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How to Reduce Your Restaurant’s Energy Expenses: 7 Simple Tips

Restaurant managers are all too familiar with the costs of operations. Labor, inventory, administrative outlays and equipment are only a few financial burdens associated with owning a restaurant. As such, many owners search high and low for ways to save money for their businesses.

In an effort to increase sustainability within the hospitality industry, restaurants now have plenty of options to reduce their energy consumption. At the same time, a move toward energy efficiency helps restaurants save on energy costs. Here are seven simple tips to reduce your restaurant’s energy expenses and save money.

Buy Energy-Efficient Equipment

Commercial kitchen appliances may be your restaurant’s most prominent energy guzzler. However, several advanced energy-efficient models on the market are worth the investment. While you may need to spend more on quality equipment, the return on investment could save you thousands of dollars a year.

For instance, you could save $5,300 annually by installing ENERGY STAR-rated commercial kitchen appliances. An ENERGY STAR commercial dishwasher alone is 40% more energy efficient than standard dishwashers and can amount to over $19,000 in utility savings over the product’s lifetime.

Maintain Equipment

If an upgraded kitchen is out of your budget, maintaining the equipment you have can reduce your restaurant’s energy expenses. Frequent use of your food service appliances could lead to lower performance over time.

Proper cleaning and regularly scheduled maintenance can prolong your equipment’s functioning and improve energy efficiency. For instance, a dirty hood vent can’t remove odors, smoke and other airborne contaminants, decreasing your restaurant’s air quality. When your product has fully reached the end of its life, that may be the best time to consider buying energy-efficient replacements.

Optimize Lighting

One of the easiest ways to cut energy costs is to swap out your restaurant’s incandescent light bulbs for light-emitting diodes (LEDs). Commercial LEDs have become more affordable as their popularity has grown. Nowadays, you can optimize your business’s lighting and watch your savings mount.

LEDs use nearly 75% less energy than traditional bulbs and last 25 times longer, meaning you won’t have to spend money to replace them as frequently. They also generate less heat than incandescent and CFL bulbs, which release up to 90% of their energy as heat. 

Other ways to enhance your restaurant’s lighting are to reduce energy costs. Doing so could include using dimmers with automatic sensors, installing outdoor lighting with daylight sensors, and utilizing motion sensor lights in storage rooms, pantries and bathrooms.

Conserve Water

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), restaurants accounted for 15% of total commercial water consumption in the United States in 2012 — a significant expense toward restaurant utilities.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to conserve water at your establishment, such as:

  • Allowing meats to thaw in the fridge overnight instead of in a sink or tub.
  • Replacing pre-rinse spray valves with low-flow models.
  • Washing dishes with full racks.
  • Cleaning all fruits and vegetables at once.
  • Replacing bathroom toilets and sinks with water-conserving WaterSense models.

Restaurant owners might also only provide patrons water if requested. California made serving water in restaurants illegal in 2015 to curb the water shortage — now, patrons may only get a glass of water when they ask for one. Austin, Texas, adopted a similar rule for restaurants back in 2012 and maintained it regardless of whether the city is facing a drought or water crisis.

Lower the Heat

Indoor temperatures can rise quickly in a restaurant — from cooking to occupancy, you likely run the air conditioner often. To reduce your restaurant’s energy expenses, look for ways to lower the heat.

Consider investing in a smart thermostat to enhance indoor temperature comfort. Smart thermostats are programmable using your smartphone and can learn your preferences and schedule over time.

Reducing the water temperature in your dishwasher is also an option. Health codes mandate that dishwasher temperatures run at 140° Fahrenheit to eliminate bacteria. Always check the rules for your area to ensure you’re not running water hotter than you need to.

You could also swap out standard hand dryers in your bathroom for unheated models. Unheated hand dryers blow forced air instead of heated air to dry hands.

Reduce Idle Time

Saving energy and money doesn’t always require investing in new equipment for your restaurant — sometimes, it’s as simple as cutting back on idle time. Restaurants can rack up hundreds of dollars by leaving their equipment running.

Consider implementing a new schedule for starting up and shutting down equipment and lights. Staff should adhere to the plan, remembering to turn off food service appliances when they’re no longer in use and restarting them when the restaurant opens. Installing smart controls and timers is another cost-effective way to reduce idle time so your restaurant isn’t running unnecessarily.

Consult With Your Utility Company

Figuring out how to decrease your restaurant’s energy consumption may be overwhelming. Your utility company can provide insights and suggestions if you need help figuring out where to start.

Call your utility company for an energy assessment. They’ll provide a comprehensive report that indicates areas of your restaurant that consume the most energy. You’ll then be able to establish an appropriate course of action to reduce your restaurant’s energy expenditures based on the results of the report.

Energy Efficiency Is Good for Your Bottom Line

Finding areas to save money is critical for a successful restaurant business. By improving your restaurant’s energy efficiency, you can reap the benefits of utility savings. Even minor changes to your operations can significantly impact your bottom line.

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