Energy has historically been considered an “uncontrollable” cost by most food service businesses. With the possible exception of lighting, most forms of energy consumption in restaurants and other businesses are nearly invisible, and many of the invisible forms of energy consumption are far more expensive than lighting, especially when it comes to restaurant operations. Energy can often be in the top 3 to 5 costs for a restaurant. The challenge is that historically, there have been few, if any, tools available to seize this opportunity for cost control.
The good news is that cost-effective and comprehensive energy management technologies that can help control, identify, and eliminate excessive and unnecessary forms of energy consumption, drive down operating costs and improve profitability are becoming available to restaurant owners and other businesses operating in small commercial facilities. These new energy management systems provide the ability to remotely control HVAC, gather detailed, real-time data for each piece of energy consuming equipment, and generate intelligent, specific, real-time guidance on finding and capturing the most compelling savings opportunities. The systems may also include other functionality such as refrigeration temperature monitoring (think food safety), water and gas monitoring, and lighting automation, all of which enhance the value proposition that an energy management system can deliver.
Although there is much promise in these technologies today, many owners and operators can probably tell you a story about the energy related technology that was in fact too good to be true or a total bust. In our experience, to avoid the bad and the ugly and focus on the good, one needs to better understand these technologies, their value to an organization, and how they can be effectively deployed to improve an operation’s profitability. To help in this effort, there are three key questions that should be answered before embarking on a new energy management system project:
- Who should be involved in the use of these systems?
- Where are the opportunities for saving money?
- When should the customer expect to reap savings?