How to Save Electricity (and Money) in Your Restaurant

Did you know restaurants use roughly 5-7 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings? The combination of energy used for cooking, ventilation and refrigeration make restaurants energy-intensive operations; however, there are ways to cut back on energy costs and save your restaurant money. According to ENERGY STAR, saving 20% on operating costs like energy can increase your profits by roughly 33%. 

But where do you start? With so many energy-intensive areas in restaurants, the task of cutting down costs can seem daunting. Fortunately, you don’t need to replace each piece of equipment in your restaurant to conserve energy and save money. A few small adjustments in key areas can lead to huge savings over time. 

Refrigeration

While refrigeration typically accounts for a smaller portion of restaurant energy costs (about 6%), regular maintenance offers an opportunity for easy energy savings. Follow these tips for reducing your restaurant’s refrigeration energy expenses: 

  • Clean your refrigerator’s cooling coils at least twice a year. The coils remove the heat from the fridge. When they accumulate dust over time, it insulates them making them less efficient at their job.
  • Arrange your kitchen to avoid having heating appliances near refrigerators. As you can imagine, having a stove next to a refrigerator will make the refrigerator work harder to keep its contents at proper temperature.
  • Ensure your refrigerators seal tightly. You can test this by placing a dollar bill between the seals. Consider replacing the seals if you can easily pull the dollar out, because that’s probably not the only money slipping through the door.
  • Save on energy costs by using an automatic timer to run your ice machine at night when there’s less residual heating in the building and less strain on your building’s electrical system.

Related reading: DIY Commercial Maintenance Tips

Sanitation

Sanitation accounts for almost 20% of the average restaurant’s energy consumption. A large driver of this is the energy needed to heat water for dishwashers and pre-rinse spray valves (PRSVs). A number of simple steps can be taken to reduce this cost:

  • Check the pressure gauge on your dishwasher; it should be running around 20 PSI. If it’s over 25 PSI, it’s probably consuming more energy than necessary.
  • Upgrade to high-efficiency PRSVs. Because they use less water, you’ll spend less heating it.
  • Ensure your dishwasher seals tightly, and only run full dish racks to reduce wasted energy.
  • Turn your dishwasher off each night.

Lighting

Energy for lighting is an overhead cost (no pun intended) for almost every business. Restaurants are no exception to that rule, but there are simple ways to reduce the energy your restaurant consumes for lighting. Plus, lighting upgrades often require relatively little capital, making them cost-effective investments in your restaurant. Following these tips can get you started.

  • If you haven’t already, upgrade to high-efficiency LED bulbs, which often use about 75% less energy than incandescent bulbs. Upgrade your restaurant’s exit signs to LED versions as well since they’re always on.
  • Consider installing automatic dimming systems, which can increase or reduce the amount of light each bulb emits depending on ambient lighting conditions.
  • Install automatic timers or motion sensors in bathrooms, storage areas, and other low-traffic areas in your restaurant.
  • Upgrade your outdoor lighting to solar-powered options.

Heating and Cooling

Heating and cooling is the second-largest energy consumer in most restaurants. Between expelling hot air from your kitchen, keeping your employees safe from hot working environments, and keeping your customers comfortable, there’s a considerable demand placed on your HVAC system. Consider these tips to reduce the energy spent on ventilation.

  • Automate your thermostat to work less and consume less energy during non-business hours.
  • Replace your air filters regularly. This will make your ventilation system more energy efficient and effective.
  • Repair damaged ducts and regularly monitor them for damage throughout the year. If air is escaping vent ducts, your HVAC systems aren’t operating at peak efficiency.
  • Consider adding additional panels to vent hoods in your kitchen. By increasing a vent hood’s ability to capture heat, less energy will be needed to cool other areas.

Related reading: How To Prevent Mechanical System Damage After Downtime

Food Preparation

The most energy-intensive part of restaurants is food preparation. Kitchen appliances not only use energy to cook, but they also expel that heat, leading to increased energy use for air conditioning, refrigeration and ventilation. But there are steps you can take to reduce the energy used in food prep.

  • Inspect oven gaskets and seals to ensure heat isn’t escaping unnecessarily. This can increase the workload for refrigerators and HVAC systems.
  • Replace missing knobs on kitchen appliances; this makes it more clear when an appliance is on and consuming energy, but not in use.
  • Sometimes simply changing your cooking vessel can lead to savings. Highly-conductive metals and designs that maximize the surface area exposed to the flame can improve heat transfer and help reduce your energy consumption.
  • Invest in ENERGY STAR certified equipment when you upgrade your food service equipment. While low-cost equipment is attractive in the short run, the appliance’s sticker cost is only a portion of its true cost. Over time, as the bills add up, the expense of low-cost-but-energy-intensive equipment will end up being higher  than the more expensive, but energy efficient piece of equipment.

Society Insurance is here to help

Slowly incorporating some of these tasks into a routine is attainable, and the savings return to you in profits. At Society Insurance, we know saving on energy costs in your restaurant is important because it’s not just your restaurant; it’s your livelihood. Contact a Society agent near you today for a customized business insurance quote. 

Related: 5 Types of Business Insurance You Shouldn’t Go Without 

Bonus Resource: Find ENERGY STAR rebates for your area

Author

As a mutual insurance company, we operate and exist for the benefit of our policyholders. For more than 100 years, Society has been helping businesses overcome the unexpected with comprehensive coverage packages and outstanding claims handling, underwriting and risk management.

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