Managing energy in your restaurant

You put in long hours and there are many demands on your time and resources. But is your energy usage eating into your profit margin?

Andrew Fletcher
Site audit advisor

Five ways to make your restaurant more energy efficient

Most restaurants run on a pretty tight margin. Saving energy could directly increase your profitability without the need to increase sales.

I've visited many different restaurant formats during the past year. Here are my top energy saving tips for this busy sector.

1. Cooking open/close

The amount of energy you use in the kitchen could represent as much as 6% of your profits.

Our energy auditor says

Consider replacing any kitchen equipment that's over 15 years old with newer, more efficient models that will be much cheaper to run.

Although gas-fired equipment can be more expensive to buy than electric or steam, savings made on running costs make it an option well worth thinking about.

Make sure that equipment is turned down or off when not in use. In many commercial kitchen gas hobs, ovens and extract systems can be left on 24 hours a day, often when not in use.

Source: Hospitality - Saving energy without compromising service, Carbon Trust, March 2012
Food and drink processing - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, March 2012

2. Refrigeration open/close

As refrigeration costs are likely to make up a significant proportion of your energy bill, making even small changes can really pay off.

Our energy auditor says

You can cut your refrigeration costs two ways - by making sure your fridge is running at maximum efficiency or by increasing the set cooling point.

Improving running efficiency

Refrigeration systems work most efficiently when they're well maintained. Blocked, dirty and leaking components use more energy and cost more to run. As part of a regular maintenance programme, you should:

  • Check evaporator fins are in good working order. Remove scaling and ice-buildup.
  • Check evaporators and condensers for damaged vent fins. Damaged fins make heat transfer more difficult.
  • Check bleed or drip pipes are not iced up.

Increasing the set cooling point

Increasing the set cooling point by 1°C could reduce your refrigerator's energy consumption by up to 4%. Take a look at these recommended temperatures, listed by food type, and make any adjustments you need to. Allocate fridges to products with similar product temperature requirements.

Temperature code Product temperature Suitable for
L1 Below -15°C (-18°C*) Ice cream and frozen foods
L2 Below -12°C (-18°C*) Frozen foods
M0 Between -1°C and +4°C Poultry and meat
M1 Between -1°C and +5°C Meat and dairy products
M2 Between -1°C and +7°C Processed meat and dairy products
H1 Between +1°C and +10°C Produce and canned and bottled drinks
H2 Between -1°C and +10°C Canned and bottled drinks

The products in this table are only a guide. Refer to the Food Safety (Temperature Control) Regulations 1995 or your food supplier for more specific information relating to your food storage requirements.

*The maximum temperatures shown are those allowed after defrost.

Source: Hospitality - Saving energy without compromising service, Carbon Trust, March 2012
Food and drink processing - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, March 2012

3. Heating open/close

Heating a restaurant can be complex and costly but there are ways to save money without compromising comfort.

Our energy auditor says

For more control over your heating, create specific zones in your restaurant which you can heat separately and according to usage and need - warmer in areas for your customers, cooler in the kitchen where cooking equipment generates a lot of heat.

Localised time-clock controllers can be used to make sure that zones reach the ideal temperature as people arrive. And if you have different opening hours on different days, a seven-day electronic timer can help you cut down on unnecessary heating.

Source: Hospitality - Saving energy without compromising service, Carbon Trust, March 2012
Food and drink processing - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, March 2012

4. Water open/close

Water is an important resource. It's also metered - you pay for what you draw and dispose of via the public drainage system, if you are not using it efficiently these costs can mount up. If you're heating water that then goes straight down the drain, you're wasting even more money.

Our energy auditor says

Here are two simple ways that can help you save water, both hot and cold.

Install water conserving devices

Tap controls that switch off taps after a certain period of time are great for saving water in communal areas like toilets.

Reset your hot water temperature

Water needs to be hot enough to kill Legionella bacteria but not too hot that it can't be comfortably used for hand washing by staff and customers. The optimum temperature for stored hot water is 60°C.

Source: Hospitality - Saving energy without compromising service, Carbon Trust, March 2012
Food and drink processing - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, March 2012

5. Lighting open/close

The right lighting is important to help create ambience and encourage customers to come in.

Our energy auditor says

There are lots of tricks you can use to keep the lights bright in your restaurant - and keep an eye on the cost.

  • Use timers so that your lighting's on only during opening hours.
  • Keep occupancy sensors clean so they work more effectively.
  • Dim the lights to conserve energy.
  • Tungsten halogen lighting is less effective so use it sparingly. Consider replacing these light sources with much more efficient light-emitting diode (LED); these use 60 - 80% less energy for the same light output.
  • Consider using light-emitting diode (LED) or luminescent exit signs - there's an upfront expense which will likely be paid back in less than two years.
  • Large, clean windows let in lots of natural light and help bring people in, but make sure they're properly glazed to minimise heat loss.

More words of wisdom

The more energy efficient your lighting is, the less heat it produces. So installing low-energy lighting can also reduce cooling costs - a double saving.

Source:
Hospitality - Saving energy without compromising service, Carbon Trust, March 2012
Food and drink processing - Introducing energy saving opportunities for business, Carbon Trust, March 2012

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