Here are some more tips on how to make sure your restaurant equipment is performing at maximum efficiency.
Perform regular equipment maintenance. Simple parts on cooking and refrigeration equipment break down or degrade over time from constant use, reducing energy efficiency and equipment performance.
Usually these parts are so easy to replace you can do it yourself:
Door gaskets. The constant opening and closing of oven, steamer, and refrigerator or freezer doors leads to wear and tear on the gasket that helps seal in heat or cold.
Replace these gaskets as they become worn to reduce leaks.
Thermostats. The thermostat on your freezer, refrigerator, or fryer can lose its calibration or wear out, meaning the machine isn’t operating at optimal temperature.
Check thermostats regularly with a commercial thermometer and recalibrate or replace them as needed.
Check pilot lights and clean burners. Pilot lights are convenient but also represent a constant use of energy in your kitchen. Make sure they aren’t using more energy than needed by checking them regularly.
If the flame is taller than a couple inches or yellow in color, adjust the flame until it’s small and blue. Also clean oven and range burners regularly and replace burners that have worn out to maximize their efficiency.
Train kitchen staff. Implementing the tips above sounds good in theory, but unless you train your staff to think about energy efficiency, these strategies will remain just a theory.
Set idle time and shut down procedures for all your equipment to minimize their energy use. Train head staff to check for bad door gaskets and thermostats. Make sure full racks of dishes are going through the dishwasher instead of half full or mostly empty ones.
Most importantly, get your staff to understand why energy savings are important, and incentivize them to act efficiently.
Buy Energy Star rated restaurant equipment. Replace old equipment in your kitchen as quickly as possible. When shopping for new equipment, look for Energy Star ratings. Most restaurant equipment has annual energy usage statistics. Use this information to compare units and purchase the most efficient one.
No matter what, new equipment is going to be more efficient and perform better than old equipment. Often the annual energy savings from new equipment will recoup the cost of purchasing it within a few years.
Also check for rebates from your local, state, or federal government for purchasing energy efficient equipment.
Carefully calculate capacity. One of the most common mistakes restaurant or commercial kitchen managers make when purchasing new equipment is buying too big.
Ice machines, refrigerators or freezers, and dishwashers are big energy users and are the most common units where this mistake is made. Of course, buying too small is just as bad, and that’s why it’s important to accurately calculate your production needs.
Start by analyzing peak demand. Once you know how many people or how many meals you serve per hour at peak demand times, you can better analyze what size equipment you need.
However, you should also take into account future growth.
Most restaurant equipment, if properly maintained, should last 5 – 10 years. In that time your business should grow as well, meaning peak demand 5 years from now is going to be more than peak demand right now.
In general, overestimate equipment capacity by 10% – 20% to make sure it can meet your needs over the entire lifetime of the unit.