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What is a restaurant energy management system and do I need one?

Did you know restaurants are some of the most energy-intensive buildings globally? The average restaurant uses 5-10 times more energy than the average commercial building. While this may seem surprising, consider the plethora of appliances that restaurants rely on to execute operations. 


The back-of-house utilizes equipment such as stoves or refrigerators. In the front-of-house, the lighting and HVAC feature heavily. Considering all of the uses, it’s no wonder that electricity use continues to rise. However, as the amount of electricity operators use rises, so do the challenges to running businesses in our industry. 


Between the ongoing labor shortage, supply chain disruptions, and the shift to “delivery first” service models, restaurant owners are adapting to do more with less. Nowhere is this more evident than in the effort to reduce utility use. With the price of natural gas rising 24% year over year, operators should not and can not accept these premiums as the price of doing business.


New technology provides many solutions to optimize power consumption and reduce operating costs. These technologies are known as Energy Management Systems, of EMS for short. EMS and their providers promote energy efficiency by combining hardware, software, consulting, and control systems that work in tandem to reduce the overall restaurants’ energy use. 


However, EMSs don’t have to come from an expensive third-party provider. Many of the energy savings that can be realized using third-party Energy Management Systems offer may be realized with some simple adjustments and the help of products like Therma°. Read on to learn how.

What makes a Restaurant Energy Management System effective?

Optimizing your building for energy efficiency is a significant undertaking whether you plan to employ a third-party EMS or take the DIY route. Due to the complexity of the interconnected systems found within restaurants, electricity management requires a detailed multi-pronged approach. 


Because of this fact, simply purchasing a single piece of software will not produce the desired results. On the other hand, investing in an EMS provider or consultancy may not be practical for all restaurants. While many EMS, in general, are proven effective, they may require high upfront costs and no timetable on receiving a return on investment.


If you are considering investing in a third party Energy Management System, consider the following: 

Team infrastructure 

Do you have an in-house maintenance team that can respond to EMS alerts? Before purchasing an EMS, identify which teams or individual staff own the alerting system. For smaller teams, consider monitoring only the aspects of equipment that are most important to guest experiences, such as refrigeration and HVAC. 


Ensure that the EMS system offers a customized approach that offers specific solutions tailored to your operation. Look for the ability to add and subtract the hardware components as needed. 


Ensure that the system can be integrated into other buildings within your organization. There should also be a unified dashboard that makes it easy to track and analyze individual data points across the various locations.


Operators must be able to financially accommodate the upfront costs of implementing an EMS and achieve ROI within a quantifiable period. In the foodservice industry, this should be within 24 months of implementation. 


Non-technical personnel should be able to understand and use the system without the help of in-house maintenance personnel. As rank and file staff utilize the equipment daily, their comprehension will help facilitate proper use in standard operations.

How to start optimizing your systems for energy conservation

Before understanding how to optimize your restaurant equipment for energy efficiency, you must first understand some of the areas that consume the most power.

Restaurant energy management systems and their associated components can help you cut down on the amount energy your restaurant uses.

Energy usage can generally be split between front and back-of-house use cases, with back-of-house utilizing power more heavily. Some front-of-house use cases include ambient lighting and HVAC systems, while the back of the house relies heavily on ventilation, cooking, and refrigeration. Therefore, to globally reduce energy usage, restaurants should utilize metering, maintenance, and other optimization techniques for all of the high energy-consuming equipment in their buildings.


Some of the most accessible and most impactful include:

Create manual HVAC protocols

Set HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air-Conditioning) temperatures based on creating procedures that ensure HVAC systems operate at appropriate levels during service and after closing.

Preventative maintenance

Ensure that teams perform monthly inspections of the components of crucial equipment, such as refrigerators. This includes gasket inspections, cleaning condenser coils, and replacing air filters.


Routinely clean ventilation systems and lights to allow them to operate with superior energy efficiency.

Purchase new equipment

Update older equipment such as coolers and lighting with new, energy-efficient models.

Remote temperature monitoring

Temperature monitoring devices can discern when your cold storage equipment is running out of threshold, a clear sign of excess energy use


Temperature monitoring systems are crucial parts of Energy Management Systems because refrigeration requires the most energy usage of any single system in a restaurant. This is partly due to the plethora of interconnected components that allow them to operate. Because refrigerators consume vast amounts of power, and they do so day after day, year after year, it's unsurprising that the components may wear down over time. In turn, refrigeration systems may be less effective at holding a static temperature, causing increased energy consumption to compensate and operate correctly.


One of the signs of increased energy consumption in refrigerators is an inability to hold the threshold set on the machine's thermostat. Remote monitoring systems, like Therma°, constantly monitor your refrigeration equipment to spot these discrepancies, allowing time for maintenance that can drastically improve energy savings in this equipment.

Using your restaurant energy management system to impact your business positively

With the current price and scarcity of energy, most practical and evidence-based efforts to reduce your energy consumption and energy use will yield financial savings. 


According to the Department of Energy, “EMS can save about 5% to 25% of the total energy used. Savings vary by climate, existing building conditions, and the state of maintenance of onsite equipment.” Further savings can accumulate unintentionally due to some of the measures introduced through Energy Management Systems and associated control systems.


For example, the average restaurant loses 28-35% of its income annually from wasted inventory, often caused by sub-par cold storage. By monitoring temperature within your cold storage with real-time, remote temperature monitoring systems like Therma°, you can take active steps to prevent your inventory spoiling. 


The same goes for equipment maintenance. Often, restaurants’ will delay necessary fixes to their cold storage equipment due to the inconvenience of equipment downtime and the price of repairs. However, if you neglect to maintain your equipment, it will consume excess electricity and ultimately fail. Even new refrigeration equipment has a 32.7% chance of failing annually.


Spoilage prevention and energy conservation also have other positive impacts on your business that are not necessarily financial. Energy management systems and their associated components can also help your business’s sustainability initiatives. Because saving energy reduces the number of carbon-based energy resources your restaurant uses, EMSs provide cost savings that make your energy system sustainable.


Likewise, reducing food waste helps reduce your emissions as well. When you experience an inventory loss event, you absorb not only the cost of the food but all of the resources that were used to produce it as well. Additionally, pieces of equipment that tend to run out of threshold also may leak refrigerants, themselves highly destructive to the environment.


Using EMS quality products like Therma° allows you to gather energy data and detect when refrigeration exhibits the signs of component breakdown, so you can schedule maintenance when convenient and affordable.

Meet Therma°

Built to perform inside coolers, freezers, and other harsh environments, Therma° LoRaWAN® temperature monitoring outperforms Bluetooth and WiFi systems. Get real-time data collection and insight to get better energy performance and maintain your equipment, facilities, and power systems 24/7 with Therma°:

Enhanced alerting

Get notified by SMS, phone call, push notification, or email when equipment is out of temperature range. Use Therma° smart alerts to intelligently adjust your alert settings or snooze alerts during scheduled downtime.

Unbeatable uptime

Therma° LoRaWAN® powered sensors have a range of 1,200+ feet, use 4G LTE instead of WiFi, and record data even during power outages.

Actionable Reports

Create automated temperature and humidity reports with Therma’s proprietary algorithm to forecast equipment trends and make real-time facilities management decisions, whether your commercial kitchen is in a restaurant or an office building.

Easy to use and set up

Forget time-consuming third-party installation. Our temperature monitoring system is ready to go in 10 minutes or less. Therma° offers an open API so users can easily integrate data into your existing tech stack.

Unlimited teams and locations

Therma° offers unlimited teams and locations, so you simplify equipment management across your organization.


Given the diversity in foodservice operations, finding the right automation system to manage optimum energy use better is up to the application's specific needs. However, no matter your needs, if you utilize cold storage as part of your business model, temperature monitoring is an excellent addition. Before investing large upfront sums of money in third-party Energy Management Systems, try Therma°.