From small commercial to industrial-sized kitchens, restaurants rank among the most energy-intensive commercial spaces in the nation. Although, not just the cooking equipment and appliances are responsible for major energy intake – heating, cooling, lighting, and sanitation each account for portions of an average restaurants electricity, natural gas and energy consumption.

Buildings of these types include:

  • Assembly Group A Buildings
  • Business Group B Buildings (Dining facilities not more than 2,500 sq. ft.)
  • Restaurants
  • Cafeterias
  • Breweries
  • Taverns, bars and pubs
  • Cafes


Energy Saving Practices & Solutions

Cooking equipment consumes the largest share of energy in most restaurants (35%). This is followed by heating and cooling systems (28%), dishwashing (18%), lighting (13%), and refrigeration (6%).

Common Issues in Restaurants: 

  • Malfunctions and shortened lifetime of equipment due to improper maintenance and operations, such as excessive cycling of refrigeration compressors due to incorrect refrigerant charge
  • Poor equipment function due to incorrect settings, particularly if settings for refrigerated display cases are altered when the cases are upgraded or moved
  • Changes to interior spaces that have not been accompanied by corresponding changes to heating, cooling, and lighting systems and control regimes
  • Previous attempts to reduce energy use by inappropriate measures, such as covering vents or turning off antisweat heaters in display cases
  • Inadequate ventilation systems, high levels of indoor air contaminants from products or activities (such as cooking), and poor acoustics
  • Multiple rooftop air-conditioning units that are hard to control and maintain properly
  • Refrigerant leaks or phasing out of ozone-depleting refrigerants
  • Major capital equipment, such as a boiler or a roof, that is nearing the end of its useful life

Managing Existing Food Equipment

Significant energy savings can be achieved by operating and maintaining the existing equipment in your restaurant or food prep space. Read below for few tips to help lower your energy usage:

  • Exhaust intake: run exhaust systems at lower fan speeds
  • Cleaning equipment effectively: the more debris that collects in and on fryers and grill surfaces, the harder they have to work
  • Minimizing run-times: reduce broiler, fryer and range pre-heating and idle time
  • Dishwasher valves: install low-flow valves on pre-rinse sprayers
  • Check temperature settings: make sure that the equipment is not heating water beyond the point required by sanitation codes
  • Maintain door and leakage seals: do not allow warm air into units or vis versa
  • Lighting: install occupancy sensors in restrooms and storage areas

New Equipment

Whether installed new or as a retrofit, high efficiency models can save 15 to 50% of the energy used by standard models. Almost universally used in restaurants, cafeterias, and institutional kitchens, fryers and steamers are particularly energy intensive appliances and are often in service for many hours every day. To see which products qualify for potential rebate and incentive programs, see the list below:


North Carolina Case Study

Celebrating Clean-Energy Powered Breweries

Source: NCSEA, NC Beer Month

There are more than 700 business-owned renewable energy projects across North Carolina, including over a dozen breweries & distributors. Local breweries across the Tar Heel State are generating energy via the sun and wind – and becoming more energy efficient – joining a fast-growing trend among businesses, big and small nationwide. North Carolina has been near the top of the solar pack the last few years, and in 2018, ranks second in the US in the number of solar panel installations.


Additional Resources