So, you’ve made the choice to have a more energy-efficient restaurant. Congratulations! Perhaps in the future, your computer will be able to pop out a few pieces of confetti in honor of your decision—not today, though.
What you can do today is start implementing the next steps for making your restaurant’s operations even better for both your bottom line and the environment. If you haven’t talked to an energy consultant and developed a personalized plan, here are some first steps you can take that should set you up for success.
Schedule an energy audit.
An energy audit will be massively useful in getting you started. (Don’t know what an energy audit is? Check out this article for more information!) By first completing an energy audit, you will know what areas of your restaurant need the most attention and are using up the most energy.
Set some goals.
Once you know where you are at after completing the energy audit, you should set some goals to help guide you in where you’re going. Set specific, measurable, and achievable goals for your restaurant. Avoid broad objectives like “use less energy” and “lower energy costs.” Instead, ask yourself how you will get to that point. “Replace old dishwasher” and “Reduce energy bill 5% by next quarter” might be some targets for your restaurant.
Get the staff on board.
The team of people who help run your restaurant collectively make more energy related decisions than you do. You and your business will be much better off if you can ensure that everyone is on the same page. Encourage your staff to embrace energy-saving habits, such as turning off lights and equipment when not in use.
Replace under-performing equipment.
Remember the energy audit? It’s time to circle back around to that. Consider the equipment that showed up on the report as being inefficient. One by one (or all at once, if you can afford it), replace those appliances with newer equipment that conserve energy well. Having a new oven and refrigerator will require an initial investment, but you may be surprised by how much your bottom line is boosted in the next months.
Along the same lines, take a look at the HVAC and lighting results from the energy audit. More than likely, you’ll need to make some upgrades there as well. For lighting, consider using LED or CFL lighting instead of traditional incandescent bulbs. (If you need more guidance on lighting, give this article a quick read!) Even more than lighting, HVAC systems are major energy consumers in restaurants. Ensure regular maintenance of your HVAC equipment, including cleaning or replacing filters, checking for leaks, and optimizing thermostat settings. Installing an intelligent EMS system could greatly reduce your HVAC costs and ensure an optimum dining temperature for guests. (More on that here!)
Check out your insulation and sealing.
If you’ve spent money to have your HVAC system in tip-top shape and heated/cooled the environment to just the right temperature, it would be a shame to let so much of that pristine air go right out the door. It may seem like a hassle, but taking a day or weekend to check and re-insulate doors and windows that let in a draft will save you a pretty penny in the end. It also reduces the load on your HVAC system, helping to keep it in good condition for longer.
Evaluate kitchen operations.
The kitchen is a major energy-intensive area. Take some time to watch all that goes on during a busy mealtime. If you see practices—things like leaving lids off pots of boiling water, keeping freezer doors open unnecessarily long, letting frost build up in the fridge—that are letting energy go to waste, talk to those who work in the kitchen and encourage them to implement new standards that conserve energy.
Stay on track to reach your goals.
Don’t let this be like the New Year’s resolution that you began and then forgot about 12 days later. Regularly assess your progress toward your energy-saving goals by monitoring your utility bills to gauge the impact of your initiatives. Make adjustments as needed and continually seek ways to improve energy efficiency. After the initial energy audit, it is beneficial to schedule follow-up audits periodically. The frequency of these audits can vary depending on the needs of your restaurant, but a good rule of thumb is to have one every 1 to 3 years to make sure you keep steady progress towards your goals.
Remember, energy efficiency is an ongoing process. By implementing these steps and fostering a culture of energy conservation, you can make a significant difference in reducing your restaurant’s environmental footprint while saving on operational costs. If that’s something you want for your restaurant, reach out to one of your friends at GWT2Energy today, and we can help create an individualized plan to make your business even better!