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A wall-mounted dual heating-cooling unit with an Energy Star label.

Energy Savings Tips for Restaurants and Food Stores From ENERGY STAR

We’re partnering with EPA’s ENERGY STAR to give you tips that can help you identify ways to save energy and water in your restaurant, boost your bottom line, and help protect the environment.

Restaurants use about five to seven times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings, and high-volume quick-service restaurants use up to 10 times more.

Since restaurants and food stores face a number of challenges and opportunities for energy management, ensuring efficient energy use is a business practice that improves profitability, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and conserves natural resources. This guide and resources can help you streamline your business’ energy needs.

How to Reduce Waste

Conserve Water

Restaurants use a significant amount of water in daily operations. Make sure to purchase ENERGY STAR-certified commercial food service equipment for new construction or to replace aging equipment. This can cut kitchen energy costs and contribute to a cleaner environment without sacrificing features, quality, or style. When choosing equipment, consider the total cost of ownership; the purchase price is often a small portion of the total cost. Certified dishwashers, ice machines, and steam cookers also save water which helps operators lower their water and sewer bills.

See how much an upgrade can save using the Commercial Kitchen Equipment Savings Calculator (EXCEL), and find water-efficient products and programs through EPA’s WaterSense.

Reduce Food Waste

The U.S. generates more than 36 million tons of food waste each year. And since 2010, food waste is the single largest component of municipal solid waste reaching landfills and incinerators. Simple changes in food purchasing, storage, preparation, and service practices can yield significant reductions in food waste.

The EPA and the USDA recommend some of the following steps to minimize food waste:

  • Reduce the amount of food waste being generated.
  • Donate excess food to food banks, soup kitchens, and shelters.
  • Provide food scraps and fats to farmers for feed and rendering.
  • Donate oil for fuel and food discards for animal feed production.
  • Recycle food scraps into a nutrient rich soil amendment such as compost.

You can take it a step further by joining the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. Once you’re registered, you can set baselines, choose your goals, take specific action to reduce waste, and track your progress.

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Energy Saving Tips

Refrigeration and Restaurant Equipment

ENERGY STAR products save 10%–70% over standard models. Shop the Marketplace for commercial hot food holding cabinets, solid and glass door refrigerators and freezers, fryers, steam cookers, ice machines, ovens (convection and combination ovens), griddles, and dishwashers.

Tips to save:

  • Maintain and repair. Leaky, walk-in refrigerator gaskets; freezer doors that do not shut; uncleaned refrigeration coils; cooking appliances that have lost their knobs—all these “energy leaks” add up to money wasted each month. Don’t let everyday wear and tear drive up your energy bills.
  • Cut idle time. If you leave your equipment ON when it is not performing useful work, it costs you money. Implement a startup/shutdown plan to make sure you are using only the equipment that you need, when you need it.
  • Add energy-efficient upgrades. Night case covers, automatic door closers, evaporator/condenser retrofits, and fan controls can have a big impact on your business.
  • Recalibrate to stay efficient. The performance of your kitchen equipment changes over time. Thermostats and control systems can fail, fall out of calibration, or be readjusted. Take the time to do a regular thermostat check on your appliances, refrigeration, dish machines, and hot water heaters and reset them to the correct operating temperature.
  • Cook wisely. Ovens tend to be more efficient than rotisseries, and griddles tend to be more efficient than broilers. Examine your cooking methods and menu to find ways to rely on your more energy-efficient appliances to cook for your customers.


Lighting is a significant energy user—averaging 13% of the total energy breakdown of a restaurant. ENERGY STAR lighting products combine quality and attractive design with the highest levels of energy efficiency available today. ENERGY STAR-certified fixtures typically use one quarter of the energy consumed by traditional lighting, and they distribute light more efficiently and evenly than standard fixtures.

Tips to save:

  • Replace incandescent bulbs with ENERGY STAR-certified LEDs. Light emitting diode bulbs (LEDs) can be used for your recessed lighting, pendant fixtures, and accent and spot lighting applications. LEDs cost about 75% less to operate than incandescent bulbs, last about six times longer, and generate about 75% less heat.
  • Employ bi-level switching. Bi-level switching allows you to control a lighting system in groups of fixtures or lamps. For example, bi-level switching allows you to turn half of the lights in a room off when full illumination is not required.
  • Try daylight sensors (photocells). Exterior lighting left on during the day can cause “dayburn,” a waste of energy and money. Prevent it by installing daylight sensors that automatically turn the lights on and off based on daylight.
  • Swap old Open/Closed and EXIT signs with LED lighting for additional energy savings.
  • Turn off lights in unoccupied areas and where daylight is sufficient.
  • Install occupancy sensors in closets, storage rooms, break rooms, and restrooms. Check the manufacturer’s website for compatibility with controls.

Heating and Cooling

ENERGY STAR HVAC equipment can save a good deal of money for your facility per year depending on your current use. To save additional energy, look for ENERGY STAR ventilating fans for bathrooms and ceilings. ENERGY STAR-certified ventilating fan models use 70% less energy than standard models, and certified ceiling fan/light combination units are over 50% more efficient than conventional units.

Tips to save:

  • Change your air filter regularly. Check your filter every month, especially during heavy use months (winter and summer), making sure to change it if it looks dirty. At a minimum, change the filter every three months. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm or cool—wasting energy.
  • Tune up your HVAC equipment yearly. Just as a tune-up for your car can improve your gas mileage, a yearly tune-up of your heating and cooling system can improve efficiency and comfort. Use the ENERGY STAR Maintenance Checklist as a guide.
  • Install a Wi-Fi enabled smart thermostat. Wi-Fi enabled devices allow you to stay connected and in control of your business’ temperature while on the go—ideal for spaces that are unoccupied during set periods of time throughout the week.
  • Retrofit more energy efficient equipment. Packaged terminal air conditioners (PTACs), rooftop units, and heat pumps can make a big impact on your business.

If you are getting ready to design a new kitchen or renovate an old one, check out Con Edison’s instant rebates for fryers, ovens, griddles, steamers, and dishwashers. Find a participating dealer.

You can also cut down on heat and smoke in your kitchen by adding inexpensive side panels to hoods and turning off exhaust hoods when appliances aren’t being used. Another option is a demand-based exhaust control system which uses sensors to monitor your cooking and varies the exhaust fan speed to match your ventilation needs.

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