August 15, 2023

Energy efficiency provides restaurants an opportunity to reduce operating expenses and free up business cash flow. Even small changes—like introducing new staff protocols or adding efficient dishwashers—can add up over time. Below, Efficiency Smart Lead Engineering Consultant, Tim Stearns shares six tips restaurants can use in the kitchen, dining room, and elsewhere to manage operational expenses.

1. Set the mood with decorative LED bulbs.

Today’s LED options let restaurants retain their ambiance while saving on energy costs. For example, Edison-style bulbs, which mimic the glowing filaments of incandescent bulbs, are now easy to find at a reasonable price.

Most LED lamps and fixtures are now priced comparably to incandescent and fluorescents, meaning the payback on an upgrade is faster than ever. You’ll also avoid burning staff time on frequent bulb replacements, as LEDs last longer as well.

Learn more about LED lighting for businesses

2. Spend less to keep products fresh.

Food is a huge expense for restaurants, and the cost to store it isn’t far behind. For example, refrigeration makes up an average of 44% of electric use in a commercial kitchen.[1]

Inefficient refrigeration isn’t just more costly—it spoils food faster, too. Regular maintenance can help keep equipment running as efficiently as possible. And, when it’s time to replace your fridge or freezer, opt for one with the ENERGY STAR logo. These units are certified to be the most energy-efficient, providing around nine percent greater efficiency than standard models.[2]

Learn more about ways to save on refrigeration

3. Take a hands-off approach to dishes.

Hot water is another big expense for restaurants. On average, water heating eats up about 10 percent of restaurants’ total energy use.[3] Low-flow pre-rinse spray valves and high-efficiency dishwashers use a fraction of the energy while saving valuable staff time compared to handwashing.

4. Improve Your HVAC.

Regarding cooking ventilation, there are a couple of ways to enable your exhaust fans to do less work to remove the same amount of air. One is to choose energy-efficient hood designs and layouts. Opt for backshelf hoods that are Underwriters Laboratory (UL)-listed and group heavy-duty appliances closest to the fans, with ovens at the ends. Turn off your hood at night or use variable-speed controllers to sense when the exhaust fan is needed. The rest of the time, the hood controllers will minimize or shut off the exhaust, yielding paybacks in as little as one to two years.[4]

When it comes to heating, cooling, and ventilating your entire restaurant space, check your rooftop unit (RTU) annually for any red flags that could indicate the system isn’t operating effectively. Consider installing RTU controllers (or, if you rent, ask your landlord to) to sense when ventilation is needed and cut back on energy use when it isn’t. Demand-controlled ventilation sensors can also sense when a restaurant is full or empty and adjust ventilation accordingly.

Learn more about commercial HVAC

5. Adopt an efficiency mindset.

Make it part of your staff culture to use only what is needed. Work with managers to create schedules or checklists that encourage staff to turn off (or down) lights, idle equipment, and limit water usage.

Keep an eye on other things at your restaurant that use energy. For instance, cooking equipment makes up about a fifth of a restaurant’s electricity use. Ovens, fryers, broilers, and burners all use a substantial amount of energy, so opt for ENERGY STAR-certified appliances that will save money year after year.

6. Make time for maintenance.

Set up regular cleanings and tune-ups for key equipment to keep things running smoothly and catch any issues before they become emergencies. Beware of band-aid solutions that mask a problem instead of fixing it.

Waiting for repairs can lead to inopportune equipment failure. It may also limit your options to replace the equipment with something more energy efficient, which would have saved you more money in the long run.


Get started today

Efficiency Smart can help you prioritize energy efficiency upgrades that deliver a quick payback, improve customer and staff experience, and reduce downtime. We can provide rebates and technical guidance customized for your restaurant. For more on how to get started, contact your local account manager, call 877-889-377, or email [email protected].