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Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 1



Energy Management Systems, Restaurants, and ROI – Part 1By Jay Fiske, VP of Business Development & Jason Roeder, Director of Energy Products & Services, Powerhouse Dynamics

Energy has historically been considered an “uncontrollable” cost by most food service businesses.  With the possible exception of lighting, most forms of energy consumption in restaurants and other businesses are nearly invisible, and many of the invisible forms of energy consumption are far more expensive than lighting, especially when it comes to restaurant operations.  Energy can often be in the top 3 to 5 costs for a restaurant.  The challenge is that historically, there have been few, if any, tools available to seize this opportunity for cost control.

The good news is that cost-effective and comprehensive energy management technologies that can help control, identify, and eliminate excessive and unnecessary forms of energy consumption, drive down operating costs and improve profitability are becoming available to restaurant owners and other businesses operating in small commercial facilities.  These new energy management systems provide the ability to remotely control HVAC, gather detailed, real-time data for each piece of energy consuming equipment, and generate intelligent, specific, real-time guidance on finding and capturing the most compelling savings opportunities.  The systems may also include other functionality such as refrigeration temperature monitoring (think food safety), water and gas monitoring, and lighting automation, all of which enhance the value proposition that an energy management system can deliver.

Although there is much promise in these technologies today, many owners and operators can probably tell you a story about the energy related technology that was in fact too good to be true or a total bust. In our experience, to avoid the bad and the ugly and focus on the good, one needs to better understand these technologies, their value to an organization, and how they can be effectively deployed to improve an operation’s profitability. To help in this effort, there are three key questions that should be answered before embarking on a new energy management system project:

•    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?

Over the next three weeks, we’ll be addressing each one of these questions.  This week’s post focuses on the first issue:

Who should be involved in the use of energy management systems?

An energy management system can provide value across the span of an organization’s staff, so it’s important to have different groups engaged in the use of the system to reap maximum benefit.

Finance / Owner

Because an energy management system can bring visibility, detail, and benchmarking to one of the top operating costs for restaurants, it’s important to have the finance office involved in the use of the system.  Often, the main internal sponsor of an energy management implementation can be the CFO or franchise owner because one of the primary results of the system is an improvement to the bottom line for a company.

Managers / Operations

Many of the savings reaped from an energy management system are driven by process and operational changes, so it’s critical to have engagement with operating managers who have the authority to set policy and procedures and to manage staff operating critical energy-consuming devices.  In particular, it is important that both the person who is responsible for implementing the operational improvements AND that person’s direct supervisor are engaged in using the system — so, both regional and store managers should be involved. Moreover, as with any initiative, success is usually doomed if the people at the very top of the organization don’t make it clear that the initiative is a priority.

Systems / Facilities

Finally, whoever in the organization has responsibility for facilities or equipment management should be engaged in the project.  The energy management system can help track critical equipment performance and provide the necessary data for making intelligent decisions about equipment maintenance and upgrade programs.

Integrating an energy management system’s deployment across an organization helps to ensure that all those functions within a business that can benefit from the platform will do so.

In next week’s post, we’ll address the next critical question: Where are the opportunities for saving money?

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