When you are the owner or manager of a food service business, using less energy for day-to-day operations becomes an important consideration. Food service businesses use almost two-and-a-half times more energy than other businesses. Concerns about sustainability and climate change have helped to turn the focus toward energy efficiency in all businesses, especially food service. Using energy more efficiently and reducing waste for your food service operations can cut down overhead costs, reduce the carbon footprint of your operations, and increase your bottom line.
Today, consumers respond most positively to companies that are invested in making positive social change. Think of what goals for sustainability and energy efficiency that you have for your food service business over the long term. By implementing small changes, you can achieve your long-term goals.
1. Have a plan. When planning out your restaurant’s design with your architect or building designer, keep a mind on sustainability and conservation by grouping your appliances together by temperature. Put appliances that generate a lot of heat such as broilers, open burners, griddles and steamers under the same vent.
2. Use your restaurant equipment with efficiency in mind. Turn on cooking appliances and heating just 20 minutes before you are ready to use them. Eliminate idle time on your appliances. Lights, fans, range hoods and signs should be turned off if they are not being used. Make sure that exterior signs and lighting are off during the day. Installing occupancy sensors for rooms that are used less often can actually help your business save money and become more energy efficient. If party or banquet rooms are unoccupied, reducing energy used in those rooms can save you money. Consider installing motion detectors to turn off lights and fans in restrooms when they are unoccupied.
3. Conduct proper maintenance of all HVAC and refrigeration equipment. Routine maintenance on these types of units should be done quarterly. Each year, schedule maintenance with a qualified service HVAC provider to lubricate equipment fans, inspect and clean evaporators and exchangers, and check and/or replace the belts. Check for any oil leaks on the body of the compressor or refrigeration lines. Make sure that all gaskets are tight and that doors properly close on refrigerators, cooling units soft serve equipment and commercial ice machines.
For ranges, make sure that doors are tight and gaskets fit properly to ensure more efficient cooking times and less energy waste. Replace or clean any grease filters in range hoods and fans in order to keep them running efficiently and reduce the risk of fire. Energy management system (EMS) hoods have sensors that respond to both heat and smoke and will turn fans down or off when they are unnecessary.
4. Identify areas of waste. Do a quick 10 minute energy audit. Doing a more detailed analysis can identify further problem areas and help you establish better energy consumption habits.
5. Train your staff to be conscious of energy efficiency and sustainability practices. Engaging members of your staff in energy saving behaviors that are a part of the daily checklist can give them a sense of accountability and community by making them aware how their actions affect the overall operation of your food service business. This can give added job satisfaction and increase your bottom line. Creating value for both staff and your customers can reinforce and promote your brand in terms of social capital.
6. Switch to more efficient lighting. The National Restaurant Association and North American LED have teamed up to offer LED solutions for members. Lighting accounts for 13 percent of the energy expenditure in a restaurant or food service operation. Because they are far more efficient than other forms of lighting, restaurant owners will see up to a 75 percent improvement in efficiency.
Converting to LED lighting requires an initial up-front investment, but the LED bulbs also last 10-50 times longer than other bulbs. Restaurant owners will see an almost immediate reduction in energy costs. Replacing 10 halogen (MR16) flood bulbs will save an average of $250 per year and eliminate over 3,000 pounds of carbon emissions annually.
7. Use water more efficiently. Use cold water when possible; set your water heaters between 120 to 140 degrees. Be sure to fix any leaks, as even the tiniest leak can rack up huge bills. Consider wrapping hot water heaters and hot water pipes with insulation to help save energy costs.
8. Follow the Energy Star for energy efficiency. When you decide to replace your appliances, always look for Energy Star label. The Energy Star program was created by the EPA to reduce carbon emissions. It also offers rebates, giving restaurant owners a win-win in up-front and energy costs.
Taking these easy steps and putting a plan in place can make your food service business more energy efficient and sustainable. By reviewing your energy practices, you can arrive at the best solution for your operations and help us all live in a greener world.
Mark Masterson is the manager of IceMachinesPlus.com with over 10 years of experience in the restaurant and bar industry. With an extensive background in restaurant industry, Mark is focused on providing quality information and advice to contractors and purchasing managers about the best practices on choosing the right type of ice machine for your client.