Control & Automation
FIVE energy mgmt best practices for restaurant chains
By Jon Rabinowitz
December 9, 2014 - In the food service industry, energy is one of the most substantial ongoing operating expenses, accounting for as much as 8% each month. Energy managers at multi-site restaurant chains have big jobs with many challenges. One obstacle they encounter daily is the need to find solutions that maintain a balance between:
By Jon Rabinowitz
• the energy needs of systems and devices that keep the restaurants running
• unforeseen maintenance incidents that must be handled promptly
• management’s mandated cost reductions, which must be accommodated without negatively impacting other elements
• dispersed locations, making it difficult to install and maintain systems and standardize processes
With effective technology solutions to help energy managers direct the restaurant chain’s energy ecosystem, they get an opportunity to increase the bottom line. Studies show that a 10% reduction in energy costs can boost net profit margins in a restaurant by as much as 4% without undermining the core value and service provided to customers.
Therefore, it is in their own competent hands that energy managers find the need to implement energy management best practices like these:
1. Monitoring and benchmarking of locations, systems and individual devices
While many restaurant chains use a building management system, the BMS usually provides control over systems with no monitoring or benchmarking capabilities. To best manage energy consumption, energy managers need full visibility into systems and devices.
With energy management systems to monitor locations and individual devices, they get the granular details they need to benchmark and detect inefficiencies, then identify opportunities to save energy and money.
Furthermore, with an intelligent system that aggregates the data, actionable insights are provided systematically. Energy managers can then take the findings to management and enact quick, data-driven behavioural and process changes.
2. Standardizing alert responses and maintenance needs
Creating standard processes and procedures enables restaurant chains’ energy managers to handle incidents efficiently.
System alerts are an essential feature; they can let managers know when BMSs have been overridden, phantom energy usage patterns, and enable users to address energy and system inefficiencies in real-time.
Having systems in place to prioritize alerts—and procedures to respond to them based on priority—creates consistency and avoids the need to constantly operate in critical emergency mode.
3. Recognizing unusual energy usage patterns that suggest a potential problem
When an energy manager receives an alert about a system with unusual energy consumption patterns, he must discern that a failure may be imminent. By scheduling maintenance based on these insights—shifting from preventive maintenance schedules to predictive maintenance—restaurant chains can eliminate unscheduled and expensive equipment downtime while saving on the equipment maintenance budget item.
4. Promoting behavioural change by educating onsite staff
An energy manager’s responsibility does not end with the management and optimization of equipment. Often, the restaurant chain’s corporate culture needs to be shifted toward sustainability.
Employees need to be educated about their energy usage (and waste), and doing so with device-level data ensures they understand the direct effect their actions have on the systems, the company (and the planet).
5. Participating in corporate sustainability efforts and government efficiency incentive programs
McDonald’s has a robust corporate social responsibility and sustainability program, which includes aspirational goals like a “20% increase in energy efficiency” and “improving our carbon intensity through enhanced energy efficiency in our restaurant operations and innovations in restaurant design and equipment”.
Many other multi-site restaurant chains are taking note and following suit. By promoting sustainability projects like these, energy managers can:
• Reduce costs by eliminating waste, like unnecessary off-hours consumption and optimizing usage based on data collected by submetering.
• Increase operational efficiencies by planning predictive maintenance based on energy consumption data. This kind of maintenance cuts the costs of systems that do not require it, and cuts the repair costs when the necessary systems are maintained as needed.
Energy management best practices
Energy management best practices go beyond turning the lights off at the end of the day (or programming the BMS to do so) or setting the thermostat a few degrees higher. The best practices described above may require more insight, knowledge and commitment than simply flipping the switch at the end of the day, but they also result in proven long-term results that increase energy efficiency for restaurant chains the world over.
— Jon Rabinowitz is senior director of marketing at Panoramic Power, a provider of energy management solutions for retail and commercial businesses. He advocates the use of wireless sensor energy monitoring technology to make proactive operational decisions and reduce energy costs.