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Green Restaurant Tips: Restaurant Energy Management Systems

Light BulbSome chain restaurants have started using comprehensive, fully automated energy management systems (EMS) to help reduce energy usage in their restaurants.  Restaurant energy management systems have been around for a couple decades, but recent technological advances have really improved what an EMS can do.

An EMS system can control air conditioning, hood exhaust fans, and equipment power-ups automatically.  Why is that good?  Imagine an employee deciding it’s too hot and dropping the thermostat to 50 and leaving it on overnight.  Or idle cooking equipment getting well ventilated by a hood fan on full blast.  How about the morning shift manager arriving a little late and cranking up the lights and equipment all at the same time?

Little things can turn into big energy expenses, especially when you can’t be there to manage how energy is used all the time.  The energy savings alone from having an automatic thermostat that drops the heat in winter and the cool in summer during off-business hours is significant. But an EMS goes much further.  An alarm will sound if the door to the walk-in has been left open for more than 10 minutes.  Employees walk into work in the morning with the lights already on and the equipment powered up and ready to go.  These increased efficiencies not only reduce the headache factor, they can translate into some real savings.

Granted, most smaller restaurateurs probably cannot afford a comprehensive EMS yet.  But as the technology gets cheaper and energy expenses continue their inevitable rise, the day may not be far off when it makes sense for even a Mom-and-Pop place to have a comprehensive, automated system managing their energy consumption.

In the meantime, why not set up your own restaurant energy management system?  It may not have all the same cool computer-powered features of a modern EMS, but it can be just as effective.
Consider setting up some guidelines for your staff on how to power up equipment and turn on lights in sequence when opening your restaurant.

  • Train kitchen staff to dial back ovens, ranges, and broilers during downtimes and cut back the hood exhaust.
  • Post guidelines and expectations for energy usage like closing refrigerators, and hand out rewards for energy efficient practices.
  • And most importantly, buy an Energy Star rated automatic thermostat!  It’s much less expensive than a fancy EMS, and accomplishes the same goal: automatically adjusting the thermostat during non-business hours.

The point is energy management is an important way to cut costs and reduce the carbon footprint of your business at the same time.  Cutting costs means more profits, and running a green restaurant will earn you customer respect.  It’s a win-win situation.

Energy Star

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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  1. You will laugh when I tell you this but I once worked for a chain of restaurants where the thermostats were in the managers office and a simple switch was used to turn on heat / cold/ off.
    We had nothing but problems with people complaining about it being to hot (the grill operator) or to cold (the customers usually in shorts). In one case we had a grill operator who had her husband who was a electrician sabotage the switch so it was on cold no mater what position it was in. It was a BIG problem!

    I read a article in a HVAC trade magazine about how “dummy” thermostats were used in high rise buildings where people could not control the temperature. A “dummy” thermostat is a thermostat is a cheep thermostat that is not hooked up. I installed one in the customer area of one restaurant and encouraged the wait staff to adjust it as much as they wanted–LOL. I’m telling you, I was the HERO!! It worked wonders to calm all the complaints! If a customer complained it was to cold, the waitress would walk over to the thermostat and “adjust” the temperature–LOL. I advised everyone the HVAC system had a “delay” on it and it would take some time before they would feel the change. It worked like a charm as long as they didn’t know the thermostat wasn’t hooked up to anything.

    Dummy Thermostat: $20

    Labor to install: 1/2 hour

    the pure joy of seeing everyone THINK they are just the right temperature: PRICELESS

    Kevin Loving
    Galveston Texas (where our thermostats have only one setting: JUST RIGHT)

  2. Incenergy has taken a fresh approach to Energy Management Systems for restaurant locations.

    Existing thermostats are easily replaced with Incenergy wirelessly-communicating thermostats. Our user-friendly EMS Portal can monitor and automate control up to hundreds of thermostats across a portfolio of restaurant locations. This innovative approach reduces the installation price by 40% – specifically to make upgrading restaurants affordable and non-disruptive.

    When a HVAC system or refrigeration problem occurs, every minute counts. Early detection and automated diagnosis of equipment failures can save countless hours of downtime and thousands of dollars of maintenance expenses each month. The automated features of our EMS software also ease the burden of the manager with automated scheduling, remote overrides and automated fault detection to help ensure comfort.

    Jeff Otto
    Director of Business Development

  3. It’s not uncommon to have the A/C and heat on at the same time at restaurants.

    With our eMonitor, you can bench market restaurants against one another to REDUCE your energy use, REPLICATE those practices that are saving energy and REWARD managers reducing energy usage.

    Our platform manages your utilities down to the circuit level as well as remote management of your HVAC. This helps restaurants manage their utilities as you would food cost, labor cost, etc. Estimated ROI is 10 months. Check out our eMonitor at http://www.powerhousedynamics.com. In the future we’ll be managing water and gas too.

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