From fast food to fine dining, restaurants today operate in one of the most highly competitive environments. With higher than average resource use and lower than average profit margins, restaurants can turn to sustainable operations as a solution—and a differentiator—leading to increased efficiency and reduced operating costs.

What challenges are restaurants facing today?

From hole-in-the-wall delis to quick-serve chains to 5-star steakhouses, restaurant operators face many of the same challenges: long operating hours, high employee turnover, intense competition, and higher food, wage, and utility costs. Not only are profit margins tight, but restaurants use up to four times more energy than other commercial buildings—and unfortunately much of that is wasted. Nearly 80 percent of the $10 billion annual energy bill for the commercial food sector is attributed to inefficient food cooking, holding, and storage. Water and waste are also significant concerns: restaurants use 5,800 gallons of water every single day and create 5,400 pounds of waste each week, mostly food, making restaurants a target of local water and waste regulations.

What restaurant trends support the sustainability transformation?

What should restaurants be thinking about?

Some of the following actions can help restaurants address current trends and external pressures while maximizing savings and resource efficiency.

Establish a sustainability strategy and ensure consistent adoption. Effective initiatives are established from the top down. If corporate staff is not available to analyze consumption data, find a third party for AP, finance and project support services.

Build a case for sustainability and resource management. Benchmarking consumption and costs gives visibility to how sites use resources. It can also help prioritize spend for energy and water projects, measure impact, and ensures the greatest ROI. Researching available utility rebates and incentives for efficiency projects can also offset costs.

Remove reliance on human responsibility. While behavioral changes can help your business conserve resources, high turnover makes consistency difficult. Capital projects, such as more efficient equipment, can deliver use and cost savings consistently over time on the demand side, while on the supply side, negotiated rates along with a mix of green and brown power and RECs can optimize energy spend.

Keep up with regulations. Be aware of and understand the financial and operational impacts of federal, state and local regulations on water and waste, which can be challenging across a broad portfolio.


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more energy used per sqft than other commercial buildings


of annual energy bills is attributed to inefficiencies


gallons of water are used every day by an average restaurant


pounds of waste are generated weekly by an average restaurant

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