Volume 47, Number 10
Written By: Denise Deveau
[dropcap size=big]F[/dropcap]oodservice operators are paying an increasing amount of attention to energy savings. Whether investing in a large-scale energy overhaul or engaging in small-scale projects that help alleviate daily energy consumption, there are many energy-saving strategies to consider. “Businesses in general are much more interested in reducing their carbon footprint,” says Derrick Finn, principal with Finn Projects in Toronto, an engineering specialist in energy-efficient retrofits.
From the Ground Up
At Toronto’s Earth Rangers, a children’s conservation centre, which is home to an 80-seat foodservice operation, creating a sustainable operation has been a mandate since day one. In fact, the centre’s foodservice activities account for 10 per cent of the building’s energy consumption, says Brett Sverkas, senior manager.
The energy-saving initiatives are extensive. All the pot lights and spotlights are LEDs and the rest are energy-efficient fluorescent, Sverkas reports. Lights are controlled by occupancy and light-level sensors, which means if the sun provides enough light, or if an area is unoccupied, they don’t turn on. Air ventilation is also adjusted automatically based on room occupancy. Kitchen appliances are Energy Star rated, including a small induction stove, and the ventilation hood has been fitted with a trip relay that switches it on when the stove is in use. What’s more, radiant heating generated in the concrete slabs in the floor and ceiling offers further energy savings. “With radiant you’re not directly heating or cooling air. [The system] radiates heat to surfaces, so you don’t have the heat loss you do with other heating systems,” Sverkas explains, adding that a solar-thermal collection system on the main roof is offset by solar panels, which absorb the sun’s rays and use that energy to heat water in the building.
Arby’s Restaurant Group has spent nearly three years on its “Energy Matters” program. Between 2011 and 2013, the chain achieved close to an eight-per-cent reduction in energy use within its restaurants. Its goal is to reduce energy by 15 per cent by 2015.
Reaching that sustainability goal takes more than reassessing big-ticket items; it requires a master plan. “We started applying low-cost, no-cost projects,” says Frank Inoa, senior director of Operations Engineering for Arby’s Restaurant Group in Atlanta. “Once we began enjoying ene- rgy savings there, we invested in larger capital expenditures.”
These low-cost initiatives included adjusting on/off schedules for lighting and equipment; retrofitting aerators and low-flow spray valves on fixtures; implementing programmable thermostats that monitor rooftop heating/cooling units and control settings remotely; and setting hot-water heaters 10 degrees lower. “Even putting in strip curtains at the entrances of walk-in coolers helps save energy,” Inoa says.
Another notable investment was switching to densely insulated, electronically commutated motors for cooler and freezer condensing units — a motor in which power can be pulsed on and off electronically. “They operate at 70-per-cent higher efficiency than standard motors,” Inoa says. “Most of what we’ve introduced has a payback of two years
While the program’s energy-saving initiatives are for corporate stores, Arby’s shares its energy-saving wins with all its franchisees, including 83 outlets in Canada. “It takes a while to get these tested and into the stores. Whatever we test they can roll out,” he says.
Small Budget, Big Results
Thankfully, a big investment is not necessary to save energy in foodservice. Rebecca Dooley, owner of The Grind Café in Toronto, is on board with implementing energy-saving lighting systems, an initiative that doesn’t undermine her bottom line.
In fact, the main capital investment at the Grind was the compact fluorescent bulbs in the main space, as well as motion sensors in the restrooms and the main area that will turn off the lights when there is sufficient daylight (more than 90 per cent of the space has natural light). Dooley reports that, with those initiatives alone, lighting in the café requires 40 per cent less energy than the standard benchmark.
In the kitchen, operating exhaust hoods more efficiently is another way to save energy. “You don’t need them on all the time, and it’s quite expensive to run them,” says Finn Projects’ Finn. “Running a fan at 80-per-cent versus 100-per-cent speed
delivers a 50-per-cent energy savings.”
There are many easy, cost-effective ways for operators to reduce energy consumption at their restaurants. Insulating water lines and setting water temperatures to the minimum requirements saves energy costs for hot-water heating. “There’s no need to overheat water. That’s a lot of wastage for heat generation,” notes Finn, adding that adjusting thermostats by a degree or two can improve heating and cooling system efficiency.
And, good maintenance boosts energy savings, too. “You should be making sure systems are properly cleaned and doors are sealed properly,” advises Finn, referring to refrigeration units.
It’s simple. “We just started applying common sense to our behaviour, not using water that’s too hot and turning things off when they’re not in use,” says Dooley. “Even if you’re on a small budget, you can do quite a lot if everybody puts a little thought into it.”