Environmental sustainability is one of the top trends in the restaurant industry today, extending from menu planning to operations. Being known in your community for green or sustainable practices not only boosts your brand, but it’s also extremely helpful to be conscious of energy use when trying to cut down on electric and other utility bills.
Bottom line? Energy efficiency helps contribute to the success of your business and nowhere is it more crucial than in the back of the house. Many older appliances and kitchen equipment use up larger amounts of energy than the newest models available today in the market. What can you do with those older models to make them more efficient? Should you upgrade? How can you make these changes on your budget? Check out our suggestions below.
Cut Down Your Appliance Idle Time
So much of the energy used in kitchens come specifically from your appliances just being on. You’ll probably need most of your equipment on throughout service hours, but chances are, you don’t need all of your appliances turned on for all hours of your shift — particularly during kitchen prep work and end of shift clean-up. By assembling a plan for startup/shutdown of all equipment (excluding refrigeration, of course), you can ensure your equipment is only on standby for shorts amount of time, saving energy and money.
This plan should be customized for your particular restaurant’s needs and schedule, so it’s important to discuss any changes with both managers and chefs alike to coordinate the best times to turn equipment on and off for the day.
Additionally, your entire kitchen staff should be trained to follow the plan. Don’t assume it will just happen with a memo or one-time mention. If you really want to consistently reduce your energy use, stress the importance of conserving energy to your staff by integrating it fully into your training plan.
Keep Up Maintenance on Current Equipment
You want to make sure all of your equipment is running at its most efficient capacity. Consistent, planned maintenance can help prevent a variety of problems, including wasted energy issues. For instance, an ill-maintained fryer won’t cook food properly while still using up more electricity, which means lower food quality, slower cook times, and higher energy bills.
If you can’t upgrade your air conditioning system and hoods, it’s still important to keep that maintenance up. Clogged up filters restrict air flow, making your HVAC system work that much harder and use that much more energy. Generally, you should change your air filters at least four times a year, but checking it every month will help ensure you’re not dealing with dirty filters.
It’s also important to take care of repairs as soon as possible. While it might be tempting to ignore faulty and broken equipment or leaky pipes whose repairs don’t seem necessary to handle right away, even a brief delay can lead to more damage and much larger utility costs that ultimately outweigh the cost of repairing the damage immediately.
Retrofit Your Old Equipment
If you’re hesitant about changing out your older, but still well maintained, equipment models for brand new ones, there are still ways for you to upgrade parts of them to be more energy efficient. These kitchen retrofittings can be lighter on your budget, and can also make a difference on your bills.
Adding hood fans with variable-speeds, efficient evaporative fan motors, strip curtains for your walk-in coolers, or duct seals can reduce your energy costs. Even just replacing your back of the house lighting with more efficient bulbs or LEDs can be helpful.
Invest in Energy-efficient Equipment
While retrofitting can work for some situations, sometimes an older piece of equipment is so old — or just sucking up so much energy — that it just simply needs to be replaced. Ultimately the most substantial way to reduce a commercial kitchen’s energy costs for the long run is to upgrade to energy-efficient equipment.
It’s an investment that will pay off — saving you from 10 to 70 percent by replacing outdated ovens and equipment with energy-efficient equipment. Many Rewards Network restaurants use a merchant cash advance in order to make these equipment replacements, and enjoy the benefits of a cash infusion that respects the ebb and flow of your business.
But it’s not just ovens, fryers, and other cooking equipment that you should evaluate for energy-efficient replacement. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems make up nearly a third of the energy bills for an average restaurant. Modern manufacturers have developed energy-efficient exhaust hood and HVAC options specifically for the restaurant industry. Investing in these innovation and replacing your old units can mean major savings down the road.
Ready to take the plunge but don’t have the cash to make it happen? See what a cash infusion from Rewards Network can do to help get you there: