Building Performance Sustainability Sustainability & ESG

The Missing Ingredient to Energy Savings in Restaurants

Restaurants have energy-intensive operations due to the energy demands of commercial kitchen equipment. Energy savings can lead to lower energy costs and important sustainability improvements.

Restaurants require more significant amounts of energy to provide warm, cozy atmospheres and serve high-quality food and beverages. On average, restaurants use 5-7 times more energy than commercial buildings of the same square footage overall. This is because commercial kitchens perform numerous energy-intensive activities in a small space.   

With this energy consumption comes high energy costs. Two main ways to lower energy costs are energy reduction and operational efficiency. However, without relevant energy data, the benefits of energy reduction and efficiency activities are hard to measure or justify, since temperature control is a key factor for health and safety requirements. By using a software platform to quantify energy consumption with precision, restaurants can make smart data-driven business decisions.   

How Restaurants Incur High Energy Costs 

Commercial kitchens’ energy consumption breaks down into three main sources on average, according to a US Energy Information Administration (EIA) survey

  • cooking (40%)
  • refrigeration (15%), and 
  • space heating (12%)

All other end uses each accounted for 7% or less, such as water heating, cooling, ventilation and lighting. Maintaining proper food temperature for health and safety is obviously a top priority for restaurants, but this priority comes with strong energy demands. 

Under the categories of cooking and refrigeration, a wide range of equipment is used to achieve food temperature control: Hot food holding trays, cabinets, fryers, steam cookers, commercial hot food holding cabinets, ovens (convection and combination ovens), rotisseries, griddles, broilers, and/or induction cooktops for cooking. Refrigerators and freezers with solid or glass doors, and ice machines for cooling and refrigeration. 

Optimizing restaurant equipment from an energy perspective depends on various decisions:

  • Equipment choice: Comparing the energy efficiency of different equipment and appliance types and models can lead to energy reduction opportunities. Determining the right size of equipment needed is another factor to consider. Finally, an increasing range of higher efficiency electric alternatives to gas-powered equipment are becoming available.  
  • Aging equipment: Manufacturers are constantly improving the energy efficiency of the equipment used in restaurants. ENERGY STAR rated energy-efficient equipment can save kitchens roughly 10 to 70 percent compared to conventional models. 
  • Maintenance and operation: While routine maintenance checks can identify obvious issues like faulty handles, door closure issues or other apparent equipment flaws, an energy management platform can provide deeper insights into energy leaks. These can be related to either equipment malfunctions (gasket leaks), scheduling shut-offs or the frequency of powering up equipment, all of which have energy use implications. 

All commercial buildings share the third highest category of energy consumption for restaurants–heating and cooling. Since buildings are responsible for 40% of US carbon emissions, there is an abundance of research into building efficiency and green building strategies.  

However, each opportunity for energy optimization is highly specific to the features and condition of the building in use. As with cooling and refrigerators, maintenance and operations as well as HVAC equipment choices and aging factor into heating and cooling energy management.

Though not among the top three energy sources for restaurants, quick wins are also available across other categories of energy use. Switching to LED lighting can instantly minimize energy costs. 

Taking Advantage of Comprehensive Energy Management

Gaining insights into where energy is lost or saved requires compiling energy data from all sources into a single source of truth. Atrius Energy can serve as a comprehensive observation deck across all energy consumption categories, so restaurants can quickly analyze the data through dynamic visualizations in our dashboards. 

This data includes real-time data collected and compiled from different equipment, meters, and sub-meters. Utility consumption data can be automated to immediately update your records. 

Atrius Energy data analytics can be used for a wide range of strategies to improve energy efficiency. It gives restaurants the ability to compare how well equipment performs compared to its energy rating, time equipment upgrades, and maintenance based on energy consumption, and identify ways to optimize energy through adjustments to scheduling, equipment settings, shut-offs, power-ups, and more. 

Going further to improve environmental sustainability 

Integrating energy management into operations is just the first step. Restaurants can use Atrius Sustainability, a supplement to Atrius Energy, to identify and optimize additional sources of cost-savings while simultaneously reducing their environmental impacts.  

Carbon emissions accounting: Atrius Sustainability enables effective carbon accounting at the organizational and value chain levels. Energy consumption is directly linked to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG emissions), but it isn’t the only source of these emissions. Additional factors like emissions from food waste and transportation emissions can contribute to a restaurant’s GHG footprint. 

Food waste contributes approximately 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions when it rots in landfills and transforms into methane. A greenhouse gas, methane emissions warm the planet 28 times faster than CO2 emissions. 

Food waste management:  Atrius Sustainability gives restaurants a way to track and manage their food waste. In the US, food is the most commonly landfilled form of waste. A 2021 UN Environment Programme report finds that households, food service and retail sectors generated 931 metric tons of food waste in 2019, with food service accounting for 26%. Municipal composting with separate bins for food waste is a practical and effective way to address food waste, but only a few regions in the US offer these services including California and New York (for restaurants). Without these services food waste reduction is even more important.   

Lowering food waste not only reduces the waste sent to landfills and GHG emissions, but it can also help minimize food loss and edible food that is not consumed. Minimizing food loss through donating unwanted edible food can simultaneously address the social and environmental impacts of food waste. 

Water consumption: Atrius Sustainability tracks utility data for water consumption with the same precision as its energy management capabilities. Many areas around the United States face water stress related to drought. Restaurants can lower their environmental impact based on data-driven decision making. Similar to energy management, Atrius Sustainability can track water consumption, so restaurants can make wise decisions about their water-consuming equipment (faucets, toilets, dishwashers) and the operations of this equipment. 

Delivery transportation route planning: Atrius Sustainability enables businesses to manage transportation and fuel costs through vehicle maintenance, route optimization, and fuel or equipment purchasing decisions. Many restaurants offer delivery services in addition to their in-house dining experience. For any transportation activities that are not outsourced, Atrius Sustainability can be used to optimize delivery transportation through route planning and scheduling. 

How it works: 

Atrius Energy and Atrius Sustainability provide a range of useful management capabilities that benefit restaurants: 

  • Equipment monitoring: Input information about your equipment to schedule routine maintenance, track servicing updates and assess the equipment efficiency compared to its standard lifespan expectations. 
  • Reduce food waste: Identify opportunities such as purchasing and timing decisions that lower food waste.  
  • Integrate utility data: Utility data at the meter and sub-meter levels, or even at the equipment level with the right sensors, can be automatically uploaded into Atrius Energy and Sustainability.  
  • Track progress: Comparing insights across time periods can show important trends and factors that influence energy, waste, carbon emissions, water and other categories, and their financial implications. Tracking and monitoring these items over time, improves analysis and enables goal setting.   
  • Customized reporting: Internally, cost-benefit analysis reports can serve as influential decision-making tools. In addition, routinely reporting and communicating the sustainability of your restaurant can have a positive influence on your internal and external stakeholders who care about this information. Atrius Energy and Sustainability support a wide range of reporting capabilities for different purposes and stakeholder audiences. 

Timing decisions linked to energy management is critical. For instance, embedding energy considerations into new building construction or building or facility remodels can greatly impact energy costs and emissions by design. 

Many regions across the US are implementing building benchmarking and performance standards requiring commercial building owners of a certain size to either track and manage or lower their energy to a certain level along a timeline. Now is a great time to improve the efficiency of your restaurant and facilities to get ahead of these regulations. 

Data-driven insights for optimizing and measuring energy usage take restaurants one step towards sustainability and give cost-reducing management insights that can improve profitability. 

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