Restaurant energy efficiency

10 Ways Food Service Businesses Can Become More Energy Efficient

By Pauravi Shah

On average, food service venues consume energy at more than twice the rate of other commercial businesses, according to the ENERGY STAR Guide for Restaurants.1 Energy usage rates can be even higher for full-service restaurants, hotels and cafeterias.

There are many ways to reduce energy consumption in restaurants. Improving restaurant energy efficiency can lead to streamlined operations, less maintenance, lower utility bills and increased profits.

Inefficient equipment can lead to food service businesses wasting up to 80% of the energy they consume.2 Purchasing newer, more energy efficient restaurant equipment – particularly models that are certified by ENERGY STAR – is especially effective at reducing energy waste.

An energy efficient food service business can reduce energy consumption and costs by up to 30%,3 and much of that goal can be accomplished by installing energy efficient restaurant equipment.

There are many ways to cut into each one of the categories above. These 10 products can save a food service business thousands of dollars a year through lower utility bills, reduced maintenance costs and less overall wasted spending.

1. Save money with energy efficient fryers, griddles and ovens

Energy efficient fryers not only save restaurant owners $100 to $450 annually (depending on whether it is an electric or gas model), they also increase productivity, making the cooking process more efficient. ENERGY STAR-certified fryers offer shorter cook times and higher pound-per-hour production rates. Commercial griddles that have earned ENERGY STAR certification are about 10% more efficient than older models.4

2. Install high-efficiency convection ovens

Convention ovens, the workhorses of the modern commercial kitchen, also offer many opportunities for food service business owners to switch to more energy efficient restaurant equipment. ENERGY STAR-certified gas ovens are almost 50% more efficient than standard versions. Certified electric convection ovens are also more efficient than standard models, and they idle at lower rates.5

3. Swap out an old ice machine for a larger, more efficient model

Water- and energy-use numbers for most ice machine models are voluntarily listed by their manufacturers with the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) at When looking for a new ice machine, bigger models are almost always more energy efficient. They can provide twice the capacity while halving the energy cost per pound of ice.

4. Heat restaurant water with high-efficiency electric, gas and solar storage condensing water heaters

Full-service restaurants can reduce their annual energy usage by an average of 1,740 therms annually, and save more than $1,500 a year by switching to an ENERGY STAR-certified commercial water heater.6 High-efficiency storage condensing water heaters use a multi-pass heat exchanger to extract a large amount of energy from the combustion process. This process condenses exhaust gases, thus streamlining the water heating process.

5. Switch to low-flow pre-rinse spray valves

Replacing standard pre-rinse spray valves at the dishwashing station with more efficient low-flow versions can reduce energy usage by 25-60%.7 Efficient spray valves are just as effective at clearing food from dishes.

6. Replace old refrigerated case lighting with less energy intensive LED case lighting

Advancements in light-emitting diode (LED) bulb technology have made it ideal for installation in refrigerated food and beverage case displays. Refrigerated LED lighting for restaurants operates much better in low temperatures than standard bulb models, turning on and off instantly, even in sub-zero temperatures. LED refrigerated case lighting also gives off less heat than other bulbs, leading to reduced cooling loads in the refrigeration unit.

7. Reduce wasted walk-in refrigerator energy with strip curtains and automatic door closers

Adding strip curtains and automatic door closers to walk-in refrigerators is among the easiest and most affordable energy efficient options available to food service businesses. Together, strip curtains and automatic door closers can reduce air infiltration by 75%.8

8. Take control of a restaurant's fan system with electronically commutated motors (ECM) and fan controllers

Most standard model indoor restaurant fan systems operate at a constant speed. ECMs and other modern fan controllers are pieces of energy efficient restaurant equipment that optimize fan energy usage by adapting it to changing needs throughout the day. The ENERGY STAR Guide for Restaurants also states that fan controllers can reduce fan energy consumption in food service businesses by up to two-thirds.

9. Implement smart defrost controls and coil cleaning practices to lower costs

On-demand defrost control more effectively optimizes the duration of defrost cycles than timed defrost, leading to much less wasted energy. Defrost controls and monthly cleaning of cooling coils, which helps to ensure proper heat transfer and airflow, can reduce operational costs by 25% or more and help to prevent early compressor failure.9

10. Replace older bulbs with energy efficient T8 fluorescent and LED signage

T8 fluorescent lighting for restaurants is also an incredibly simple way to reduce energy consumption. These replacement light bulbs can easily be substituted for older, less efficient fluorescent bulbs. Low-wattage T8 fluorescent bulbs are up to 25% more efficient than older fluorescent models, and they can be swapped out in a matter of minutes. And they can be used in any number of spaces within a restaurant, including overhead lighting in the dining room, back-of-the-house storage areas and nearly anywhere in the kitchen. Restaurant signage also presents optimal places to implement LED lighting, as many of those signs can be seamlessly switched over to LED. LEDs offer longer lifespans, lower energy consumption and higher quality light than older bulb models.

For more ways to reduce energy usage and save, download the "Insider's Guide to Financing Energy Efficiency Projects" from PG&E. This guide will help business owners plan, finance and successfully complete energy efficiency upgrades, repairs and replacements.


  2. Pacific Gas and Electric Company
  3. E Source
  8. E Source

Here are 10 products to help food service businesses save money and reduce energy usage.
  • SMB Blog Author
    Pauravi Shah
    Product Manager for Commercial Buildings in Customer Energy Solutions for PG&E, she plays a large role in the products and solutions that support the commercial segment. She is the commercial lighting products lead, and additionally possesses valuable experience with PG&E’s Energy Efficiency programs and emerging technologies.

Stay Informed

  • Energy Advisor eNewsletter
    Sign up for PG&E's monthly Energy Advisor for Business eNewsletter to stay informed of the latest news and tools for managing your business's energy use and costs.
    Subscribe »
  • Sustainability Journey
  • My Energy Usage
  • In the Dark? Receive Outage Alerts
facebook twitterlinkedinyoutubeinstagramCurrents