California Pizza Kitchen Takes a Slice Out of Energy Consumption

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When a recession hit in earnest, the impact of consumers’ tightened purse strings was quickly felt. For the fast-casual restaurant industry, it was a heavy blow. Across the board, sales fell and growth slowed. Despite its position as one of the most successful chains of its kind, California Pizza Kitchen didn’t escape the drop in customer counts. The company began taking a closer look at expenses to see where there was an opportunity to save. A $21 million-a-year line item stuck out: energy expenses.

Restaurants are among the biggest energy consumers across all types of commercial spaces. Beyond the demand created through heating, cooling and lighting, the cost of sanitation and the utilities needed to run equipment all add up to an energy spend that can be a significant portion of total operating expenses.

gradient-quote No one person in the organization was taking ownership of this huge cost. Once we realized how much we were spending on that one operating expense, it was clear that this was where we had the opportunity to make the biggest impact in terms of cost-cutting. gradient-quote-right
Clint Coleman, Senior Vice President of Development for California Pizza Kitchen

Concern over this $21 million cost led California Pizza Kitchen to seek the help of energy management experts ENGIE Impact to gain a better understanding of how California Pizza Kitchen could better manage its collective energy use.

ENGIE Impact had already been processing the company’s expenses for years and had already developed highly detailed profiles of energy use trends for every restaurant in the company’s portfolio, representing more than 250 locations. This vast database of energy consumption data that had been built during the bill payment and auditing process was the key to the success of California Pizza Kitchen’s energy management program.

Energy Performance Reports

Armed with this data, ENGIE Impact was able to quickly identify and prioritize areas for improvement. This consumption data was integrated into monthly Energy Performance Reports (EPRs) that drill down to site-level detail. Facilities with similar energy requirements commensurate on climate, size, and hours of operation were grouped for easy comparison. The EPRs allow users to compare site performance against portfolio averages as well as Department of Energy database averages.

gradient-quote These reports make it possible for our company to understand where we are and navigate where we can go. We were able to establish a performance benchmark, set goals, and report very specifically on our progress. gradient-quote-right
Clint Coleman, Senior Vice President of Development for California Pizza Kitchen

Coleman’s team put ENGIE Impact’s EPRs to the test, using the data identify the restaurant chain’s lowest-performing locations, analyze what it was about those sites that made them outliers in their group in terms of energy use, and put solutions in place that would get their use back down to the portfolio average.

The EPRs allowed Coleman to make smart decisions about behavioral changes and equipment upgrades. With better facility intelligence, the company was able to validate conservation efforts and began by targeting low and no-cost measures:

  • Requesting that all HVAC service providers conduct free HVAC inspections and tune-ups
  • Switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs
  • Adjusting temperature set points to maintain consistent results
  • Closing window shades
  • Running dishwashers only when dish trays are full, reducing water, chemical and energy usage
  • Installing low-flow aerators on hand sinks
  • Performing monthly reviews of restaurant results to identify the worst performers


These energy conservation initiatives helped California Pizza Kitchen quickly reduce energy consumption, drive savings and report results.

December year-to-date compared to prior December year-to-date:

  • Electricity: Usage decreased by 4.3%
  • Natural Gas: Usage decreased by 2.82%

California Pizza Kitchen’s energy problem was not uncommon. While they are experts in managing the basic costs associated with running their business, they lacked a fundamental understanding of energy’s impact on the bottom line and were unaware of the best actions to take to reduce energy costs. Once equipped with the right data, they were able to translate what was once a big unknown into big savings.

gradient-quote This is just phase one. We’ll be overhauling a lot of our equipment to achieve greater energy efficiency, and with ENGIE Impact’s reporting tools, we’ll be able to show how much we save, down to the last penny. gradient-quote-right
Clint Coleman, Senior Vice President of Development for California Pizza Kitchen

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