eTundra Categories

Archive | Going Green

Going green is a huge buzzword these days, but the great thing about it is, going green can also save you money. Learn how here.

Happy Earth Day!


As we all know, recycling and reusing are core tenets of the environmental movement. To honor those goals, we’re going to reuse some pixels and highlight some of the many “Going Green” blog posts in our archives.

We’ve been banging the drum for the environment for quite a long time, so whether you’re looking for money-saving tips or ideas on how to build a sustainability plan for your restaurant, you’re sure to find something here. Happy reading!

Grow Local

The local food movement has hit the mainstream and that’s a wonderful thing to behold. Sourcing food locally allows restaurants to hit all of the key checkboxes of sustainability: people, planet and profit.

How To Source Food Locally: A Business Guide To Success
Restaurants and Farmers Work Together To Reduce Waste and Improve Crop Yields
The Conflict Between Local Food And Local Government
Chefs Make Their Own Honey
Greener and Cheaper: Restaurants Grow Their Own Food

Reducing Water & Food Waste

Reducing waste is a perennial goal in the restaurant industry. Given that there’s roughly 990,000 food-service establishments in the U.S. alone, reducing waste  is a big deal,  for both the planet and the bottom line.

Today’s Food Scraps = Tomorrow’s Soup du Jour
Recycling the Notion of Going Green
How To Save On Toilet Paper & Other Paper Products
Green Restaurant Tips: Recycling Feels Good
10 Tips For Commercial Water Conservation
Your Restaurant’s Guide To Commercial Composting
Stop Giving Waste Fryer Oil Away!
Becoming A “Zero Landfill Company” Is A Journey
Use Edible Scraps To Create Restaurant Family Meals
How A Low Flow Valve Can Improve Your Cash Flow (AND Green Cred)
Green Restaurants: Turning Food Waste Into Electricity
Is Your Restaurant’s Commercial Dish Machine Efficient?
Dipper Wells: Why You Should Turn Yours Off TODAY

Sustainable Seafood

Want your guests to really enjoy your seafood entrees?  Serve sustainable, ocean-friendly fish and shellfish and tell ’em all about it! They’ll appreciate your commitment to environmental responsibility and be more likely to come back.

Who Wants Some Iridescent Shark?
Darden Group Driving Sustainable Seafood Practices
Sardines: Sustainable AND Delectable??
Serve Sustainable Seafood
Can We Bring Bluefin Tuna Back From The Brink?

Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a classic example of a win-win. Using less energy means lower CO2 emissions and a healthier planet for future generations. It also means lower operating costs and bigger profits for you.

A Really Easy Way To Make Commercial Steam Tables Energy Efficient
Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 1
Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2
Energy Management Systems, Restaurants and ROI – Part 3
4 Strategies For Better Commercial Refrigeration Efficiency
How To Become A LEED Certified Restaurant and Why You Should
Is Your Restaurant Exhaust System Sucking Up Money?
17 Energy Efficiency And Going Green Tips
Restaurant Energy Efficiency: 10 Tips
Green Restaurant Tips: Use Efficiency Rebates!
Efficient Water Heating in Restaurants
How Hybrid Water Heating Can Make Your Restaurant As Cool As A Prius
The EndoTherm Thermometer: Does It Really Help You Save Energy and Improve Food Safety?
10 Energy Efficiency Tips for Your Restaurant
Which Energy Efficiency Upgrades Are The Best Investment?
Green Restaurant Tips: Restaurant Energy Management Systems

Building Sustainability into Your Brand

Want to do well by doing good? Incorporating your existing sustainability efforts into your marketing is a great way to distinguish your restaurant from the competition and build a loyal fan base of like-minded patrons.

Green Initiatives: A Rise In Cost Or A Part Of Your Marketing Budget?
The Green Restaurant Association: Sustainable Knowledge Is Power
Green Consumer Trend Still Going Strong
Why Chipotle’s Food With Integrity Is Good Business

Green Tips and How-To’s

Want to reduce your footprint and cut operating costs? We have some good ideas for you!

Efficient Restaurant Tips: Manage Equipment
Ten Cheap Ways To Increase Restaurant Efficiency (AND Profits!)
How to be a Green Restaurant and Cut Costs
Green Restaurant Tips: Manage Equipment
This Isn’t American Idol: How Chipotle Went Platinum
Green Restaurant Tips: Looking Past Your Kitchen
7 Sustainability Tips For Your Restaurant
4 Steps For Building An Effective Sustainability Plan For Your Restaurant
7 Sustainability Tips For Your Restaurant

Continue Reading

Green Is Always in Season

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), “Environmentally responsible practices are becoming the new normal across the industry, as restaurateurs recognize that recycling, waste reduction, and water and energy efficiency are good for their business and our world.”

Amen to that! There are nearly 990,000 restaurant locations in the U.S., and food service is an incredibly resource-intensive endeavor, so when an industry as large as ours decides to go green, the reverberations are huge.

In one particularly impressive case of efficiency savings, Ted’s Montana Grill spent $111,000 to switch to LED lighting, and ended up saving $140,000 in the first year and $250,000 in the second year on electricity bills.

That’s a large example, to be sure, but there are hundreds of small things food-service pros can do to tread a little lighter and reduce their operating costs in the process. Examples include:

  • Serving water by request only (tap not bottled)
  • Using recycled/compostable disposable containers
  • Installing energy efficient hand dryers in restrooms
  • Reducing portion sizes (scales help)
  • Serving sustainable, ocean-friendly seafood
  • Freezing edible food scraps for later use
  • Composting inedible food scraps
  • Developing more vegetarian dishes
  • Cleaning with eco-friendly detergents
  • Sourcing produce from nearby farms (within 100 mi.)
  • Recycling cooking/fryer oil
  • Using linen/cotton napkins instead of paper

Doing Well by Doing Good
Sustainability is more than a cost-saving strategy, however. It’s also a smart growth strategy, especially when you consider that consumers actively prefer dining at establishments that have a clear commitment to preserving the environment for future generations. The NRA’s 2013 Restaurant Industry Forecast found that nearly half of all restaurant-goers are likely to make a restaurant choice based on its energy and water conservation practices alone!

Green begets green, if you know what I mean. In a competitive marketplace, a restaurant’s commitment to sustainability can become a very lucrative differentiator. (See also: Chipotle Mexican Grill)

If your restaurant, bar, cafe or catering company wants to lessen its impact, the NRA has a wealth of resources to guide your efforts. The association’s Conserve program, launched in 2008, helps operators implement conservation practices that are good for the environment and their bottom line. The initiative even provides restaurateurs with a fully customized roadmap to reducing their energy and water consumption. Check it out!

Continue Reading

Shopping Guide: Spring Cleaning for Restaurants

tundra-floor-cleaner-59239Throughout most of human history, spring has been a time for deep cleaning. As the air warms and winter recedes, now is the perfect time to roll up your sleeves and give your restaurant a thorough tip-to-toe scrubbing. We have some products that will help your spring cleaning efforts!

Floor Rescue
In the winter months, customers track in snow, gravel and caustic ice-melt, and floors take a severe beating. Early spring is the perfect time to give them some extra attention. Giving your carpet, wood and tile floors some extra love will increase their longevity and keep your restaurant looking sharp.

Restroom Revitalization
Get this: according to a poll by Harris Interactive, 88 percent of people who encounter a dirty restroom think that’s how the kitchen looks too. Yikes! But you already knew that, and you obviously clean your bathrooms daily. But sometimes it’s smart to invest in new equipment and supplies to make your job a little easier! Tundra has what you need to clean restrooms and comfort your patrons.

window-washing-kit-83239Window Washing
How can you expect to lure hungry passersby if your windows are coated with dirt, dust and grime? Clean windows are incredibly important if your restaurant relies on foot traffic. This window washing kit from Continental Manufacturing will help you snag more walk-ins as the weather warms up.

Safety Check
Spring is a good time to make sure you’re fully stocked on first aid supplies, because creating a safe environment for your employees isn’t just a legal obligation—it’s the right thing to do!

granite-steel-cleaner-nbcnewgranite5Green Cleaning
A month from now we’ll celebrate Earth Day. What is your restaurant doing to minimize its impact on future generations? Cleaning agents can be pretty nasty, so if you’re looking to be a little kinder to the environment, switching to eco-friendly products is a great place to start.

The bonus to going green? Happy patrons. According to one survey, 84 percent of U.S. adults prefer to do business with a company that uses environmentally-friendly products and practices.

Quick Spring Cleaning Checklist for Restaurants

Here’s a quick list of some common things to inspect and consider replacing when undergoing spring cleaning:

  • Door/Refrigeration Gaskets
  • Wire and Refrigeration Shelves
  • Food Bins and Storage Tubs
  • Grease Baffles
  • Burners and Burner Grates
  • Ice/H2O Filters
  • Floor Mats
  • Walk-in Vinyl Drapes/Air Curtains
  • Plumbing Fixtures

Shop Cleaning & Janitorial Supplies
Continue Reading

Grease Traps: Everything You Always Wanted to Know (and More!)

Remember the London fatberg story?

Sorry if you were trying to put it out of your mind.

As you might recall, in August 2013 sewer workers in London discovered a double-decker-bus-sized mass of grease and wet naps, which was immortalized in the tabloids as “fatberg.” The berg had nearly blocked the entire 7-foot diameter pipe. Had it fully blocked the pipe, residents of the London borough of Kingston would’ve been in for a MOST UNPLEASANT surprise.

“The sewer was almost completely clogged,” sewer worker Gordon Hailwood told the Guardian. “If we hadn’t discovered it in time, raw sewage could have started spurting out of manholes across the whole of Kingston.”

The 15-ton London fatberg incident is a great illustration of the unheralded importance—to our infrastructure and to our public health—of grease traps: those toolbox-sized containers that commercial kitchens put below their sinks. The purpose of grease traps, also known as grease interceptors, is to reduce the amount of fats, oils and greases (FOGs) that enter our sewer systems.

As anyone who has cooked bacon knows, grease congeals when it cools, and can cling to and eventually clog your pipes if you pour it down the drain. The London fatberg incident shows what happens, on a macro level, when too much grease oozes into the public sewer system. Because when too much grease accumulates in the sewer, raw sewage has nowhere else to go but … everywhere.

According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, sewers back up an estimated 400,000 times each year due to pipe blockages, and and grease is the primary culprit, resulting in over 10 billion gallons of raw sewage spills each year.

So, the moral of the story? Grease traps are a VERY good thing that EVERYONE benefits from, and that’s why virtually every municipality requires their use in commercial kitchens to prevent FOGs from clogging public sewer lines.

That said, not all grease traps are created equal! To ensure that your device not only does the job but proves durable over the long run, head over to and shop of wide selection of top-of-the-line grease traps!

Continue Reading

Today’s Food Scraps = Tomorrow’s Soup du Jour

Food scraps

Did you know that here in the United States we toss 40 percent of our food—perfectly edible food—into the trash? That’s a 50 percent increase since the 1970s.

At our nation’s restaurants, a pound of food is wasted per meal created. Food waste is the single most abundant material in our landfills. (Check out this infographic for more food waste stats—it’s an eye-opener.)

You don’t have to be a card-carrying, Greenpeace-dues-paying hippie to see the folly in this extravagance. Anyone with even a smidgen of thrift can see that this level of waste is utterly bonkers.

Here’s the good news: reversing this wasteful behavior isn’t hard, and you’ll save a bundle of money in the process.

So what can you do with your food scraps? An improvised soup—sometimes referred to as “garbage soup” or “kitchen sink soup”—is a good choice, particularly this time of year, with cooler temperatures ushering in the hot soup season.

Tip: Don’t call it garbage soup outside the kitchen. :)

I’ve found that the hardest part is simply getting in the habit of saving your scraps. One strategy is to designate specific food storage bins to collect scraps for later use, either for the fridge or the freezer. That way, there isn’t so much pressure to immediately put them to use.

So what kind of scraps can you freeze and use? Well, if you making stock, the sky’s the limit! Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Meat bones (be extra sure to keep frozen until you use them to prevent spoiling)
  • Corn cobs
  • Vegetable tops (e.g. carrots, leeks, beets and fennel)
  • Tomato skins, seeds and juice
  • Potato skins
  • Coffee
  • Shrimp shells
  • Mushroom stems
  • Carrot peelings
  • Cabbage cores
  • Brocoli stumps
  • Pepper seeds and pith
  • Celery root stems and leaves
  • Onion and garlic ends
  • Herb stems

Thrifty Good Life has a helpful warning:

Items to avoid: NEVER use any green parts from vegetables in the nightshade family (tomato, pepper, potato) as these plant parts contain toxic elements. This means – avoid the stems or leaves of bell peppers, tomatoes as well as potatoes with any sprouts on them or green color. Never use any vegetable with black mold or any old/rotten meat. 

Feel free to share your own food-scrap-saving tips in the comments!

Continue Reading

Recycling the Notion of Going Green

Recycling at RestaurantsRecycling at RestaurantsWith green initiatives often perceived as a more expensive way to run your restaurant, the inherent value it provides through the eyes of your customers can easily outweigh monetary costs. If your bottom dollar is what’s keeping you from working environmentally conscious practices into your restaurant, consider green initiatives a piece of your marketing budget and treat them like new opportunities. Customers are on-board when it comes to cleaning up your operation, and fortunately going green doesn’t have to be done through one giant leap in order to impress.

Try starting small with a recycling program.

 Fundamentally, recycling should be the first step when considering going green. It does no good (and sends a mixed message to customers) if you’ve got low-energy light bulbs, but throw all your recyclable materials straight into the trash.

Start small with a determined recycling effort, grooming your employees to properly recycle where possible, and watch it grow into a practiced state of mind. Face it, customers these day are going to be more disappointed to not see the blue bin next to your trash can than knowing you use traditional light bulbs. Advertising and putting into practice steps intended to make your kitchen greener – starting with a recycling program – goes a long way.

  • Get ahead of the curve. Not only does recycling hold value to your customers, it’s quickly becoming a necessary practice. More laws are being geared towards making mandatory recycling programs part of restaurant operations, and implementing yours before it becomes a necessity puts you ahead of the curve.
  • Feel good practice. Believe it or not, recycling actually feels good. While it’s not necessarily a practice that will help pad your wallet, making an effort to reduce the waste your establishment produces and helping to achieve sustainability in your community has an inherently “good” aspect for any business. Your participation can and does make a difference, whether you’re a small-town mom-and-pop diner or a franchisee for a corporate chain.
  • Green restaurant certified. As discussed, recycling can be the first step to fully realized restaurant-wide practices. Taking the next few steps, and acquiring a certification from the Green Restaurant Association, is a great way to show yourself, your staff and your customers that you’re committed to going green.

Spread the word.

If you’re worried about potential green practices tightening the noose around your restaurants neck, take comfort in knowing that customers are often more than happy to pay a little extra for your efforts. Letting people know you’re doing things differently can sometimes be all it takes to attract potential customers into becoming supportive regulars. The key is to spread the word.

  • Train your staff. Don’t be pushy, and definitely don’t make “green” the new go-to word whenever a server has a customer’s ear, but taking time to train your servers in how best to spread the word is a valuable management practice. A simple “oh and by the way all our produce are locally sourced” does wonders.
  • Make it obviously casual. Again, the worst thing you can do after going green is to shove the notion down the throats of your customers. Try posting casual reminders around your restaurant in the form of signs above your recycling bins, Energy Star logos advertising Energy Star rated restaurant equipment, or the words “I’m made of recycled materials” on take out containers. If you’ve got a website, or promote through the local paper, don’t be afraid to include a graphic or line of copy highlighting your new changes.
  • Advertise extensively. Being proud of going green is not a bad thing, and if it drastically changes your operation for the better you absolutely should let people know. Little reminders might not justify the value you feel these changes hold, but creating an advertising campaign is a bold way to say you’ve made improvements and people should pay attention.

Like fire, greening one’s establishment can be started with a single spark and has potential to catch and spread at unpredictable speeds. Though viewed from some standpoints as a damaging budget-biter ready to burn up your income, approaching green efforts consciously, and stoking the flame when and where it’s necessary, can produce valuable warmth and comfort in the form of customer approval, limited waste and an overall sense of purpose. Many aspects of your restaurant need only be tweaked to perform in a more environmentally friendly way – and may not cost you a penny. Take time to evaluate your current process and objectively decide where cutting costs monetarily is costing you more in regards to a bigger picture.

Continue Reading

How To Save On Toilet Paper & Other Paper Products

Americans use nearly 8 million tons of toilet paper a year! It’s no wonder toilet-paper manufacturers are plying consumers with more sheets, more layers, and even the added sanitation of wet wipes. As a restaurant owner or food service manager have you ever wondered if switching to green paper products is one area where you can save money?

Paper Product Waste

The claims that forests are being destroyed to make toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels, and other disposable paper products. Seems a bit extreme, right? Whether you agree or disagree with this statement we can all agree that rethinking the way your restaurant buys and uses paper products helps your restaurant save money, as well as the environment. Using less paper helps trim your bottom line through cost-cutting and efficiency, while a restaurant recycling program can generate positive publicity for your business, giving your customers one more reason to dine at your restaurant.

Decrease Your Carbon Footprint With These Buying Tips

  1. Buy paper products with recycled content: Look for products with high recycled content, including post-consumer content. Post-consumer fibers are recovered from paper that was previously used by consumers and would otherwise be dumped into a landfill.
  2. Purchase paper products made from clean manufacturing processes: Traditional paper products are bleached to make them whiter and brighter, but the chlorine that is used in this process contribute to the formation of harmful chemicals that wind up in the air and water, and are highly toxic to people and fish. Key terms to look for when shopping for these items:
    1. TCF: Totally Chlorine-Free
    2. PCF: Processed Chlorine-Free.

The STATS Are In

  • If every box of virgin facial tissues was replaced with a 100% recycled box, 163,000 trees would be saved.
  • If just one roll of virgin toilet paper was replaced with a 100% recycled roll, 423,900 trees would be saved.
  • If just one roll of virgin paper towels was replaced with a 100% recycled roll, 544,000 trees would be saved.
  • If just one package of virgin napkins was replaced with 100% recycled ones, 1,000,000 trees would be saved.

*According to the

Save Your Restaurant Money – Starting Today

  • Invest in one-at-a-time napkin dispensers – helps customers take only what they need.
  • Install hand dryers in restrooms – this eliminates the need for paper towels.
  • Stock bathrooms with only enough toilet paper for one day – you don’t want your back stock disappearing!
  • Consider going digital with receipts.
  • Implement a recycling program to cut-down on unneeded waste.
  • Buy paper products in bulk.

Making small changes, like buying 100% PCF [processed chlorine free] paper products, is not only affordable, but takes up to 45% less energy to produce than traditional paper products.

Going green around your restaurant can go beyond just paper products. Investing in CFL or LED lights may cost a little more up front, but will last much longer than traditional light bulbs. Do you have outdated equipment in your kitchen? Manufactures offer energy star rated equipment pieces that will run much more efficiently.

We understand running a restaurant is expensive, but making a few changes can add dollars to your bottom line.

Continue Reading

Being Green Means Being LEED Certified

LEED Certified As is the case with most things that are inherently good, the notion of going green has come with a not-so-grand tag-along that’s making the process seem less legitimate. The concept of “greenwashing” – creating, packaging, and selling a few minimal green concepts as a commitment to sustainability – is one that tarnishes the idea of actually going green. In an industry where focus on sustainability can be key to local success, deceptively promoting a half-hearted programs can cause damage industry-wide. This in turn creates negative publicity for an otherwise positive practice, making it difficult for consumers to put faith in a restaurant’s green practices.

Fortunately, companies that are committed to creating honest sustainability have paved the way for those looking to follow suit. The search for standardized credentials to legitimize sustainable businesses has yielded the LEED certification and consumers and businesses alike are finding it valuable. Obtaining a Leadership in Energy Efficient Design (LEED) certification from the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) is a lot like a successful recycling program. Although a long and often demanding process, once put in place and on display the outcome can be extremely rewarding.

So what exactly is LEED? 

According to the U.S. Green Building Council: “LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health.”

What does this mean when taken off the paper and put into practice? Essentially, the name of the game is to earn points for the build or remodel of your establishment based on various aspects that can benefit from going green. LEED outlines and examines each of these aspects, and a certification is awarded based on the number of points you achieve out of 110.

Here’s how you play:

  • Sustainable sites (21 points possible): Keeping in mind, and being sensitive to, things like plants and wildlife, water, and air quality when building a new location can earn you major points.
  • Water efficiency (11 points possible): Implementing strategies and making the most of technology that manages your water consumption is important to a successful green effort. If you’re able to cut your establishment’s water use to 20% over the baseline you’ll earn points. The further you can limit your consumption the more points you get.
  • Energy and atmosphere (37 points possible): Energy efficiency, managing your refrigerants to do away with harmful CFCs, and taking advantage of renewable energy are the three areas in which you can earn points in this category. Managing and replacing inefficient restaurant equipment is one way to get started!
  • Materials and resources (14 points possible): In order to maximize your points in this category you need to be conscious of the materials you’re using in your restaurant. Disposable materials made from readily renewable resources are a plus and acquiring those resources from regional providers is a big plus.
  • Indoor environmental quality (17 points possible): The use of automatic sensors mixed with temperature, humidity, and ventilation controls that monitor the quality of your indoor environment can save money and energy. Implementing automatic shut-off and start-up schedules ensures that you’re optimizing different efficiency aspects of your restaurant’s overall environment.
  • BONUS POINTS (10 points possible): It’s possible to gain bonus points in two different ways: 1) remodeling or building in areas that are deemed regional priorities by the GBCI and it can get you up to 4 points & 2) if your project or building shows significant innovation or leadership in design and is worth 6 points.


Point totals: You’re required to earn at least 40 points to receive a LEED certification, but after 40 points it’s possible to earn higher marks. Earning 50+ points gets you Silver certification, 60+ points gets you Gold, and 80+ points gets you Platinum.

Earning a LEED certification is an excellent way to show consumers that you’re not only committed to green efforts on the outside (in your advertising and appearance), but that you’re dedicated in every aspect of your business.

Greenwashing your practices for the short-term gain of customer appeal and media coverage is unwise and will eventually backfire. Getting the credentials should be a no-brainer in the minds of any business owner whose sustainability efforts are second nature. Take the time to earn your LEED certification and make it official!

Continue Reading

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 3

By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

Last week, we continued our discussion on the critical questions that need to be addressed in order for a business to extract the maximum value from their investment in an energy management system:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

In last week’s post, we focused on the second question.  In this third and final post, we will focus on the last question:

When should the customer expect to achieve savings?

A system to help manage energy costs is just like any other business tool or system in that it requires: some effort to set up, some effort to get people trained and using it, and a time period over which the system moves from “new and different” to “how we do things.”  In this way the benefits from the system build over time rather than arriving all at once.

To be successful, the improvement of business processes that an energy management system can drive should be laid out in advance and approached at a reasonable pace. None of this is to say that implementing a modern energy management system is difficult – it is not.  But expecting your next month’s utility bill to magically go down by 20% is a recipe for disappointment. Like any “project”, some project management is required to maximize the benefits available.  Here is a sample deployment schedule, or project plan, for a modern energy management system.

Months 1-2: Training + Baseline data

During the first two months after an installation, an energy management system will gather baseline data on the magnitude of energy consumption and energy consumption patterns for each circuit in a restaurant.  This data characterizes “as-is” operations and equipment performance and will be the basis for identifying operational and equipment performance improvement opportunities.

In addition, all parties involved in the use of the energy management platform should be trained and become familiar with the use of the system during this period.

Months 2-6: Tune Daily Operations

By viewing energy consumption patterns, management can identify the “low-hanging fruit” opportunities for recapturing lost profits from relatively easy operational changes.  The low-hanging fruit opportunities include analyzing off-hours energy consumption and taking corrective action to ensure equipment is running only when it needs to be.

Initial opportunities for savings also include updating thermostat programming for more effective use of HVAC systems.

For those companies managing a portfolio of restaurants, the baseline data will enable benchmarking of their facilities.  Which restaurants have the best practices in terms of energy use?  Where are the worst practices?  Which functional areas (e.g., HVAC, refrigeration, lighting, etc.) are driving the biggest problems?  Through benchmarking, management will be able to prioritize which restaurants represent the largest opportunities for savings and can focus their efforts accordingly.

In order to sustain the operational improvements established during the first phases of an energy management system implementation, restaurant management can implement energy cost controls.  These controls can include establishing or updating opening and closing procedures for each store, establishing or reinforcing temperature set point on thermostats, and training staff in any changes.

In addition, the energy management system can be configured for email or text alerts that can be sent out to reinforce proper hours of operation of critical equipment.

Months 4-6: Identify Underperforming Equipment

In parallel with implementing new or enhanced energy cost controls and operational improvements, management will be able to identify problematic equipment during this period.  An energy management system can tag equipment exhibiting problematic energy consumption patterns (e.g., a roof-top unit short cycling, or a refrigeration compressor running continuously) and alert the facilities/maintenance team accordingly.

With this information, the facilities/maintenance team can revise equipment maintenance schedules and establish equipment alerts to highlight under-performing assets.

Month 7: Project Review

During the seventh month of deployment, it is very useful to schedule a review of the energy management system implementation to ensure all appropriate management feedback loops are in place, celebrate successes, and to reinforce areas that need improvement.
Months 9-12: Assess Equipment Upgrades

Some energy management systems can measure the exact cost of running a piece of equipment.  Based on the data collected during the first six months of implementation, is there a case for upgrading equipment to more energy efficient models?  What is the real-world performance of the EnergySTAR refrigeration equipment, HVAC equipment, and lighting in which you’ve already invested?  Just how costly is that “old dog” equipment that you know needs to be replaced sooner or later?  Which equipment should we use in our soon-to-be constructed new restaurant?

By providing actual run-time costs, an energy management system can give management the data it needs to tackle these questions.  Rather than projecting the ROI for replacing a piece of equipment using estimates of its energy consumption, one can now use the facts for how much energy the equipment uses now, which reduces the risk of not achieving your ROI.

Months 7 – Onward: Ongoing Daily Operations & Equipment Performance Management

Studies have shown that in the absence of active energy management, buildings can lose up to 80% of energy efficiency gains achieved via audits or retro-commissioning within the first two years after efficiency measures have been implemented.  This so-called “energy drift” can be prevented by incorporating an energy management system into ongoing operational practices in restaurants.  In the same way restaurants have systems for tracking inventory and labor costs, it is now possible to track and improve energy cost performance.

In addition to making sure all the operational and equipment improvements implemented during the first 6 months are continuing to be effective, restaurant management teams should consider implementing longer lead-time changes in broader operating policies that can save energy.  Examples of this type of business optimization include water vs. chemical sanitation, the sequence of food preparation that determines how much food warming is required, or the re-balancing of HVAC systems.

Also, it is critical to verify savings from new maintenance and / or capital equipment upgrades.  Has new equipment performed according to spec?  Are the equipment upgrades delivering their anticipated savings?  Are the service providers delivering improved maintenance and therefore equipment performance?

Finally, an energy management system can deliver on-going analysis that can help prevent catastrophic failure of critical equipment through early detection of abnormal energy consumption patterns, which can often indicate problems with equipment.


Before implementing an energy management system, it’s important that you have a plan which clearly articulates who should be involved in the use of the system, how the tool will be used to save money, and when you should expect to reap benefits from the use of the system.

With a modest amount of planning, an energy management platform can be a powerful tool for boosting profits in restaurants by cutting energy consumption and improving the performance of critical equipment.  By bringing visibility to what has historically been an invisible cost for restaurants, it is finally possible to move energy from an “uncontrollable” cost to a “controllable” cost.

Continue Reading

Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 2

By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

In last week’s post, we introduced some of the benefits for deploying an energy management system across a restaurant’s operations.  We also described three critical questions that need to be addressed in order for a business to extract the maximum value from an energy management system:

•    Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
•    Where are the opportunities for saving money?
•    When should the customer expect to reap savings?

In last week’s post, we focused on the first question.  In this week’s post, we will focus on the second question:

Where are the opportunities for saving money?

An energy management system can be a very effective tool for identifying and eliminating areas of excessive energy spending, and there are a number of different categories of wasteful consumption where the platform can make a significant impact.

Off-hours consumption

In a typical restaurant operation, the “off-hours” period can be an opportunity for cutting back on excessive energy spending.  It is not uncommon for expensive loads, such as make-up air and exhaust fans, to frequently be left running all night when the restaurant is closed.  Some of the staff may be new or have not yet had proper training on all aspects of restaurant operations.  Managers have multiple competing demands for their attention.  People forget.  Ineffective off-hours management of even a modest number of devices in a restaurant can result in thousands of dollars in lost profits every year per store.

A modern energy management system can provide insight into energy consumption patterns, can calculate the costs of running equipment in the off-hours to highlight the magnitude of the waste, and can send alerts to management when equipment has been left running too late or is turned on too early.  By bringing this level of visibility into off-hours consumption, a modern energy management system can greatly facilitate implementation of robust operational practices that ensure equipment is only running when it needs to be.

Management of equipment use versus business volumes

As with off-hours energy consumption, there are many pieces of energy-intensive equipment in the restaurant’s kitchen, such as heat lamps, toasters, and Panini presses that can be turned down or turned off during quiet periods.  An energy management system can help evaluate consumption patterns and target the most cost-effective pieces of equipment to manage during lulls over the course of the day.

Inefficient HVAC and Refrigeration Equipment

A recent survey of commercial HVAC equipment revealed that more often than not, HVAC equipment is not operating as efficiently as it could be, due to faults in a variety of components, including:

•    Refrigerant circuit
•    Economizer
•    Air flow
•    Thermostat
•    Sensors

An energy management system can reveal problems with HVAC and refrigeration systems by identifying problematic operating patterns, such as compressor short-cycling, continuous operation of compressors, compressor failure, and by finding aberrations in expected supply and return duct air temperatures.

Inefficient Programming of Thermostats

Installing programmable thermostats and keeping on top of the different heating and cooling set points across each day and between seasons is the single most cost-effective way to automate energy savings.  Heating and cooling costs are typically a restaurant’s largest energy cost, and programmable thermostats are substantially less expensive than any other kind of energy automation.

Unfortunately, many restaurants use their programmable thermostats the same way many people use them at home: they don’t program them.  Programming the thermostat can be cumbersome, so it can be difficult to implement schedule changes or seasonal changes.  Set points are constantly over-ridden, with a tug-of-war between the staff’s desired temperature settings and the customers’ desired settings.    The result is HVAC equipment typically running harder and longer than necessary, wasting precious profits.

Having a staff trained on the use of the programmable thermostats and having a thermostat that is convenient (e.g., internet connected for remote control) and intuitive to can go a long way to optimizing the use of heating and cooling systems, balancing comfort and energy savings.

Early warnings of equipment problems

Equipment can reveal much about its performance through its energy consumption patterns.  If there are problems – e.g., a broken belt on a fan or a clogged vent in an exhaust system – equipment may use substantially more or substantially less energy than it was designed to consume.  An energy management system can be configured to automatically recognize aberrations in consumption patterns and proactively send out text and email alerts to management.  Because of this, an energy management system’s on-going analysis can help prevent “black swan” events — catastrophic failure of critical equipment.

Management of energy demand spikes

Most commercial properties, including restaurants, incur so-called “demand charges” from their electric utilities.  Demand charges are established when electricity consumption spikes, usually for 15 to 30 minutes.  The utility will charge based on the magnitude of the customers’ demand spikes, as measured in kilowatts, not kilowatt-hours.  The greater the spike, the greater the demand charge. (See here for a more detailed explanation.)

An energy management system can detect spikes in electricity consumption and either send out warnings with enough time for restaurant managers to do something to reduce the magnitude of the spike or, more likely, reveal overtime what changes could be made on a daily basis to systematically reduce the likelihood of higher demand charges.  For example, managers may set the thermostat back by 2 degrees or turn off their ice machine from 3pm to 4pm during the summer to reduce the total demand from the restaurant for the duration of the spike.

Modeling the savings

How do these different opportunities break-down in terms of savings potential?  Below is a model of a typical restaurant with a range of typical expected savings for each category of savings opportunity:

These savings can range by +/- 50%, meaning the savings range is 8-18% in direct energy savings. These savings do not reflect potential savings in gas consumption due to more effective use of thermostats and more efficient operation of HVAC equipment.

There are other savings opportunities as well.  Savings from maintenance calls that are avoided due to the remote diagnostics and equipment performance monitoring could add another $1,000 a year in direct savings (benchmarks for service calls are about $350 per call). While the HVAC/R faults require an HVAC technician to resolve,  we find that those issues can be addressed with minimal incremental cost to the existing R&M contract that is already “bought and paid for”  in year 1 of the program. Other cost reduction modifications to that contract are possible in future years as well.

In summary, when deploying an energy management system, it is important to focus on the areas where the system can deliver substantial cost savings:

•    Off-hours energy consumption
•    Management of equipment use versus business volumes
•    Inefficient HVAC and refrigeration equipment
•    Inefficient programming of thermostats
•    Early warnings of equipment problems
•    Management of energy demand spikes

With the proper focus, an energy management system can deliver real, measurable, and impactful energy savings.

In next week’s blog posting, we will focus on the final critical question: When should the customer expect to achieve savings?

Continue Reading