The Secret to Cutting Energy Costs in Restaurants

By Brian Harris

How well-versed are you in your restaurant energy costs? Here are three things you may not realize when it comes to the energy costs of restaurant operations:

  1. The average restaurant uses five to seven times as much energy per square foot as other commercial buildings. A fast-casual restaurant may use up to 10 times as much. (Source:
  2. 69% to 81% of total energy use in a restaurant comes from four sources:
    • cooking water
    • refrigeration
    • water heating
    • lighting
  3. 52% of consumers say they would visit a restaurant that engages in environmentally sustainable practices more frequently, according to a recent industry survey. (Sources for No. 2 and 3, Nate Kessman for

According to Nate Kessman, vice president of business development at Great Eastern Energy, employee engagement is the secret to successful execution of a restaurant energy strategy.

While it’s important to gather data to measure the progress of your energy efficient appliances, it’s just as important to measure progress in employee engagement. Where do you begin?

How to Make Restaurant Employees Care about Energy Efficiency

When developing a strategy to reduce restaurant energy costs, it’s a good idea to hold a meeting with your employees and ask for their input in developing a process. This is a good opportunity to emphasize the importance of environmental sustainability. Ultimately, vigilant and engaged employees will keep costs down.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program provides energy-saving tips for restaurants in three areas. Each of the following areas benefits from employee involvement:

1.Refrigeration and Other Restaurant Equipment

Employee involvement: Maintenance/repair, startup and shutdown of appliances, thermostat checks.

2. Lighting

Employee involvement: Dimming the lights, installing LED lighting and daylight sensors, installing occupancy sensors

3. Heating and Cooling

Employee involvement: Changing your air filter regularly and conducting a yearly HVAC tune-up

Remember that your employees know your facility the best. They are most familiar with the maintenance “quirks” of each location and can help develop your corporate strategy. Once the strategy is developed, execute by assigning property inspection tasks and tracking their completion.

For more energy-saving tips, check out Energy Star’s Guide for Cafés, Restaurants, and Institutional Kitchens and Energy Use and Energy Efficiency Opportunities in Restaurants.

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