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How Can Restaurant Owners Slash Energy Expenses in the Colder Months? 

From the kitchen to the dining room, the food service industry consumes far more energy than other commercial spaces. Restaurant owners especially feel the pinch from their utility bills during the winter. After all, keeping their establishments warm and comfortable for patrons and staff is expensive.

It’s little wonder restaurant owners look for ways to cut back energy costs in the colder months. Avoid the high cost of additional energy consumption in the following seven ways.

Run an Energy Audit

An energy audit allows you to take stock of your restaurant’s current energy use and areas of improvement. Your utility company can help you with this task if you contact them. 

An energy audit is an excellent place to start setting goals and generating a plan to conserve energy. For instance, there may be areas you didn’t realize needed your attention, such as older cooking equipment or inefficient bathroom fixtures. 

Maintain Your Equipment

When was the last time you deep-cleaned your restaurant equipment? Some machines and appliances require daily cleaning by law, but others may be accumulating debris and grime. Unfortunately, this could cause them to work harder than they need to.

The same goes for regular servicing — if your equipment shows signs of breaking down, call for maintenance early. 

A few things you can do yourself to maintain equipment include changing out air and water filters, unclogging the refrigerator coils and cleaning the hood vent. It is essential to clean the hood every few months so it can properly ventilate. 

Upgrade Equipment and Appliances

Purchasing new equipment for your establishment is an investment. However, restaurant energy expenses typically account for 25% to 30% of your total operating expenditure. You can continue patching up broken machinery, but purchasing newer models with better performance could be more cost-effective.  

Not to mention, current commercial restaurant equipment must meet federal energy efficiency standards. One can expect a small restaurant’s furnace to work overtime in the winter. However, an ENERGY STAR furnace is about 15% more efficient than its standard counterpart, so you can continue providing a comfortable dining experience at a lesser cost.

It is also an ideal time to assess whether you should replace kitchen appliances. Current refrigerator, oven, stovetop and microwave models are manufactured according to federal efficiency standards. 

Conserve Water

Restaurants use a lot of water, which significantly impacts your operating expenses. How many times a day do people run the dishwasher, wash their hands or make ice? It’s time to implement water-conserving upgrades and protocols if you don’t have them in place already.

Tips for conserving water at your restaurant include the following:

  • Fix leaks around faucets and pipes.
  • Only run the dishwasher if it is full.
  • Replace old toilets with water-conserving models.
  • Serve water only if it is requested.
  • Install motion sensor faucets in bathrooms.
  • Add low-flow aerators to faucets.

You may be surprised to learn many restaurants do not have aerators installed on faucets. However, low-flow aerators reduce hot water consumption by 60% — saving 9,000 gallons of hot water annually with 15 minutes of daily use. 

Improve Indoor Temperature

Your restaurant’s heating and cooling system consumes much of your energy and outlay. Installing a programmable or smart thermostat is an excellent way to maintain an ideal indoor temperature when it’s cold outside.

The U.S. Department of Energy says you can save 10% on heating and cooling when you set your thermostat back 7° to 10° Fahrenheit for eight hours daily in the winter. 

Because you run your heating system regularly at this time of year, changing your air filter every month is also important. Dirty air filters block adequate airflow.

Additionally, you can prevent air leaks by weatherstripping around your restaurant’s windows. Air leaks could be making your HVAC unit run more often than needed. 

Swap Out Light Bulbs

Replacing incandescent light bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) is one of the simplest energy upgrades to make your establishment more efficient. 

LED energy outputs are 90% less than traditional bulbs and last 25 times longer. This equates to spending less money on lighting and replacement bulbs. 

Eventually, LEDs may be the only light bulbs you can purchase for your restaurant anyway. The Biden Administration issued a ban on incandescent bulbs in 2022. All light bulbs sold at stores must now meet a minimum standard of 45 lumens per watt, which will help cut 222 million metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2030.

Dimmers also make a difference in saving lighting energy and allow you to set a cozier mood in the dining room.

Train Staff

Slashing your energy expenses is a team effort. Therefore, your staff should be hands-on in your restaurant’s energy conservation plan.

Be sure to update the employee handbook with new energy-saving rules for the restaurant. Then, hold a staff meeting to go over the protocol and answer any of their questions. It is a good idea to offer all staff additional training, especially if upgrades and new equipment are needed.

Help them remember the guidelines by hanging signs around the restaurant, particularly in the kitchen where cooktops are heavily operated. 

Energy Efficiency Saves Restaurants Money During the Winter

Some food service owners see green business and energy conservation as a bother. However, you can save a lot of money by making simple, eco-friendly changes to your energy use. 

Don’t get stuck footing an expensive electricity bill this winter. You could put those costs back into your restaurant in other ways. 

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