It’s Not Your Grandma’s Kitchen Anymore

This month we’ll discuss some recent industry trends, issues and new or emerging gas technologies that will help make your foodservice operation run smoother and provide BIG potential for increasing that bottom line. Remember, It’s NOT your Grandma’s kitchen anymore and with the modern kitchens of today, operators must work even harder to MAKE EVERY PENNY COUNT!

A recent study (April 2004) that involved a group of full-service restaurants was conducted to establish a verifiable benchmark for energy expenses and how they are, or in some cases, how they are not, being managed. Seventy-four restaurants were actually recruited to participate, from which the drivers for this marketplace were ascertained. Although all of these study participants were located in the southeastern United States, the data compiled is a true mirror of the industry and may be used as a role model for the entire U.S. market. Both full-time establishments, those serving more than 10 meals per week, and part-time, those serving less than 10 meals per week, were incorporated into the study. The study team evaluated total operating energy costs relative to the square footage of the establishment (see Figure 1). These costs ranged from $107,000 to $6,300 with facility sizes ranging from 16,000 to 1,100 square feet.

The energy use mix of a restaurant will most certainly vary from facility to facility (see Figure 2), but cooking and water heating accounts for almost exactly 50% of that energy budget. This study also revealed that restaurants with the greatest mix of electric to gas cooking equipment experienced the highest overall energy bills! That speaks volumes for the efficiency and economy of gas-fired cooking technologies, even with the higher prices of natural gas today.

Overall, energy cost drivers for any foodservice operation today are centered around the following parameters:

  • Size of facility in square feet
  • Hours of operation or meals served per week
  • Number of customers
  • Overall building envelope
  • Equipment portfolio
  • Electric to gas energy mix
  • Electric load factor (the #1 item of significance)

So, what does all of this mean? Well, being that the restaurant business is a low margin industry (3 – 9% according to, a 20% reduction in energy costs at 7.3% of revenue can increase an average restaurant’s margins by 24%.

One of the participating restaurants in this study immediately went to work on making improvements in areas that could be easily orchestrated and monitored. After just a few short months they are now well on their way to achieving a 15% annual savings that will add up to some really big bucks. Prior to adopting these measures, their annual utility expenses were approximately $90,000. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see an immediate $13,500 annual savings just for addressing the following:

  • T-12 to T-8 fluorescent conversions
  • Incandescent to CFL conversions (kitchen, outside, dining area)
  • Implementing a lighting schedule
  • Conversion from electric to gas booster water heater for warewash sanitizing
  • Low-flow pre-rinse sprayers, aerators and low- flow toilets
  • Duty cycling on AC units during peak hours
  • Dual speed kitchen ventilation controls

If an operator can achieve these savings by addressing these issues, can you imagine what one could save if gas was used in all possible equipment applications in the facility? That amount would doubtlessly be significant! Is it any wonder then that gas is America’s FAVORITE Cook?

Over the past five years, the Gas Foodservice Equipment Network has awarded a number of manufacturers for their efforts in making better mousetraps that provide operators with additional means to improve production, enhance product consistency, reduce labor and yes, improve the bottom line.

Recent GFEN product of the year awards have gone to Jackson Warewashers for improved dish machines that use less water and incorporate high-temp gas booster water heaters, AccuTemp Products for their development of the Accu-Steam world’s best griddle that utilizes infrared burner technology for an instant recovery cooking surface making it the highest production griddle in the industry, Ultrafryer Systems’ high efficiency gas fryer with its unique heat exchanger design and low-flue exhaust that puts more heat into the fryer for higher production and reduced oil drag out to maximize profitability. Garland’s Moisture+ Oven that delivers combi-oven performance at a convection oven price, and Lang Manufacturing for developing the new roll-in rotating rack oven that eliminates blowers and air flow switches to reduce maintenance, energy costs and with improved versatility for programming up to sixty different menu items.

In addition, there is a plethora of new and emerging gas cooking and water heating technologies that can provide you with additional ways to make better use of your important energy budget dollars. If you are interested in learning more about new and emerging equipment technologies, GFEN can assist you as well as offer you comprehensive evaluations of your existing cooking equipment.

About Energy Solutions Center, Inc.

Energy Solutions Center, Inc. (ESC) is a non-profit organization of energy utilities and equipment manufacturers based in Washington DC that promotes energy efficient natural gas solutions and systems for use by residential, commercial, and industrial energy users. The Center concentrates on the development of tools and resources designed to enhance the success of those utility customer service professionals responsible for enhancing customer productivity, efficiency, reliability and comfort.

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