While refrigeration isn’t often a top-of-mind concern for many restaurant leaders, it is a critical component of restaurant operations. Not only can a malfunctioning unit waste energy and create costly inventory loss, keeping refrigeration equipment in working order plays a large role in food safety.
“As Chipotle’s food safety challenges a few years ago demonstrated, once a food item is on your premises, it’s your responsibility,” says Al Subbloie, founder and CEO of Budderfly, an Energy Efficiency as a Service company, or EEaaS. “And food safety is an even bigger issue for multi-unit and franchise owners, who must make sure equipment works, is effective, and keeps temperatures within an acceptable range across numerous locations.”
Yet another concern for restaurant operators is the hidden costs behind refrigeration. In addition to ongoing maintenance and repairs, Subbloie says refrigeration makes up 15-25 percent of a quick-service restaurant’s energy usage and costs, depending on the brand’s operational model.
This is because most quick-service brands have multiple refrigeration units, including reach-in and walk-in coolers, walk-in freezers, soda and beverage coolers, and ice makers. Some brands also display food in their lines, which also requires refrigeration. Meanwhile, each of these units produces substantial amounts of heat, leading to additional air conditioning costs.
“Refrigeration works by removing heat and replacing it with cool air,” Subbloie says, “but when that heat is removed from a unit, it goes into the rest of the store, making your HVAC run harder than normal. Quick-service restaurants end up using two to three times the HVAC load per square foot that other non-quick-service environments use—often, even more in summer.”
Older refrigeration models further increase costs, because as machines age, they become less efficient. Additionally, many older units haven’t been retrofitted with the latest energy-efficient technology. This means refrigeration units defrost according to a schedule rather than when needed. However, many restaurants don’t have the capital for upgrades, nor do leaders have the time or the in-depth refrigeration expertise to effectively monitor energy consumption on their own.
That’s where EEaaS companies, such as Budderfly come in. Instead of simply making costly upgrades to equipment up front like other energy-efficiency companies, EEaaS companies instead monitor and carefully analyze each store’s energy consumption to identify the best ways to reduce energy expenses and to drive longer-term benefits. This often takes the form of equipment upgrades and repairs, which the EEaaS company then helps to implement.
However, Budderfly’s model differs from other EEaaS companies, because it’s free for restaurant operators. Rather than being paid up front for services and upgrades that may or may not deliver results, Budderfly provides 100 percent of the capital to invest in equipment upgrades for restaurants—such as the company’s advanced refrigeration technology—and then pays for those improvements with a portion of the savings generated by reduced energy use. The company then passes on a guaranteed portion of the savings to the operator, bolstering the restaurant’s bottom line without increasing the complexity of store operations.
Budderfly also continues monitoring the store’s energy consumption and bills to make further improvements and reports this information back to store leaders through a streamlined portal, so restaurant operators can see the reduction in energy usage for themselves. Not only does this software break down energy consumption over time, it also identifies which pieces of equipment are using the most energy to prioritize for future investments.
Budderfly also monitors refrigeration temperature over time to identify potential issues that could cause outages before they happen, meaning repairs are less expensive and inventory is protected from spoilage, since many outages can be prevented.
“We provide full electronic temperature monitoring,” Subbloie says. “Our system alerts our team if a unit crosses a certain temperature threshold within a certain timeframe so that they can contact restaurant staff, who can save inventory before it spoils. Additionally, we provide a complete temperature audit trail, so restaurants have records for health inspections or in case anyone gets sick.”
As a result of improved refrigeration management through monitoring and upgrades, Subbloie says Budderfly can achieve a 20–30 percent reduction in energy consumption from the same devices restaurants have today. Best of all, temperature monitoring and management are a standard component of Budderfly’s energy solutions for quick-service restaurants, which combined with Budderfly-provided upgrades to motors, fans, and other refrigeration components create sufficient savings to more than pay for themselves.
“We like to say we own and manage the outcome,” Subbloie says. “We don’t get paid if we don’t make the outcome for you, and we’re the only company that operates that way. We help quick-service restaurants do their part to reduce energy consumption without them ever having to go into their pockets or lift a finger. They get savings the day they meet us.”
To learn more about how your restaurant can improve refrigeration and reduce costs with EEaaS, visit the Budderfly website.
By Peggy Carouthers