3 Steps to Conserve Energy & Reduce Costs for Restaurants


The lights are off in the bathrooms? Check. And in the storage closet? Check. And the walk-in door is definitely closed? Check. And the back bar lights aren’t left on? Check.


When closing your restaurant for the day, the last thing you and your staff do is to switch off all the lights and make sure the fridges and freezers are closed tightly, right? As a restaurant owner you know the value of a dollar and the cost of wasted energy: a light bulb left idle all night can be the stuff of restaurant nightmares.


In the restaurant world energy efficiency is about economy: because saving energy saves money. According to energyideas.org, “by eliminating one hour per day of broiler idle, you can save $200 annually.” It may not sound like a lot, but coupled with dozens of other little energy wasters and it all adds up.


The Energy Innovators Initiative lists three main ways a restaurant can change to become more energy efficient: through technological change, organizational change, and behavioral change. Making tweaks in each of these areas will help you drive down energy costs at your restaurant. Here’s how:


Technological Change

Implementing new technology is the most impactful means of conserving energy, but people are often deterred because at first glance it can seem expensive. Changing lighting systems, optimizing heating, ventilation, and A/C systems, as well as implementing new technologies might have big overhead costs, but in the long run they are much easier on your checkbook.


Lighting: Fluorescent lighting, dimmable compact lighting, high efficiency halogen lamps, and LED lighting are all sustainable energy saving solutions. Another lighting consideration is motion sensor lighting in bathrooms and stock rooms.


Make sure to install the appropriate lighting for the space: fluorescent lighting is more suitable for kitchens, and high efficiency halogen lamps better suited for ambiance, for example.


Kitchen ventilation: Cleaning your vents can increase efficiency by as much as 50%. While vents not properly cleaned can drain energy up to 60%. So keep those vents clean!


Heating and cooling: According to sustainweb.org, reducing your restaurant’s temperature just by 1°C can shave 7% off your energy bills, and it’s likely no one will notice. Another tactic is to use an automatic “night setting” which adjusts on a timer to a lower temperature when scheduled, like when the restaurant is empty overnight.


For the kitchen, sustainweb.org also suggests that restaurants invest in thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) which reduce the amount of heat output from radiators as the kitchen gets hotter with staff and food.


Maintenance: “A regularly serviced boiler can save as much as 10% on annual heating costs.” That’s a huge amount of savings based on regular maintenance. To prevent heat from escaping, Sustain Web suggests that hot water tanks, pipes and values be insulated, which will cut heating costs. Also remember to check freezers, fridges, and walk-in seals for cracks that might be leaking cold air and have them fixed.


Organizational Change

Change occurs from the top down. When energy efficiency is a priority on the managerial or corporate level, it naturally works its way down to the daily habits of staff and operations.


Monitor energy costs: Begin by tracking your energy bills. Once you can quantify how much electricity is being used, you can measure how well your restaurant is doing and how much you’re saving with new methods once you’ve chosen to implement them.


Set goals: Once you know how much you’re spending, set and track energy savings goals. This way you’ll have quantifiable results to pass on to management and investors.


Behavioral Change

It’s not nagging – it’s saving. Little reminders can go a long way into creating a culture of energy saving, engraining positive, habitual behaviors so that conserving energy becomes second nature.


Start a conversation: Yelling at staff for leaving the lamp by the entrance on at night is a little overbearing, but raising staff awareness and training them to take initiative can drastically cut your energy costs by 2 to 10 percent.


Include energy saving tactics in closing duties: Checklists save the day every day! On your nightly closing duties chart, include things like turning off the storage room lights and double checking the walk-in freezer door, in addition to turning off the salamander or the heat lamps.


Similar to waste management, energy management isn’t just a say it once, forget about it kind of endeavor. To reap the financial benefits and cost savings, it needs to be ingrained in your company culture. Start small with changes, a positive attitude, and a long term goal. The small things add up quickly, so as the savings accumulate, you’ll reap the rewards.


About the Author

Andrea Victory

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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