Quick-service restaurants

7 Products to Help Quick-Service Restaurants Achieve Sustainability

By David J. Alexander

If you’re the owner or manager of a quick-service restaurant (QSR), profitability is most likely your number-one concern, and with good reason. With QSR profit margins averaging about 3% or less, operating as efficiently as possible is the key to turning a profit, and controlling costs is a big part of that effort.1

Energy is one of the bigger costs for your QSR, which by its very nature uses up to 10 times that of commercial office buildings and retail stores. Your restaurant’s energy-intensive kitchen appliances and equipment are running nonstop for large portions of the day, which runs up your gas and electric bills and increases your carbon footprint. For example, a gas deep fat fryer uses more than 1,560 therms a year, while the average U.S. household uses about 375 therms annually.2

So when it comes time to replace kitchen appliances and equipment, it is crucial that you choose the most energy efficient appliances available. The simplest way to do that is to look for products that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).3 You can offset the upfront costs of replacing these appliances by taking advantage of rebates that are available from Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).4

Following are seven ENERGY STAR-certified commercial kitchen appliances that will help your QSR become more sustainable and control costs in the process.

1. Hot Food Holding Cabinets — Models that have earned the ENERGY STAR are 70% more energy efficient than standard models. On average, ENERGY STAR-certified holding cabinets can save your QSR $300 per year for electricity or more than $2,800 over the product lifetime compared with standard models. Cabinets that meet the ENERGY STAR requirements often incorporate better insulation, which reduces heat loss, offers better temperature uniformity within the cabinet from top to bottom and keeps the external cabinet cooler. Many certified holding cabinets may also include additional energy saving devices, such as magnetic door gaskets or auto-door closures. Rebates available from PG&E include the half size at $200 and the full size at $750 per unit.

2. Steam Cookers — Commercial steam cookers that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating have a sealed cooking cavity and are about 60% more energy efficient than a traditional open design system. Gas and electric models can save QSRs up to $1,100 a year and up to $11,900 over their lifetimes. In addition, qualified steam cookers can save 162,000 gallons of water, equating to additional savings of more than $1,100 annually. Products may include countertop, wall-mounted and floor models mounted on a stand, pedestal or cabinet-style base. Steamers must be three-pan or larger to qualify for the ENERGY STAR rating. (Note that hybrid/combination products and pressure steamers are ineligible.) ENERGY STAR steam cookers are eligible for PG&E rebates of $1,850 for electric models and $2,500 for gas models.

3. Refrigerators and Freezers — Commercial refrigerators and freezers and walk-in boxes are designed to keep food at specific temperatures in hot kitchen environments and despite frequent door openings. Commercial refrigerators and freezers that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating are on average 40% more energy efficient than standard models because they are designed with components such as electronically commutated evaporator and condenser fan motors, hot gas anti-sweat heaters and high-efficiency compressors, which significantly reduce energy consumption and utility bills. Replacing all existing commercial refrigerators and freezers sold in the U.S. with ENERGY STAR-certified models would result in energy cost savings of more than $790 million each year. These savings would also prevent 17 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions from more than 1.7 million cars. PG&E rebates for ENERGY STAR-certified refrigerators and freezers range from $50 to $600 per unit.

4. Ice Machines — ENERGY STAR-certified commercial ice makers can be classified into two general equipment types, batch-type (also called cube-type) and continuous-type. Batch-type ice makers are on average 15% more energy efficient and 23% more water efficient than standard models and can save you on average about $130 a year in electricity costs. Continuous-type ice makers are on average 15% more energy efficient than standard models and can save on average about $160 a year on utility bills. Rebates available from PG&E range from $100 to $500 per unit, depending on capacity.

5. Fryers — Energy efficient fryers that have earned the ENERGY STAR rating offer shorter cook times and higher production rates through advanced burner and heat exchanger designs. Fry pot insulation reduces standby losses, resulting in a lower idle energy rate. Qualified standard-sized electric and gas fryers are up to 30% more energy efficient than standard models. Electric models can save you about $100 a year and gas models can save about $470 a year on utility bills. Fryers are eligible for PG&E rebates of $650 per vat for electric models and $749 per vat for gas models.

6. Griddles — The ENERGY STAR label can be found on commercial gas and electric, single- and double-sided griddles that are thermostatically controlled. Qualified griddles are on average about 10% more energy efficient than standard models. This equates to savings of $120 per year and $1,100 over the product lifetime for gas models and $100 per year and $1,200 over the product lifetime for electric models. Some of the additional benefits beyond energy savings of ENERGY STAR-certified griddles include improved uniformity of temperature across the griddle plate and a higher production capacity. ENERGY STAR-rated griddles are eligible for PG&E rebates of $150 per square foot of cooking surface for electric models and $100 per square foot for gas models.

7. Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation — Demand Control Kitchen Ventilation (DCKV) technology employs advanced sensors and variable speed controls to offer QSRs significant reductions in energy use and CO2 emissions compared to standard kitchen ventilation systems. Standard systems typically operate at their maximum designed speed and/or volume throughout the duration of the kitchen's operating hours or provide manual control over two speeds. In contrast, DCKV provides automated control over the ventilation system by modulating fan speed in response to the presence and level of cooking activity. Field studies suggest that energy savings could be 60% or more. The EPA presented DCKV with the ENERGY STAR Emerging Technology Award for 2015. ENERGY STAR-certified DCKV systems are eligible for a PG&E rebate of $700 per exhaust fan horsepower.

If your restaurant’s appliances and equipment are getting on in years and you want to learn more about energy efficient replacements and available rebates, download PG&E’s free eBook, "The Best Energy Efficiency Rebates for Quick-Service Restaurants." We understand that up-front costs are a huge barrier to upgrading to energy efficient appliances and products. However, there are solutions like bundling purchases to meet loan requirements, incentives and rebates available to make your energy efficiency project a reality.

  1. Yahoo! Finance
  2. U.S. Department of Energy
  4. Pacific Gas and Electric Company

Seven products that can help your quick-service restaurant become more sustainable.
  • SMB Blog Author
    David J. Alexander
    Senior Product Manager of Customer Energy Solutions for PG&E, plays a large role in the products and solutions that support SMBs. Involved in the company's energy-efficiency programs since 2006, Dave is also an energy solutions manager for the field engineering services team. He's been instrumental in the design and launch of PG&E's initial LED-focused programs and continues to serve as one its leading lighting experts in the field.

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