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Restaurants are notorious energy users, consuming nearly three times the energy of other commercial buildings.1 Energy consumes approximately 2.5 to 3.4 percent of total restaurant sales, depending on the type of operation. This may seem like a small margin, but a $1 reduction in energy costs equals $12.50 in sales at an 8 percent profit margin.2

Environmentally friendly practices are becoming mainstream in restaurants large and small, according the National Restaurant Association3, and adopting green energy plays a major role in creating a sustainable restaurant. Whether it’s composting bins out back that reduce waste-hauling diesel fuel, new LED signage at the store door or an ENERGY STAR dishwasher to cut electricity use, the industry is ramping up efforts to adopt sustainable energy strategies.4

Your restaurant’s largest energy use is in cooking and food preparation, followed by your building’s heating, cooling and ventilation (HVAC) system.5 Here are seven tips that can help you save energy, save money and create a more sustainable restaurant:


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Upgrade to ENERGY STAR equipment

Commercial fryers offer a good example of the value of the ENERGY STAR label. Standard-size commercial fryers that have earned the label are up to 30 percent more energy efficient than standard models, meaning you can save $185 to $520 annually using an ENERGY STAR-certified electric large vat fryer.6

Visit the ENERGY STAR website for more equipment savings recommendations.


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Regularly maintain and repair equipment

Freezer doors that don’t close tightly, worn refrigerator gaskets and cookers with knobs that don’t turn properly will all lead to energy loss. A refrigerator, for example, uses up to 23 percent more energy if it has dirty coils, 11 percent more if it has a faulty door seal and up to 100 percent more if the refrigerant leaks.7

Schedule weekly, monthly and yearly checks to inspect your kitchen equipment, and keep a log of inspections and services.


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Use light dimmers and occupancy/daylight sensors

Install automatic dimmers, or train staff to become dimmers themselves by turning lights off in unoccupied areas. Install sensors to turn off exterior lights when they're not needed.

Occupancy sensors that automatically turn lights on and off in lower-traffic areas, such as storage rooms and restrooms, can offer further savings.

Check with the lighting manufacturers or a licensed electrician to make sure all of your lighting controls are compatible with your building’s electrical system.


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Switch to CFL and LED lighting for additional energy savings

Swapping out incandescent bulbs with compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) can cut lighting costs by as much as 50 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.8 Some light emitting diodes (LEDs) offer even greater energy savings—as much as 75 percent, according to ENERGY STAR.9 Be sure you don’t overlook lights in signage.


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Install programmable thermostats

You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7° to 10°F for eight hours a day from its normal setting.10 Programmable thermostats offer a hassle-free way to automatically enforce these temperatures based on room occupancy—day or night.

Be sure to schedule regular thermostat checks because thermostats can fall out of calibration or fail, so be sure to regularly check that they're functioning properly. These checks should include your dishwashing, refrigeration, heating and hot water units.


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Maintain your HVAC equipment yearly

One of the quickest ways to leak dollars from your energy budget is to neglect your HVAC system. A yearly tune-up can not only save money, but it also can increase your customers’ comfort.

While you are at it, schedule monthly checks on air filters to help keep the HVAC system running efficiently. Use the ENERGY STAR Maintenance Checklist as your equipment tune-up guide.11


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Consider installing demand-controlled kitchen ventilation (DCKV)

DCKV exhaust hoods can lead to fan energy savings of between $1,500 and $10,000 annually, which could offer you a return on investment in less than one year.12 DCKV systems also can save restaurants 15 to 40 percent on heating and cooling costs. These efficient fans exhaust less air so that less heated or cooled replacement air is needed.13




Becoming an energy-saving restaurant doesn't have to be a complex task, especially if you work with an experienced supplier that offers diverse, customized supply- and demand-side energy solutions. Direct Energy Business can help you buy less of what we sell, offering a Total Energy Management approach to lowering energy costs with data and analytics, energy efficiency and alternative energy solutions, including:



Let our Advisory Services team help you make the best decisions for your business.
See how we can help you buy less of what we sell.

Download our free Strategic Services guide now


1. U.S. Small Business Administration, "Starting and Managing," retrieved February 2016
2. Ibid.
3. Madison Gas & Electric, "Top Five Energy-Saving Tips for Retail," retrieved February 2016
4., “Lighting Controls Strategies Can Save Money," August 2010
5. U.S. Department of Energy, Buildings Energy Data Book, retrieved February 2016
6., Managing Energy Costs in Retail Buildings, retrieved February 2016
7. U.S. Department of Energy, "High-Intensity Discharge Lighting Basics," retrieved February 2016
8. Madison Gas & Electric, "Top Five Energy-Saving Tips for Retail," retrieved February 2016
9. Ibid.
10. Building Science Corp., “BSD-200: Low-Energy Commercial and Institutional Buildings: Top Ten Smart Things to Do for Cold Climates,” Jan. 6, 2014.
11., “Retail energy management: The $3 billion opportunity,” June 12, 2014
12. Ibid.



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