Multi-Unit QSR (Fast Food) Owner/Operators and Groups – How to succeed in the New Normal of Eating Out

With rapidly changing regulations, the business plans of multi-unit quick service restaurants (QSRs) and restaurant groups are growing more complex—even more so for groups that cross state lines. But whether your customers are dining in, driving through, picking up curbside, or waiting for Door Dash, your restaurants are burning a lot of energy regardless. Storing, preparing, and cooking food requires far more energy than an average business. It’s no surprise, then, that multi-group restaurants are among the most energy-intensive buildings in the US. Energy Star maintains that they use up to seven times more than an average commercial building, with QSRs going as high as ten times more.

Optimizing energy efficiency could and should be part of any multi-unit restaurant group, especially in today’s climate. It’s an untapped resource that can yield significant savings. According to the Edison Electric Institute, energy costs can account for 3 to 8% of a food-service chain’s total operation expenses. Meanwhile, a 10% reduction in energy costs can boost a restaurant’s net profit margins by 4%. In times like these, that can be the difference between surviving and thriving—regardless of how your customers are making their purchases. A 10% reduction (or more) is attainable with smart energy management.

However, with usage patterns and store operations changing so frequently, relying on past assumptions or waiting to react to the next bill is no longer a viable option. True, a noteworthy amount of energy efficiency for restaurants can be achieved by implementing commercial LED lighting upgrades or HVAC upgrades throughout your units. But at this point, total awareness and automatic optimization is the only way you count on a substantial impact on operating expenses. For many multi-unit restaurants and QSRs, the best and most profitable way to oversee this is through partnering with a reliable, forward-thinking energy management company.

Energy Efficiency for Restaurants: It’s All About the Data

Any worthwhile restaurant energy plan should cover every aspect of the business, from food storage, prep, and refrigeration, to LED and HVAC upgrades, and temperature controls. But it doesn’t stop there. Tracking your energy metrics and monitoring progress is vital to achieving continuous, exponential improvement. This kind of data is what fuels future upgrades and improvement decisions, many of which can then be executed immediately (even remotely) to maintain optimal efficiency at all times.

While some upgrades and monitoring could be managed internally, the value in partnering with an energy management company is found in zero downtime of your own operations, zero up-front costs, and, with a company like Budderfly, zero risk. For example, let’s say you’ve committed to HVAC upgrades across multiple restaurants. While a more efficient system is a significant part of the puzzle, true optimization involves automatically controlling these HVAC upgrades to deliver climate preferences at the highest energy-efficiency levels, at all times. This is more than mere recommissioning or static setpoints. Optimization solutions need to measure system input and output, then use that data to course-correct in real time.

Likewise, committing to commercial LED lighting upgrades combined with energy optimization software allows for consistent monitoring of your units’ energy use at once. Data is collected at each light point and this insight identifies further energy savings, either through scheduling, dimming, and/or motion detection, and benchmarks success. The same is true for food preparation and cleaning—be it refrigeration, cooking, kitchen exhaust, and hot water supply. By applying device-level monitoring at every energy usage point, multi-unit restaurants gain unparalleled visibility to any inefficiency across their portfolio.

For instance, your energy management company can be notified when cooking equipment idles needlessly, if refrigerators require maintenance, if commercial LED lighting upgrades are operating during off hours, or if heating and cooling are working concurrently. With this data, restaurant owners and operators can act to drastically reduce both energy waste and expense. They can also transition from standard preventive maintenance schedules to more cost-effective predictive maintenance based on data, so resources are spent only on the equipment that needs it.

Sustainability as a Selling Point

Implementing greater energy efficiency for restaurants goes beyond operating cost reduction. Promoting sustainability and social responsibility are proven to drive demand and develop brand loyalty with customers. This is particularly true with Gen Z customers—who have a spending power of about $143 billion and account for 40% of global consumers in 2020. Considering 9 out of 10 Gen Zers believe companies have a social responsibility (and spend more on food than retail), sustainability is no longer a choice when it comes to brand survival.

Lower Costs. Higher Revenue. No Compromises.

Often when restaurant groups look to cut costs, something else suffers—be it customer service, food quality, inventory supply, etc. When energy efficiency is streamlined and monitored with an energy management company, profit margins increase without diminished quality. In fact, restaurant quality is usually improved in the form of brighter, more comfortable and inviting environments and optimally performing kitchen equipment.

Getting to the point of maximum efficiency doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking either. At Budderfly, our energy management solution includes customized upgrades, monitoring software, and utility management at no upfront cost—so your savings go right back into your bottom line. And we do it all with little to no downtime in your operations. In today’s climate, energy efficiency for restaurants is no longer a choice. It is the next necessary step for any multi-unit QSR or restaurant group to stay competitive. And Budderfly makes it possible.