Managing Energy Costs in Quick-Service Restaurants

Quick-service restaurants (QSRs) are some of the most energy-intensive buildings in the US, using an average of 81 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity and 174,000 Btu of natural gas per square foot (ft2) annually. In a typical QSR, refrigeration, lighting, and cooling collectively represent about 63 percent of total energy use (Figure 1), making those systems the best targets for energy savings.

Average energy use data

Figure 1: Energy consumption by end use
Refrigeration and cooking make up more than half of the the electricity consumption in quick-service restaurants and cooking dominates gas consumption.
Pie chart showing electricity end uses: Refrigeration, 35%; Cooking, 21%; Miscellaneous, 14%; Cooling, 12%; Ventilation, 11%; and Lighting, 7%.
Pie chart showing natural gas end uses: Cooking, 71%; Water heating, 16%; and Heating 13%.
Top technology uses

In order to better manage your restaurant’s energy costs, it helps to understand how you are charged for those costs. Most utilities charge commercial buildings for their natural gas based on the amount of energy delivered. Electricity, on the other hand, can be charged based on two measures: consumption and demand.

The consumption component of the bill is based on the amount of electricity, in kWh, that the building consumes during a month. The demand component is the peak demand in kilowatts (kW) occurring within the month, or, for some utilities, during the previous 12 months. Demand charges can range from a few dollars per kilowatt per month to upwards of $20/kW per month. Because it can be a considerable percentage of your bill, care should be taken to reduce peak demand whenever possible. As you read the following energy cost management recommendations, keep in mind how each one will impact both your consumption and your demand.

The conservation measures we discuss, whether for the short term or long term, can be good investments depending on your location, facility design, and energy costs. Not only will they help you to save money on your energy bills, but they can also enhance the aesthetics, comfort, and safety of your restaurant.

Quick Fixes
Longer-Term Solutions

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