Like many operators, Boston Pizza franchisee Cory Luedtke says saving energy gets more difficult once you’ve covered the basics. “We’ve done the common things restaurants are doing, like switching to LED lighting, on-demand ventilation, energy-saving appliances, motion sensors, low-flow fixtures and turning off equipment. Now, we’re figuring out how to carve out more savings. We’re chipping away at it.”
The need is pressing, given hydro rates in Ontario are expected to increase by 33 per cent this year. That’s a hefty increase considering the hydro bill for his four locations reached $70,000 in 2016. “It makes it tough on the bottom line,” he says. “But we’re getting better at doing our research, so we can find out about new technologies.” Thomas McNaughton, vice-president of South St. Burger in Toronto, says the company continues to work on new ways to conserve energy since the operation launched 12 years ago. South St. Burger has worked with Toronto-based Jump Branding & Design to help design its 39 stores in Ontario, Alberta and B.C. — including a LEED-certified outlet at Toronto’s Bayview Village.
“It’s always been in our best interest to use Energy Star-rated equipment because it reduces our electricity bill,” McNaughton says. “We also use air-cooled versus water-cooled ice machines and remote compressors because they are better for the environment and you don’t have gallons upon gallons of water going down the drain 24/7.” He estimates water savings from those investments are in the 70 per cent range.
They are also switching to higher-efficiency fryers from U.S.-based Pitco. Some stores are equipped with Martin Air on-demand ventilations systems that capture exhaust heat from the fryers and grills and pump it back into the store for heating. This reduces the load on the HVAC system, since it doesn’t have to work as hard to raise temperatures.
McNaughton is currently exploring options for water heating. “We’ve looked into on-demand systems; we love the idea. Right now we don’t use big tanks and they are wrapped and insulated so the water stays warm much longer.”
Hot-water technology has evolved considerably, says Bruce Andrew, vice-president Sales and Marketing for Reliance Home Comfort in Toronto. Options now include on-demand (or tankless) hot-water systems or duo tanks that combine tankless with a smaller hot water tank.
“Restaurateurs have tended to oversize their hot-water tanks, which in turn consumes more energy,” he explains. “These aren’t new technologies, but they are to foodservice. Major chains are now looking at them to save energy.”
Langdon Hall in Cambridge, Ont. was able to rethink its energy strategy when it went through a renovation in 2013, says Jay Bolhuis, director of Engineering. “We wanted the best bang for our equipment [buck]. We chose a lot of induction equipment that is up to 90 per cent efficient.”
It also invested upwards of $20,000 dollars in improvements to its kitchen ventilation. “We set up the extraction system to make it self-sufficient and self-regulating,” he explains. Temperature sensors were installed in the ductwork and variable-speed drives added to adjust the system depending on the temperature conditions. Tyler Pronyk, director, Distribution, Equipment and Packaging for A&W Food Services of Canada Inc., says the key focus of its environmental strategy, which was established in 2008, was improving energy usage.
“With each restaurant opening, we look to whatever is newest and most efficient. Once it’s approved, it’s added to our specifications for when restaurants need to upgrade or replace items.”
Beyond the fundamentals, A&W has implemented processes to make sure energy isn’t being used when it shouldn’t. “One thing that has been tremendously successful has been establishing an equipment-startup schedule so that you only turn on what you need at any given time,” Pronyk says. “It’s a huge opportunity to reduce consumption.”
At least two-thirds of its stores have energy-efficient fryers. “We’re now looking at newer models that go one step further with smaller tank vats that use less oil, so consume 25 to 35 per cent less energy,” Pronyk says.
Costs for top-of-the-line energy-efficient fryers are 200 per cent higher than conventional fryers, he adds. The newer models could mean an additional 15- to 20-per-cent increase in cost.
Eric Boulden, president and principal with Jump Branding & Design Inc. says while energy-consumption levels are mandated in building codes, there are opportunities to add value. “For example, you can get light fixtures with better lumens so you can use them more effectively in the areas you want and reduce the number you need.” His firm recently worked on a LEED Platinum project at the Ryerson Learning Centre for Basil Box’s flagship location. A big energy-savings advantage was the massive glass storefront, which allowed them to work with natural daylight, thereby reducing the number of light fixtures required.
For operators that feel they’ve stretched their energy savings to the limit, maintenance can play a big part in pushing the envelope further. Boulden says that with any project, “We have to go through commissioning, energy and water use to make sure everything is working optimally. That can make a huge difference to operating costs.” Optimization also means maintaining what you have in place already. “It’s great if you have low-flow valves or volumes, but if there is a leak you don’t fix, that’s actually a huge deal,” Pronyk says.
Luedtke agrees, saying that when new equipment is not in the cards, investing in maintenance can help the cause considerably. “It’s short-term cost for a long-term gain.”
Volume 50, Number 1
Written by Denise Deveau