The food service industry is tough. Continuing to attract customers and satisfy them is a difficult challenge. To beat the competition and turn a profit, organizations must collect, analyze, and understand many different types of information. This information gathering and processing is the heart of what general managers, regional managers, and corporate execs use to manage the business. All of this information helps inform what every employee is asked to do on a daily basis.
Consider how many checklists and recipes an average quick-serve restaurant uses to guide employees as they respond to each and every customer order. Consider how many hourly, daily, weekly, monthly reports are generated to track sales, labor costs, food costs, inventory and more to help general managers understand whether their location is on a path to success and if not, why not.
Why would energy use not be included amongst these lists and reporting? It is a component of operational performance that has a direct and material impact on financial performance.
Traditional answers to this question include: energy is not a controllable expense, our operations are too diverse to do any meaningful benchmarking, managers have enough to worry about already, my maintenance team does the best they can, etc. And more recently, the answer can include: we don’t have the bandwidth to manage more information and/or the confusing array of energy management systems on the market are all too expensive anyway.
New thinking turns this question on its head and asks, “Can we afford not to track energy and equipment performance data and still be a high performance organization – the type of high performance organization that is profitable and durable and successful?”
A recent article in QSR Magazine makes a powerful case that the “don’t have the time and money to invest in the type of system that it would take” argument is dangerously shortsighted. In particular, the article points out that such systems and processes that are providing feedback on performance are critical parts of how a successful culture is created. A sample:
“Systems are expensive to build, both in terms of financial and nonfinancial investment, but they pay for themselves multiples over in the long run. No operator is omnipotent; the culture and systems are critical.”
The link between operational excellence and energy efficiency is a strong one. A recent post from the Food Service Technology Center does a nice job of highlighting the numerous small actions that can be taken to stop wasting water and energy and instead deliver improved operational performance and higher profits. A sample:
“There is way too much waste! Operators are in the habit of walking by glaring maintenance problems and inappropriate use of equipment without thinking about how that affects their bottom line, the performance of their kitchen or the environment.”
So what’s the bottom line here? Managers can use energy management as a lever to instill a high performance culture that achieves superior financial returns. Or, from the other direction, if you’ve got a high performance team, they are certainly capable of doing what it takes to control energy costs. As competition gets tougher and tougher out there, leaving energy management in the “uncontrollable” category is a risk you don’t need to take.
A final note: This logic also applies to asset management and vendor management. What kind of relationship you have with your HVAC/R vendors is heavily impacted by the level of trust that exists. This trust is often built on a track record of performance, customer satisfaction and value, all of which are almost always measured carefully using information systems. More on this item in future posts.