Greener planet, more green in the pockets

| by Brenda Rick Smith
Greener planet, more green in the pockets

Restaurant chains are finding ways to make the planet – and their pockets – a little greener.

A majority of restaurants are adopting a variety of sustainable practices – recycling fryer oil and paper waste, using compact fluorescent lighting, purchasing products made from recycled materials – and some are looking to systems to help them monitor and analyze energy usage.

While managers often have a good handle on the cost of labor, food and rent, most have to wait until the power bill comes to know how much of a bite it will take out of the bottom line.

But Au Bon Pain and Arby's are testing systems that will help them monitor and analyze energy usage in real time at the enterprise level, giving them the opportunity to identify waste.

The result? Reduced carbon footprint and reduced energy costs.

Au Bon Pain began testing a system which helps track energy usage at the equipment level. The system it is testing, SiteSage System by Powerhouse Dynamics, controls and monitors equipment at the enterprise level, offering a birds'-eye view of how much power is being used, where its being used, when its being used, and what is using it.

Au Bon Pan's test began with two sites and has since been expanded to five more. Early results are promising.

"Initial figures for the two initial test locations suggest annualized potential savings of approximately $3,700, or approximately 13 percent of the combined electricity spend of those cafes," said Wade Winter, VP of Supply Chain for Au Bon Pain.

Based on these early results, the system should pay for itself within 15 months, he said.

Payoff can happen even more quickly, as it did in one test for Au Bon Pain, when the system identified equipment trouble: A refrigeration unit that was failing and falling out of temperature compliance, said Winter. Identifying that critical failure early paid for the system instantly.

He believes the system will "identify opportunities to reduce utility costs by 10 percent to 15 percent and ultimately drive down repair and maintenance costs across all of our cafés."

Frank Inoa, senior director of Operations Engineering for Arby's Restaurant Group, is seeing similar possibilities in Arby's test. The chain began its pilot with three stores in Atlanta then expanded it to include approximately 80 restaurants in the Minneapolis area. Arby's is now six months into the process of rolling the system out to its 780 remaining company restaurants across the U.S.

"One of the benefits of the recent monitoring pilot is indeed the state of our equipment," said Inoa. "This information is helping us develop a plan for how to address this company-wide in 2015."

The system is even helping reinforce staff training issues related to energy-saving efforts.

"Despite best intentions, it is all too common that equipment is turned on earlier than needed or left on too long," said Winter. "The SiteSage System helps make everyone accountable by identifying exactly what is on when and what the impact is to the bottom line."

Image courtesy of Wikimedia.

Topics: Equipment & Supplies, Sustainability, Systems / Technology

Companies: Au Bon Pain

Brenda Rick Smith
Brenda has more than 20 years of experience as a marketing and public relations professional. She invested most of her career telling the story of entrepreneurial non-profit organizations, particularly through social media. wwwView Brenda Rick Smith's profile on LinkedIn

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