Schedule Start Up/Shut Down to Save Energy in Restaurants

If you read Powerhouse Dynamics’ advice for getting on the asset and energy management podium, you probably noticed that one key strategy mentioned was developing an “equipment start up/shut down schedule”. If you aspire to winning a medal, then it’s time to enforce that new policy and watch the energy savings and equipment cost reductions start pouring in. For those of you who have never heard of an “equipment start up/shut down schedule”, this post will introduce the concept, and for those of you working on development or enforcement of such a policy, I have some tips for making it work in the “real world”.

What is an equipment start up/shut down schedule and why do you need one?

A start up/shut down schedule, which I’ve also seen called “equipment power up/power down schedule” or simply “equipment on/off schedule”, informs restaurant operators and their teams when individual pieces of equipment should be turned on and off in a given day to reduce energy waste while providing a uniform and enjoyable experience for customers. For example, if a hot well for soup takes 15 minutes to get to temperature and the first soup won’t be served until 11am, then the hot well should be powered up at 10:45am. Turning it on any earlier is a waste of energy, and turning it on any later could mean cold soup for your guests. Similarly, at the end of the day you should have a time set for the hot well to be powered off, emptied, and cleaned. Restaurant cooks are particularly notorious for turning on almost everything in the kitchen the moment they arrive and just letting it all run, sometimes hours before it’s needed.

It’s far easier to get your organization on board with developing and enforcing such a policy if you start with the benefits. Clearly, saving energy and dollars is the most obvious benefit and likely to get positive attention. When equipment is running, it uses energy and those kilowatt-hours (kWh) cost money; less equipment runtime equals a lower utility bill. Another huge benefit is reduced wear and tear on equipment. Generally speaking, the longer equipment runs, the more frequently it requires maintenance and repair and the shorter its effective life.

Sure, spreading out maintenance dollars is great and delaying expensive replacements may seem wonderful, but an even bigger benefit may be avoiding or at least delaying the pain of equipment down time. You can bet that your operations team will appreciate that benefit because when key equipment is down, your team can’t deliver a great product and guests are unhappy. If you are operating a chain concept and standardize on best practices across many facilities, these benefits will really start to add up.

How do you create an equipment start up/shut down schedule?

Exhaust hood running constantly
Energy data from SiteSage shows this exhaust hood running 24/7

If the benefits above appeal to you, it’s time to put a schedule together. It’s not practical to manage every single circuit in your store, so you’ll want to prioritize equipment that uses a lot of energy to run and requires expensive, frequent maintenance. With an automated remote equipment management system, you can collect energy data from individual circuits to know precisely what equipment costs you the most to run, and when it actually goes on and off (if ever). In general, electrically intensive equipment includes anything used to cool, heat, or move air (air conditioning, refrigeration, exhaust hoods, make-up air, etc.) or that uses electricity to produce heat (electric baseboard heat, ovens, heat lamps, etc.). With a short list of energy intensive equipment in hand, it’s now time to figure out exactly how long it takes equipment to reach a desired state by a target time. If it takes your oven 20 minutes to get to target temperature and it is needed starting at 11am every day, then its start up time should be set at 10:40am. To push the example further, the exhaust hood over your oven is only needed when the oven is on, so it should go on at exactly 10:40am as well. You can repeat this investigation for the end of the day while keeping in mind that thermal inertia will likely let you shut down certain equipment a bit early and “drift”, staying pretty close to your target temperature with no extra energy used.

How to implement and enforce your equipment start up/shut down schedule

Now that you have a schedule, here are some tips to get it adopted and followed in your organization:

  • Build buy-in throughout your organization
    • Solicit input from respected operations team members early in the process of building the schedule to make sure they feel that your on/off targets are reasonable given existing operations
    • Incentivize energy savings for both location and area managers – incentives might include financial bonuses (some of our customers use this approach very effectively) and/or recognition
    • Always talk about energy savings in dollars or an equivalent that is important to your business (i.e. product sold). Due to tight profit margins in many industries, a dollar of energy savings will do as much for your company’s bottom line as several dollars of increased revenue
  • Post reminders and train
    On-off schedule stickers
    Putting a reminder sticker right next to the on button makes compliance straightforward
    • Include the start up/shut down schedule on prep lists, so when a cook reviews their mission for the morning, they know both when to start prep tasks and when equipment should be turned on to accomplish those tasks
    • Place a sticker right next to the ON switch of important equipment to make it very clear what time it should go on and off
    • Train managers and staff on your new policies, and include the start up/shut down schedule in training materials for all new hires
  • Provide tools to be successful and automate where it makes sense
    • Control heating and cooling equipment with an internet connected thermostat so that you have central control and can be assured that best practices are being followed, including start up and shut down times
    • Where appropriate, add equipment controls to de-energize equipment when it should be shut down. This can be as simple as a time clock or as sophisticated as internet-connected controls
    • Energy Management Systems like SiteSage can track energy usage at the equipment level, provide weekly reports on progress towards start up/shut down schedule compliance, and send real-time alerts if policy is being broken
    • If you don’t have real-time remote energy monitoring, then you can spot check locations or have a 3rd party “audit” locations to make sure they are following best practices and complying with policy. One of our customers pays for the cost of the first audit at the corporate level, but if location “fails” the store must pay to be re-tested in the future

If you want to get serious about energy savings and equipment maintenance, don’t rely on the whim of individual employees to decide when equipment should be turned on and off. The best organizations provide clear guidance on when equipment should be run, provide tools like SiteSage to help monitor or automate adherence, and develop buy-in throughout their organization to make their program successful.

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