It should not come as a surprise that the primary focus for operators of restaurant kitchens is to reduce energy costs with sustainability trailing closely behind. Under the load of refrigeration, cooking, dishwashing and lighting, foodservice establishments are energy-intensive in comparison to other commercial buildings according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The U.S. Department of Energy conducted surveys on both Quick Service Restaurants and Full Service Restaurants across major cities to analyze and assess energy usage. The average restaurant uses an astonishing five to seven times more energy per square foot than their commercial counterparts, such as office buildings and retail stores. Recognizing quick service restaurants experience higher volumes and more continuous equipment usage, energy per square foot averages ten times that of commercial establishments. With an eye on cost reduction and preserving profit margins, energy conservation is on the forefront for consideration when designing, building, upgrading, remodeling and renovating commercial kitchens.

Restaurant owners seek out information for smart redesign of kitchen space and specific equipment replacement. Read on for tips on making your operation more energy efficient.

  1. Replace all cooking appliances for high-efficiency Energy Star 45% of energy used in the average restaurant comes directly from cooking food. Upgrading your ovens, griddles, broilers and fryers can save hundreds to thousands of dollars annually per unit. Be sure to also consider gas alternatives to save even more on operational costs. Installing timers, establishing a monthly maintenance program, and training staff to turn off warming equipment when not in use are additional practices to instill in your routine operation for added savings.
  1. Improve your HVAC efficiency. Heating and cooling costs make up approximately 30% of a restaurant’s energy needs. Aside from replacing older equipment, improving insulation and air sealing as well as installing a cool roof are measures to take for long term savings. Additional practices include setting the thermostat throughout the night to accommodate the season, ensure that ventilation is properly installed and place all cooling agents such as refrigerators and freezers away from heat-generating equipment.
  1. The 7% of restaurant energy that goes towards interior and exterior lighting is also a notable mention. Replace the energy hungry incandescent bulbs with high-efficiency LED bulbs. Although slightly more expensive, LED bulbs last 20 times longer and burn a tenth of the energy as the incandescent versions, paying for themselves and ultimately saving on utility costs over time. For longer term savings and greater investments, adding skylights and/or sky lightings are additional options to consider.
  1. Hot water usage is the culprit responsible for about 6% of a restaurant’s energy bill. Options to save energy from the heating agents found in dishwashers and from general cleaning include equipment replacement, updating sink fixtures and installing a solar hot water system. Perform research before investing in these upgrades to ensure that you select the right equipment, hire the best service contractor and understand critical system codes and requirements.
  1. Energy saving refrigeration will save an average of 30% in utility costs each year. Currently eating up 5% of restaurant energy costs, refrigerating appliances are important for properly and safely storing food ingredients. Be sure that you are using the correct light bulbs in your walk-in coolers to reduce the heat load, add strip curtains to better contain the cool air, and install automatic door closers to minimize air leakage. Energy.Gov offers additional commercial refrigeration tips such as checking door gaskets, using motion sensors for case lighting systems and making sure heat exchange coils have proper airflow.
  1. The commercial kitchen floor is oftentimes forgotten but yet a critical component for back of house operations. The installation of proper flooring materials is essential for easy cleaning and durable enough to withstand heavy traffic in kitchen spaces. Invest in quality floor mats to reduce back and joint stress, reduce fatigue, and apply slip resistant mats to improve employee safety and reduce mishaps.
  1. When remodeling restaurant kitchens, the replacement of dishes, glassware and flatware should also follow suit. After a kitchen renovation is complete, new culinary dishes created by your chef will garner a visually appealing presentation on new contemporary styled plates that patrons will appreciate. To aid in offsetting tabletop costs during a major kitchen renovation, check out Premier Collections for high quality and innovative designs at a highly competitive value.
  1. New kitchen, new menu and new dishware call for a new attire. Crisp, clean new uniforms will really liven up the kitchen environment. Updating outwear for kitchen staff and front of house employees will further promote the fresh ambiance. This upgrade will be appreciated by your staff and enjoyed by your guests.
  1. According to the U.S. Fire Administration, an average of 5,900 restaurant fires occurs each year. For proper insurance coverage, to minimize damage, and to protect people and property from these unforeseeable and unfortunate circumstances, invest in a quality fire suppression system. The UL 300 is today’s standard for fire extinguishing systems for the protection of restaurant cooking surfaces.
  1. Take the opportunity of a kitchen remodel to hone in on the layout and flow of back of house operations. An exceptional kitchen design maximizes efficiency with sufficient work space, optimization of equipment placement and a good flow of movement to improve kitchen operations which ultimately aids in the achievement of a restaurant’s bottom line.

TriMark provides commercial kitchen turnkey design build services from a single source to achieve a functional and profitable kitchen operation on time and budget. As the recipient of multiple prestigious awards and decades of lasting partnerships, learn how TriMark has been a leader in the foodservice industry for many years.

For more information on this topic, check out the resources below:

  • Sustainable Foodservice outlines the order of restaurant energy consumption in way of daily operations and compares this data to other markets. Not surprisingly, the foodservice industry surpasses all other markets with Food Sales and Health Care placing second and third.
  • Energy Star also provides a factsheet for energy use and energy efficiency opportunities in restaurants.
  • The Illinois Smart Energy Design Assistance Center provides an informative and in-depth white paper providing energy smart tips for restaurants.
  • E Source Companies LLC has a descriptive piece on managing energy costs in restaurants as well as an educational guide for restaurant owners and managers to boost restaurant profits with energy efficiency from Efficiency Partnership.