Some 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.