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How to be a Green Restaurant and Cut Costs

Through constant research as well as attending many industry programs, I have learned a great deal on what can be done in the “greening” of new restaurants.  Here’s a list of top ways your restaurant can go green:

  • The most obvious is to use high efficiency refrigeration, but there are many other ways to save on power costs.
  • Updated air-conditioning has given new and existing dining establishments a great way to save. A new system not only uses more “green” friendly refrigerants but the motor structures are much more energy efficient.
  • Lighting: New LED lighting uses a fraction of the power and can last many times longer than conventional illumination.  Today’s systems can be dimmed and have wider spectrum of color than the older, harsher lights of the past.
  • Using remote refrigeration instead of self-contained units can also increase the overall efficiency of all refrigeration.  Roof-top compressors can make a great savings in power usage.
  • Kitchen – make up air – new hoods using directed make up air – can save a great deal on the use of conditioned air being taken up by exhaust.  Well engineered kitchen layouts and air flow controls save a great deal on over usage.
  • Low-temp dishwashers can, depending on the local Health Department regulations, be possible to use these machines.  This equipment use a chemical disinfectant instead of high-temperature water to wash dishes and glassware.  They allow for much more efficient use of hot water thereby savings in both gas and electric.
  • On demand hot-water heaters and boosters has been the rage for the greening of new homes; however the use of on-demand appliances has been accepted more and more by local health and building municipal departments.   These units do not keep a tank of water hot for use but heats it as it is needed.  The savings here for the restaurant owner are incredible.  The booster units can work in locations where hot water is needed a distance from a hot water heater.  They can be placed under units in the restrooms or at the bar to keep the flow of under-heated water to a minimum or raise the temperature of cooler stored water to regulation temperature.
  • Low volumes flushing toilets and waterless urinals have become acceptable in many states and local areas and are very good at water savings.

All of these are, of course, easy to install on a new project.  When building a new operation everything is under review.  But most operations are already up and running.

As things age, we all need to do maintenance and equipment replacements.  When refrigeration needs repair it makes sense to evaluate whether repair or replacement is the right decision.   If a walk-in is of an older technology, it may be more cost effective to replace it with a better-insulated and more efficient model.  Most states have tax incentive programs to encourage operations to do just such a thing.  Operators should check with their local utilities to check on all programs available.

There are also many other ways to save on energy that are part of design.  Recently we were involved with a project that used prevailing air movements to save energy.  The designer used vented windows to take advantage of a prevailing breeze to direct air out of the dining room during the warm season thereby letting the management use less air conditioning.   We also insulated the ceiling and used ceiling fans to keep warm air in and recirculate it during cool times.    Design can have a great effect on operating costs and not just labor but energy.

The use of tints and filters on windows as well as shades and awnings, in the correct locations, and used as needed, continue to be useful for cost savings as well.

Every decision made in both the development and the maintenance of an operation has both an upfront expense as well as an ongoing cost.  It is important to research each one and to make sure suppliers and vendors also take these questions into consideration.  It is our duty to our investors and our guests to be as responsible as we  can, and in being responsible, it also makes good business sense.

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One Response to How to be a Green Restaurant and Cut Costs

  1. Sara Chappel June 2, 2011 at 8:39 am #

    Thanks for this–it’s important for people to understand that while there are larger-scale ways to decrease energy costs (new/upgraded equipment and systems) some smaller changes–like lighting upgrades and window films, both of which you mentioned–can make a dent in those utility bills as well. Sometimes it’s easier to start small and pick the low-hanging fruit while saving up for the real investments.

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