Food (plus beverages) and labor are a restaurant's biggest expenses. However, with a good management strategy, web-based employee scheduling system, forecasting tool, and POS system, many restaurateurs can manage the expenses. Unfortunately, this is not the same for monitoring the cost of utilities.
For many restaurateurs, the cost of energy usually is higher than 5% of their total operating costs. Restaurants generally have a thin profit margin, so if your energy cost is higher than 5%, then it is obvious how much of an impact your utility bill is making on your profits.
Commercial kitchens, or restaurant kitchens, have been categorized as large energy users. Commercial kitchens consume about 3 times more energy than other commercial buildings. High-volume quick-service restaurants, in particular, can consume up to 10 times more per square foot. So, if you haven't been keen on how your restaurant has been using energy, it's time to pay attention.
Before we see how you can effectively reduce your electricity and other utility bills, let me mention that you can effectively reduce your energy consumption without having to sacrifice quality, style, service, and comfort.
Are you wondering how much you would save if you were to start taking serious energy consumption measures? If so, there is a rough estimation below.
For every 1,000-kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity you save, you are likely to save $100 on your utility bill. According to Business Energy Advisor, restaurants spend an average of 38 kWh of electricity per square foot, per year.
If your restaurant is in this range or higher, you can imagine how much you would save. Refrigeration, space heating, cooking, and heating represent almost 80% of energy use. So, if you are determined to start working on energy savings, make sure to prioritize the tips below.
The first thing to do to lower your restaurant's utility costs is to pinpoint the biggest energy users, followed by finding potential energy wasting systems or areas. Remember that utilities like Internet, phone, and water are relatively fixed costs; if not, your restaurant is probably still young and you can expect these utilities to become more fixed. However, electricity is a variable utility since its use falls and rises depending on various factors, such as the weather. Gas may also be considered a variable cost, as its price may change depending on global markets.
In spite of not being able to control global markets, the weather, and other factors that may affect your electricity or gas bill, there's so much you can do to bring these bills down.
1. Easily Lower Your Utility Bill by Monitoring Lighting
- Use natural light if available whenever possible.
- Dim the lights whenever possible.
- Keep light fixtures, such as light bulbs, clean to enable them to shine brightly.
- Switch to CFL technology (Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs) throughout your restaurant, including in your walk-in refrigerators. CFLs consume less energy when compared to regular light bulbs.
- Have occupancy sensors in bathrooms, walk-in coolers or refrigerators, and other areas with occasional use.
- Switch to LED lights to illuminate menu boards and exit signs. With these lights, you will only use 5 watts to do what an incandescent bulb would normally do with 40 watts.
2. Avoid Energy Wastage During Off-Peak Hours
In many restaurants, it is a common occurrence to leave ventilation fans, lights, and other equipment and devices running after work hours. To make sure no energy is being wasted during these hours, try the following tips below.
- Make use of any available programmable features on equipment to save energy or to shut them down automatically during off-peak hours.
- Have a staff member take on the responsibility of making sure everything has been turned off, e.g., lights, computers, exhaust fans, and cooking equipment, after everyone has gone home.
- Post reminders next to key energy-consumers to remind your staff about any available low-energy settings.
3. Make Sure Your Filters Are Ever Effective
Have your filters (from the HVAC to the water filtration system) changed regularly to make sure they don't use more energy. Changing filters is especially important if your restaurant is next to a construction site or a highway where the atmosphere is bound to be dirtier. Also, when your water is not filtered effectively, other equipment can consume more energy than usual as a result of mineral deposits and calcification buildup.
4. Keep a Close Eye on Your Hot Water
Hot water leaks can eventually add up to a lot of wasted money over a period of time, to curb this use the tips below.
Conduct regular inspections to make sure there are no hot water leaks. Install low-flow aerators to reduce hot water usage in hand sinks by 60%. Install high-efficiency pre-rinse spray valves to reduce hot water usage.
5. Cut Down on Air Conditioning
- Install ceiling fans.
- Turn off patio/terrace heaters when the patio is not in use.
- Apply a clear, heat-rejecting film on large windows to keep rooms cool and more comfortable.
- Make sure the doors of your freezers and refrigerators are working well as the equipment will use more energy when their doors are not sealing or closing properly.
- Replace any worn gaskets.
- Install strip curtains in walk-ins to reduce outside air infiltration.
6. Replace Old and Outdated Kitchen Equipment
Replace any kitchen equipment that is more than 10-years-old as it is likely to be a source of energy wastage.
Upgrade to equipment that has been government-certified as superior energy savers. This equipment might be more expensive when compared to regular models but will eventually make up for their price by saving you a significant amount in utility costs.
In the same way that restaurant management technologies like employee scheduling software, time clock software, and POS systems exist, energy management technologies exist too. These technologies give restaurateurs a clear picture of their energy use and send them alerts about sudden energy spikes, energy wastages, etc. Some of these systems even allow restaurant owners and managers to control their HVAC remotely to prevent overnight cooling or heating errors.