Restaurant owners have plenty to worry about through the course of their day. They continuously face uncontrollable variables such as crowds (or lack thereof), changing food prices, employee management, local regulations and accurate accounting. There are only a few things owners can control, and how much energy they can save during their daily operations is one of them.
Small business owners are crafty by nature. They are constantly adjusting, looking at different ways to approach a problem, planning and thinking ahead. Including energy efficiency in that future planning can not only help restaurateurs potentially help their bottom line, but also leaves a positive impact on their environment. Keeping their business up-to-date on how they reduce energy use can shrink a business’ carbon footprint.
Just as business owners analyze trends in their industry and their business operations, they should analyze trends in how and when they use the most energy to see where they can save. Even the smallest of changes can make a big impact on a business’ energy use, particular during busy seasons:
Audit your energy use, not just your books. Requesting an energy assessment from your local energy provider can help identify any opportunities to save energy and money.
Make your thermostat work for you. A programmable thermostat can save an extra 10 percent on heating and cooling costs. They regulate the temperature of the space, so you don’t have to. Adjusting the thermostat by even a few degrees according to when people are in the restaurant can save energy.
Put the closed sign on your equipment. A good rule of thumb for your kitchen equipment: if it’s plugged in, it’s using energy—even if you’ve closed up shop for the day. Unplugging light-up signs and displays when not in use can help you save.
Incorporate your HVAC into your cleaning routine. Dirty air filters make HVAC systems work harder and reduces air flow. With the change in seasons, check to see if your air filters should be swapped out to ensure the system runs more efficiently.
Protect office hardware with a power strip. All those cords coming from your printers, computers and phones use energy even when you’re not using them. Organize and plug them into a power strip to make them easy to shut off at once and to help save up to $100 a year.
Cook up savings by updating your kitchen equipment. The latest cooking technologies can make your restaurant or food service areas more efficient and comfortable, while helping your kitchen workers stay at peak performance. Carefully consider the cost of multiple fixes to an old appliance versus investing in newer, more energy-efficient tools.
Replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs. Don’t let incandescent bulbs fool you. They typically last about 1,000 hours whereas a 12-watt LED bulb can last up to 25,000 hours.
Put motion sensor lights on your payroll. There are some places of your business that can go unvisited for long lengths of time, such as restrooms or store rooms. Reduce the amount of electricity you use by never forgetting to turn off a light again.
Implementing even one or two of these changes at a time can have positive long-term effects on both a business’ bottom line and their local environment. Business don’t have to do this alone. They can look to programs such as Energy Upgrade California, which has a goal of helping small business owners use energy better. As climate change concerns grow it’s up to business owners to set an example for their community and do what they can to control their impact on the environment.
Gloria Colazo is the co-owner of Mariscos El Amateco, a Salvadoran restaurant in Van Nuys and a small business partner of Energy Upgrade California. Gloria has spent decades advocating for better opportunities for women in the workforce and the executive sphere, and has championed for advancement opportunities for all Latinos, representing nationalities from across Central, South, and North America. She is also deeply invested in health education and improving health outcomes for vulnerable communities, and works with local and international relief and aid efforts. She is currently serving as the Regional Director of both the El Salvador Chamber of Commerce and the Ecuadorian-American Southern California Chamber of Commerce, and as Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors at St. Jude Health Centers.