Restaurants consume roughly five to seven times more energy per square foot than other types of commercial buildings, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Busy quick-service restaurants demand even more energy, using up to 10 times more electricity per square foot. On that scale, finding how to save energy in your restaurant not only reduces operating costs but also has a positive effect on the environment.
To make a meaningful impact on your operation’s energy consumption, it’s a good idea to develop specific practical strategies, including using commercial ice baths and other smart equipment choices, that can help you achieve your goal.
The energy challenge in restaurants
Restaurant profit margins are thin in any economy, and high energy costs can make them even thinner by taking a significant bite out of them.
Pressure on restaurants to adopt sustainable practices is also increasing. As customers — particularly in younger generations — become more and more environmentally conscious, they are more likely to patronize establishments that align with their values. Because of this, high energy consumption can not only hurt your bottom line but also have a negative impact on your restaurant’s image and reputation.
But there is also another important consideration to balance when determining how to save energy in your restaurant. Guests want more from restaurants than just a way to ease their hunger. They expect a dining experience that engages all their senses, relaxes them and makes them feel cared for. Energy conservation planning should include ways to cut consumption while putting a priority on maintaining or improving their experience.
The right equipment makes a difference
Although it may seem counterintuitive, it’s often more cost-effective to purchase new, energy-efficient equipment than to push to continue using outdated, over-consuming appliances. Machines that run intermittently, such as AyrKing’s Breader Blender Sifter (BBS), can do a large amount of work in a very short time, reducing labor and ingredient costs while increasing productivity and using only a minimal amount of electricity.
You can also look at how to change the way that you use equipment you already have in order to increase its efficiency. Installing programmable thermostats on your existing HVAC system, for example, can help maintain comfortable temperatures while ensuring energy isn’t wasted. And replacing traditional lighting with LED bulbs reduces energy consumption by not only drawing in less power but also emitting less heat and reducing the work for your HVAC system. LED bulbs can also provide superior lighting quality and durability.
Optimize your workflow
Where you place your equipment has a direct effect on your processes and the efficiency of your system. Placing your refrigerator right next to your cook station, for example, will make it have to work harder than it otherwise would. Separating equipment into zones depending on its operating temperature reduces that strain, reducing the chance of overload and lowering energy costs.
Time- and labor-saving equipment, such as AyrKing’s commercial marinators, can also help by reducing the time needed to marinate proteins from hours to minutes through a timed tumbling process. They allow operators to serve freshly marinated product on demand without the waste of over-preparing or the fear of running out of pre-marinated product.
Equipment like this can help streamline your processes, reducing the amount of time needed to prepare food and increasing productivity and your ability to serve more customers.
Embrace mobility and ergonomics
Commercial kitchens are always tight spaces when you’re staffed properly for peak serving times. That’s when it’s most crucial to use the right equipment to move food efficiently from station to station.
AyrKing’s food prep carts, for example, feature built-in casters to allow for easy movement around the kitchen. Available in a wide variety of configurations and sizes from 15” to 41” wide, these handy carts can transfer large amounts of food without the inefficiency, physical strain or risk of dropping that comes from carrying items by hand.
They can also function as temporary workstations for flexible workflows, providing a sturdy workspace wherever you need it most.
Combine equipment for more efficient kitchen
Pairing equipment can enhance its effectiveness and open the door to new possibilities. AyrKing’s ice bath carts can be paired with a BBS, for example. This keeps proteins close at hand so operators can quickly and easily bread product, cutting hand sifting time by up to 80% and saving on ingredient costs.
Food ice baths and energy conservation
Commercial ice bath carts are a simple, cost-effective way to balance food safety and workflow needs while reducing energy consumption. With casters that allow easy movement throughout the kitchen, food ice bath carts put proteins and other perishables in arms’ reach, wherever you need them, and maintain them at safe temperatures for extended time periods.
This protects your guests while saving time and labor from operators walking to and from your walk-in. It also eliminates the need to expend extra energy to bring your refrigerator back down to ideal temperature after the door is opened.
Commercial ice baths vs. traditional cooling methods
Not everything made in a commercial kitchen will be served immediately. Many dishes have ingredients that require pre-cooking, and elaborate dishes may take multiple stages to prepare. Or more foods may be prepared in advance than are served.
In either of these cases, hot foods will need to be quickly cooled to safe temperatures to keep them safe from potentially dangerous bacteria and microorganisms that multiply dangerously between 41° and 135° F, peaking between 70° and 125° F.
Simply placing hot foods in your refrigerator or freezer isn’t safe because they won’t cool quickly enough and will spend too much time at risky temperatures. Placing hot foods into your refrigerator or freezer will also raise the temperature inside of the unit, putting the other foods inside at risk.
Food ice baths surround product with cold, quickly chilling them from the outside in and allowing them to reach safe temperatures within recommended time limits while also helping you conserve energy.
Maximizing commercial ice bath efficiency
Without refrigeration fans that can draw flour from the air or moving parts that require regular service, well-made commercial ice bath carts, such as those made by AyrKing, are easy to maintain. Simply open the bottom drain at the end of the cold food well and wipe down the commercial-grade stainless steel basin.
Including the ice bath method for food in staff safety training for both food preparation and safe cooling helps operators develop awareness of best practices and good habits that keep foods at safe temperatures so you can serve everything at its freshest.
The future of sustainability in restaurants
The threat of climate change will continue to increase, making our population more and more aware of how the choices they make every day can affect their future.
Restaurants that set long-term goals for sustainability are not only doing the right thing to protect the environment, but they’re also building a positive brand image that encourages guests to choose their establishment over other options.
As the restaurant industry moves forward, growing and adapting to new technologies, ingredient availability, a changing economy and other variables, having flexible workflow equipment can help your operation prepare for the road ahead.
Having the flexibility to change configurations, combine equipment inside a single footprint and handle increases or decreases in demand can set your restaurant up for success for many years to come.
From choosing energy-efficient equipment to embracing mobility, finding ways to decrease electrical usage not only saves money, but also reduces your operation’s impact on the environment. By making smart choices and investing in innovative solutions, you can help your restaurant thrive while being part of a sustainable future.
Explore AyrKing cold protein storage for energy conservation.