-in fridges, storage rooms and even offices. This will cut down on the amount of energy used, with no impact on your business whatsoever. In some states, the government will subsidize the switching out of lights or give you a tax credit.

Restaurant Heating

Heating the restaurant is another place to uncover hidden savings. Heat management can be a delicate balancing act between keeping guests comfortable and not wasting heat in areas where it is not required. Storage areas, bathrooms and the majority of the back-of-house do not require additional heating. Heat should be turned off overnight and turned back on at the start of the day, adjusting throughout the hours of operation based on the daily guest volume. Being diligent about using outdoor heat lamps and food warmers is important too. These items are traditionally left on throughout the day and may not be providing any useful heat at all.

Dext Heat Recovery is a system that can reduce heat expense by up to 60% by recycling heat wasted during the cooking process and repurposing it into free heat and hot water. This can be a great way to run your restaurant more efficiently and sustainably.

Restaurant Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is an expense that can seem almost mandatory. In hotter climates and during the warmer months, keeping guests cool and comfortable makes running your A/C a necessary expense. The best way to manage A/C costs and lower its environmental impact is to purchase an ENERGY STAR certified A/C unit. The Federal Energy Management Program has found that purchasing an ENERGY STAR model can save you over $1000 over the life of the unit.

Due to seasonal changes in temperature, some months naturally incur larger A/C or heating bills. Working around this annual cycle, you can take advantage of differences in the weather to find solutions to create a comfortable dining experience for your guests – potentially at different locations within the restaurant. As each floor layout is unique, this will be different for each restaurant.

With the current and coming changes to the restaurant industry, outdoor dining has become more commonplace and more accessible. Taking advantage of this is another way to help alleviate the need to run A/C units at lower temperatures.

Restaurant Appliances

The largest contributor to energy usage in a restaurant is the cost of running the appliances needed during food preparation and cooking. Finding places to save money in this sector, unfortunately, can be more difficult than simply changing a bulb. Aside from switching to energy-efficient appliances, finding ways to reduce energy consumption are few and far between. Some savings can be realized by closely examining the methods of food preparation and identifying if there are ways to prepare certain dishes more efficiently.

Another huge energy and utility sink is the commercial dishwashing equipment present in most restaurants. Finding energy- and water-efficient equipment can drastically reduce the operating costs of these machines.

Summary: Restaurant Energy Efficiency Requires Looking at All Parts of Your Business

Keeping your energy costs in mind and monitoring your daily usage is the first step to finding ways to improve restaurant energy efficiency. Every restaurant’s particular situation is different, but keeping a watchful eye out for places where energy is being wasted will enable you to create a snapshot of your business and improve your consumption. Managing the costs outlined in this article will drive profits and lower your carbon footprint. Creating a green work culture can also help staff pay more attention to their energy habits and collectively improve your restaurant’s sustainability performance. If you’re looking for ideas, check out theGreen Business Bureau’s EcoPlanner. Here’s one sample initiative from our library of over 400 green initiatives.

About the Author

Travers Schelleng

GBB Green Ambassador

Travers Schelleng is a content writer for Green Business Bureau who is looking to actively promote sustainability within the foodservice industry. With over a decade of restaurant expertise, he is currently working to help small businesses get a foothold in sustainability initiatives. Outside of work, Travers is passionate about music, film, and cooking.

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