Whether it is a local diner that serves as the community’s unofficial meeting hall, a five-star destination for “foodies” across the state or a significant industry in a resort town, almost every utility can count at least one restaurant among its commercial customers.
These businesses use five to seven times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. In its Guide for Restaurants , the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that when a restaurant cuts its energy costs by 20 percent, its profits could increase by 30 percent or more. That’s why Western customers like Salt River Project and Sacramento Municipal Utility District work with restaurants to increase their energy efficiency.
Not the usual suspects
Restaurants use the bulk of their energy during food preparation, so the lighting programs that help to reduce utility bills for offices and retail stores won’t have the same impact for these customers. Take the average deep fryer, for example—it uses more than 18,000 kilowatt-hours and costs around $1,800 per year to operate. Refrigeration and water heating are two more functions that consume large quantities of energy. Utilities with a lot of food service businesses in their territory might consider establishing an incentive program to encourage them to upgrade their equipment. Such programs would also benefit hotels, hospitals, grocery stores and residential institutions.
If you do not have enough restaurants and similar operations in your territory to warrant a targeted incentive program, you can still provide business owners with good advice and technical assistance. Start by sharing these five guidelines from the EPA for maximizing the efficiency of food prep equipment:
- Reduce idle time. Keeping equipment on when it isn’t in use costs money and wastes energy. Implementing a startup and shutdown schedule for energy intensive equipment like broilers, fryers and ranges is a good first step toward managing energy use.
- Maintain your equipment. Improper seals, leaks, dirty coils and faulty equipment all waste energy and money. Incorporating a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule for all equipment will significantly improve efficiency.
- Calibrate your equipment. Perform a regular thermostat check to be sure that your freezers, refrigerators, appliances, dishwashers and hot water heaters are operating at their optimal temperatures.
- Install variable speed controls on your exhaust hood to dramatically reduce the run time for fans.
- Buy Energy Star-certified equipment when replacement becomes necessary. Fryers, steamers, convection ovens, griddles, broilers, combination ovens, ranges, reach-in refrigerators and freezers, walk-in refrigerators and freezers and ice machines are all available with an Energy Star certification.
Sending these tips as a bill stuffer to your restaurant and hospitality customers might even inspire them to think about making bigger investments in energy efficiency.
Low-hanging fruit on menu
Food preparation and storage may be the biggest source of energy savings for restaurants, but lighting and heating and cooling (HVAC) systems are still worth upgrading.
Common lighting measures include replacing T12 lamps and electronic ballasts with T8 lamps and magnetic ballasts. Replacing exit and incandescent or neon signage with LED signage, and installing occupancy sensors for low traffic areas can also make a difference on electricity bills.
Just like kitchen appliances, HVAC equipment performs better with regular cleaning and maintenance. Programmable thermostats are another inexpensive way to improve HVAC efficiency. When it is time to replace the HVAC system, encourage the building owner to invest in an Energy Star HVAC system for significant savings over the life of the equipment. No matter who is paying the utility bills, keeping operating costs down is good for business.
Restaurants are big water users, too, which is why several California utilities, including the City of Palo Alto Utilities , offer incentives for reduced water use fixtures. Sustainable Food Service recommends installing aerators and especially pre-rinse spray valves as a low-cost way to reduce water use for dishwashing.
Help for the little guy
One more reason for utilities to take an interest in restaurant energy use is that many are small, locally owned establishments. By helping these businesses to keep their operating costs down, power providers are supporting their communities. Check out these resources from the U.S. Small Business Administration for more ideas on serving up energy savings for restaurants. Your customers—and community—will thank you.