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The restaurant industry is celebrated for creating magical meals and an inviting ambiance with very limited budgets. With commercial kitchens running at peak capacity during dinner rush and HVAC systems working overtime to keep patrons and chefs comfortable, it’s no surprise that energy costs add up quickly in restaurants. High energy consumption can dramatically affect your bottom line, cutting into profits and affecting your operational efficiency. Managing the four major restaurant energy expenses – kitchen appliances, HVAC, lighting, and water heaters – lowers your energy costs while improving sustainability and the competitive edge for your business. 

Understanding Restaurant Energy Consumption

Restaurants use five to seven times more energy per square foot than other commercial industries. This figure rises even further for high-volume quick-service restaurants. Restaurant owners face the challenges of safe food handling, hard working appliances, and maintaining comfortable lighting and temperature for their guests while balancing tight budgetary constraints. 

In the average restaurant, food storage and preparation accounts for 41% of energy consumption. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) utilizes 28%, lighting comprises 13%, and sanitation accounts for 18% of energy consumption, respectively. Understanding what areas of your restaurant consumes the most energy is crucial for creating a comprehensive energy management plan. By optimizing these four main energy-consumers, you can improve their performance while reducing your utility bills up to 30%.

Kitchen Equipment and Appliances

The kitchen is the heart and soul of your restaurant, encapsulating the energy-intensive core of operations. From ovens and refrigerators to grill tops and deep fryers, there are ample opportunities to improve efficiency in the kitchen. With the quality of your cuisine on the line,  inefficient equipment can significantly increase expenses and affect your overall profitability. Restaurant owners can optimize their kitchens through regular maintenance and strategically upgrading appliances for energy-efficient models. A proactive approach to appliance maintenance curbs energy waste, improves appliance performance, and ensures high quality cooking on every meal.

Energy Star Certification for Kitchen Equipment

When the time comes to replace outdated models, the savvy restaurant owner knows to look for new appliances with Energy Star Certification. Created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Energy Star provides energy-efficient resources and appliances to consumers. Each appliance granted the Energy Star label meets the EPA’s strict energy-efficiency guidelines, resulting in cost savings while supporting a healthier environment. Commercial kitchens that have been outfitted with a suite of Energy Star commercial appliances can save nearly $5,300 a year in energy costs. 

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Systems

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems are often the unsung heroes in the restaurant, working diligently to balance the scorching temperatures of the kitchen with a pleasant dining experience. These systems are essential for regulating temperature, managing humidity, and providing air circulation. Due to their continuous operation, HVAC systems significantly contribute to utility costs. 

Energy-Efficient HVAC Strategies

Regular HVAC monitoring and maintenance is the foundation of reducing HVAC energy costs. Air filters need to be changed monthly for optimal performance, and scheduling regular maintenance checks will alert you to any inefficiencies before they become costly repairs. Implement smart technologies like programmable thermostats and temperature zoning to create ideal environments in your kitchen and front-of-house while reducing unnecessary energy use. Additional measures to improve HVAC performance include sealing any air leaks and ensuring your building has proper insulation to avoid energy waste through temperature loss. Implementing these strategies improves customer comfort while lowering your energy bill.

Lighting Systems

Restaurant lighting systems are essential for developing the perfect ambiance for your patrons, but did you know that simple changes in lighting can result in substantial energy savings? Transitioning to energy-efficient lighting, particularly LED technology, offers the opportunity for reducing energy consumption while improving your restaurant’s atmosphere. LED lighting uses 75% less energy than traditional incandescent or fluorescent lighting and has a significantly longer lifespan, resulting in lower energy bills and minimal maintenance costs while receiving better quality illumination. 

Lighting Control Systems

To take energy savings even further, consider implementing lighting control systems in your restaurant. Occupancy sensors and timers ensure lights are only utilized in occupied spaces. Incorporating dimming switches can help create a more intimate ambiance while saving even more energy. During the day, restaurants can practice daylighting, or prioritizing sunlight over their overhead lighting systems, to create a comfortable and welcoming environment while encouraging energy-saving practices. These simple upgrades can make a big difference in your utility expenses.

Water Heating

Water heaters are an integral component of restaurant operations, serving diverse purposes from dishwashing to food preparation and sanitation. It’s one of the internal systems that doesn’t get much attention until there’s a maintenance issue to fix, however there are several opportunities for improved efficiency in water heating. In the restaurant industry, tank-based water heaters and tankless water heaters, also known as on-demand heaters, are the most common types of water heating. Through regular maintenance and upgrades, restaurants can benefit from lower utility costs while improving their system’s performance.  

Energy-Efficient Water Heating Solutions

To optimize your restaurant’s water heating system, prioritize adequate insulation on water tanks or hot water pipes to prevent energy waste through temperature loss. Setting the water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit reduces energy waste while lowering the health risk for scalding. When it’s time to upgrade systems, consider tankless water heaters that offer on-demand hot water while minimizing waste. Furthermore, implementing a heat recovery system can recycle your wasted energy to preheat incoming water. Regularly scheduled maintenance is also essential to identify inefficiencies before they impact service. These combined measures significantly minimize consumption while lowering overall operational costs.

Energy Management Systems

Energy Management Systems (EMS) offer comprehensive solutions for restaurants to efficiently monitor and regulate their energy consumption. Implementing an EMS provides restaurants with the ability to gain real-time insights into their energy usage, enabling better control and optimization. The benefits of EMS installation are numerous, including reduced operational costs, improved equipment performance, and a reduced environmental impact. EMS solutions are a data-driven approach to improving energy efficiency and reducing costs. 

EMS solutions are tailored to your specific needs and goals for customized energy control. Features like real-time energy monitoring allows immediate tracking of usage patterns while automated controls and scheduling optimize your energy consumption during peak and off-peak hours. The data analysis and reporting functions provide you with detailed insights, empowering you to make informed decisions about energy-saving practices and efficiency upgrades. Furthermore, the convenience of remote controls enables restaurant managers to make adjustments from afar, creating a flexible and effortless method for restaurant energy management.

Staff Awareness and Training

Restaurants can bolster their energy conservation efforts by encouraging staff engagement through energy conservation training. Education and involving employees in energy-saving practices fosters an environmentally-conscious workplace culture while reducing energy costs even further. When energy-saving behaviors are a collective effort, you’ll see immediate results in your energy bills.

Energy-Saving Tips for Kitchen Staff:

  • Optimize equipment usage: Schedule regular maintenance and encourage correct kitchen appliance operation to maximize efficiency.
  • Efficient food storage: Educate cooks on proper storage techniques to reduce energy consumption and prevent food waste.
  • Reduce idle times: Encourage turning off equipment during idle periods and when not in use to reduce standby energy loss.

Best Practices for Front-of-House Staff:

  • Effective lighting management: Encourage the use of natural light whenever possible, switching off unnecessary lighting, or utilizing dimmer switches when appropriate.
  • HVAC control during service: Train staff or management to monitor temperature settings, ensuring a comfortable dining environment while minimizing energy waste.
  • Close the Doors: Instruct staff to keep external doors and windows closed as much as possible to maintain the comfort of the dining room.

Benchmarking and Energy Auditing

Energy auditing and benchmarking are additional tools to inform opportunities for improvement and provide insights for financing opportunities. Energy Audits come in various forms from basic do-it-yourself assessments to in-depth professional analyses depending on your restaurant’s goals and budget. The purpose of energy audits is to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption and the feasibility of implementing efficiency upgrades. 

Benchmarking your restaurant’s energy performance is a useful tool to see how you compare to similar businesses in your industry as well as finding inspiration from similar restaurants who have had successful efficiency projects. Benchmarking encourages energy consumption transparency while celebrating energy conservation pioneers in the restaurant industry.

Financial Incentives and Rebates

Typically, upfront installation costs for energy-efficient upgrades is the biggest reason projects get delayed. Thankfully, there are a wide array of government incentives and rebates available for restaurants through the Department of Energy and Energy Star. These programs can significantly offset installation expenses, making efficiency upgrades a much more accessible reality. Restaurant owners should be mindful of eligibility requirements and deadlines to ensure your projects qualify for these helpful programs. 

Take Action to Lower Energy Costs Today

Effective restaurant energy management is not just a cost-saving measure, but a significant step towards sustainability and environmental responsibility. Through energy-saving behaviors, in-depth staff training, and regularly scheduled maintenance, your restaurant can significantly reduce energy costs while contributing to a greener future. A proactive approach to energy conservation today results in lower utility costs tomorrow. As one of the country’s largest energy brokers, Integrity Energy is dedicated to providing cost-effective energy plans that support your restaurant’s journey towards energy efficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How can kitchen equipment affect energy consumption in restaurants?

A: Kitchen equipment directly affects energy consumption through frequent usage and the energy-intensive nature of commercial appliances in-general. Consumption is affected further by outdated or inefficient appliances. 

Q: What is Energy Star certification, and why is it important for kitchen equipment?

A: Created by the EPA, Energy Star certification indicates that an appliance meets strict efficiency guidelines. This results in lower energy consumption, reduced operational costs, and improved sustainability.

Q: What are some energy-efficient HVAC strategies for restaurants?

A: Improve HVAC efficiency through regularly scheduled maintenance. Additionally, installing programmable thermostats, implementing zoning temperatures, and bolstering insulation will optimize performance and reduce energy waste.

Q: What are the benefits of using LED lighting in restaurants?

A: LED lighting benefits from reduced energy consumption, a longer lifespan, better quality illumination, and decreased maintenance costs. It contributes to an enhanced dining experience while lowering utility expenses. 

Q: How can water heating systems impact energy costs in restaurants?

A: Water heaters impact energy costs due to their wide variety of uses from dishwashing to food preparation and sanitation. Inefficient water heaters cause significant energy waste through temperature loss.

Q: What is an energy management system, and how can it help restaurants reduce energy consumption?

A: Energy management systems help restaurants monitor, regulate, and optimize energy usage. These systems offer insights to reduce consumption through data-driven decisions, equipment optimization, and staff engagement.

Q: What are some tips for engaging restaurant staff in energy conservation efforts?

A: Encourage staff engagement through employee education and training, identifying simple energy-saving measures, and celebrating employees who exhibit admirable energy conservation practices. 

Q: How can energy audits help restaurants identify energy-saving opportunities?

A: Energy audits identify energy-saving opportunities by evaluating your current energy usages. Their insights recognize areas for improvements and assessing the feasibility of implementing upgrades to reduce energy consumption and utility expenses.

Q: Are there any financial incentives or rebates available for energy-saving initiatives in restaurants?

A: Yes, there are a variety of government incentives and rebates available through the Department of Energy and Energy Star that can offset installation expenses for energy-saving initiatives in restaurants.


For answers to more of your energy efficiency questions, please visit our general FAQ page.