Find programs in your area

Enter your postal code:
For Business > Features > Energy Savings Event offers Food for Thought

Energy Savings Event offers Food for Thought

As the owner of Chic Alors! in Quebec City, Hugues Philippin knows the restaurant business is hard. Profits in the industry used to be 20%. Now they’re 5%. So he thought about how to boost the bottom line. Increasing sales is a priority but it’s difficult to, say, quadruple them. His strategy: cut costs first, then grow sales. And he started with energy.

chicalors.jpg Bryanyoung-(1).jpg Vicki-Sheridancollege-(1).jpg
“Green just means efficiency. And efficiency is profit,” he told the Save on Energy Foodservice Forum in Toronto on February 27.

The event was the fourth in an Energy Efficiency Series. It was sponsored by Save on Energy, the conservation brand of the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) which manages the province’s power system and works with partners on conservation efforts, as well as ENERGY STAR and the Ontario Restaurant Hotel & Motel Association (ORHMA). The session was held in conjunction with the annual Restaurants Canada trade show.

During the half-day forum, foodservice professionals shared success stories, while energy experts discussed incentive programs to help manage costs.

Rob Edwards, Business Advisor, Private Sector at IESO, framed the discussions by stating the cost breakdowns in the restaurant sector. Utilities can comprise up to 30% of these costs, after labour and food. However, energy represents a great opportunity as it is the single biggest controllable cost.

Investing in energy efficient equipment can significantly reduce energy costs, and also create a more comfortable space for guests and employees. That can lead to increased sales and a healthier, more productive workspace.

“Pay your staff well, buy quality ingredients and don’t pay so much for energy,” said Edwards.

Philippin installed everything from a roof-top garden and heat recovery system, to LED lighting (saving $700 a month with a seven-month payback), to a new HVAC system and geothermal wells (seven-year payback on a $700,000 investment). In the winter, he uses the pizza oven’s heat to warm incoming air. The restaurant has heated windows, which lets Philippin lower the temperature by 2 degrees. His equipment is ENERGY STAR, and he even uses a fleet of electric cars for deliveries.

Rob Doyle, Supervisor of Stakeholder Engagement at the IESO, talked to attendees about understanding their electricity bill. He likened it to their menus. If you can read it clearly, you can make decisions. What you’re consuming and when tells a story. While you can’t change the hours you’re open, you might, for instance, shift maintenance from peak to mid- or off-peak periods when the price of electricity is cheaper.

Anything that helps to run restaurant operations or the building can be improved, said Jennifer Grado, CDM Business Development Lead at Toronto Hydro. “If it consumes electricity, you should be looking at taking advantage of the incentive programs designed to help business owners invest in energy efficiency and save money.”

Rocky Mancini, who leads a team of Energy Solutions Consultants at Enbridge Gas Distribution, reported that foodservice is a major target for efficiency programs. He gave the example of demand-control kitchen ventilation, an effective way to reduce both gas and electricity.

In restaurants, energy usage can be 5-7 times higher than in other commercial spaces. Refrigeration alone can consume 43% of electricity, and cooking can consume 67% of gas.

Even relatively small changes can make a big difference. Vicki Gagnon, Business Advisor, Public Sector at IESO, mentioned a freezer temperature modification pilot project that IESO is doing with ORHMA. She said changing the set-point from -18oC to -15oC can save up to 10% electricity. “Now imagine that 10% across all commercial refrigeration in Ontario. It adds up to very significant savings.”

kimrawlings-(1).jpg When Kim Montgomery Rawlings and her husband were launching their downtown Toronto restaurant in 2016, she looked at many of those low cost/no cost options. They unplug fridges on weekends (moving everything to the walk-in), unplug cooking equipment when it’s not in use and schedule when the ovens are on.

They installed new ENERGY STAR kitchen equipment, insulated the ducts, and even designed a cellar on an exterior wall: “Free cooling,” she said. Observing that restaurant owners can be vigilant when it comes to labour and product costs, Montgomery Rawlings said “You can be just as tough on energy efficiency, and it will pay off.”

The forum also heard an institutional case study: a retrofit of the Sheridan College Student Union food service area. The projects included applying window film to the south-facing atrium windows (which had the best ROI); gaining control of existing mechanical equipment, including RTUs, duct heaters, radiators, and exhaust fan; sub-metering all utilities; introducing equipment and exhaust schedules; a lighting retrofit; investigating the building envelope; and replacing exterior doors.

Pre-renovation, the energy use intensity (EUI) was 580 ekWh/m2 (it had peaked at 648 ekWh/m2 in 2013). The Student Union renovations started in spring 2016. Later that year, the EUI went down to 553 ekWh/m2, and it fell to 489 ekWh/m2 in 2017.

Overall, the Sheridan retrofits resulted in a 10% decrease in electricity and a 22% decrease in gas. Jamie King, General Manager, said the goals were to save costs and improve comfort, and also to help students “own positive change”.

A new way to promote change is the Foodservice Energy Challenge, a two-year pilot project for the foodservice sector with presenting partners Natural Resources Canada, Save on Energy and Restaurants Canada.

Isabelle Guimont of Natural Resources Canada announced the challenge during the forum. The project aims to gather energy savings data from the sector, increase the use of ENERGY STAR-certified kitchen equipment and, most importantly, help raise awareness of the impact of energy efficiency in foodservice on the bottom line.

Participants get a free energy audit, gain an understanding of their energy use and what they can do to reduce it, learn about incentives and rebates, and become LEAF-certified (Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice). Taking part in the challenge also brings an opportunity to win $5,000 towards new kitchen equipment from Russel Hendrix.

Guimont pointed out how, compared to standard models, ENERGY STAR fridges and freezers use 40% less energy, steam cookers use up to 50% less, dishwashers use 40% less, hot food holding cabinets use up to 70% less, and fryers use 30-35% less energy.

Restaurants, like any business, have opportunities to not only save energy costs and drive up profits but also create a healthier, more productive and welcoming environments for their employees and customers. Step back from the day-to-day operations to consider what’s wasteful, says Philippin. Once you get a taste of the savings and other unexpected benefits, it’s hard to stop.

To learn more about ENERGY STAR equipment, go to

To learn more about the Foodservice Energy Challenge and to sign up, go to

Please find all presentations from the event here:
  1. Welcoming Remarks
  2. Electricity Sector Overview: Understanding Your Bill
  3. Electricity Incentives
  4. Gas Incentives
  5. Additional Support for Foodservice
  6. Sheridan College
  7. Montgomery's
  8. Chic Alors!
  9. Foodservice Energy Challenge
© 2018 Independent Electricity System Operator. All rights reserved. OM Official Mark adopted and used by the Independent Electricity System Operator
jQuery UI Accordion - No auto height