Operational Efficiency Blog for Restaurants and Convenience Stores

USDA Gives Food Safety Tips

By | Food Safety | No Comments

June 20th the USDA  and Food Safety Inspection Service, offers food safety advice to those who might be affected by tropical cyclone three. The national hurricane center expects the potential cyclone will affect areas of central Texas to the panhandle in Florida late Wednesday. The USDA offers advice to restaurant owners, hospitality, retail, basically anyone who has to adhere to food safety conditions because these storms pose the issues of potential power outages and flooding which can cause stored food to become compromised in quality.

Straight from their website here are some tips to follow:

Steps to follow in advance of losing power:

  • Keep appliance thermometers in both the refrigerator and the freezer to ensure temperatures remain food safe during a power outage. Safe temperatures are 40°F or lower in the refrigerator, 0°F or lower in the freezer.
  • Freeze water in one-quart plastic storage bags or small containers prior to a storm. These containers are small enough to fit around the food in the refrigerator and freezer to help keep food cold. Remember, water expands when it freezes so don’t overfill the containers.
  • Freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately—this helps keep them at a safe temperature longer.
  • Know where you can get dry ice or block ice.
  • Have coolers on hand to keep refrigerator food cold if the power will be out for more than four hours.
  • Group foods together in the freezer—this ‘igloo’ effect helps the food stay cold longer.
  • Keep a few days’ worth of ready-to-eat foods that do not require cooking or cooling.

Steps to follow if the power goes out:

  • Keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. A refrigerator will keep food cold for about 4 hours if the door is kept closed. A full freezer will hold its temperature for about 48 hours (24 hours if half-full).
  • Place meat and poultry to one side of the freezer or on a tray to prevent cross contamination of thawing juices.
  • Use dry or block ice to keep the refrigerator as cold as possible during an extended power outage. Fifty pounds of dry ice should keep a fully-stocked 18-cubic-feet freezer cold for two days.

Steps to follow after a weather emergency:

  • Check the temperature inside of your refrigerator and freezer. Discard any perishable food (such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs or leftovers) that has been above 40°F for two hours or more.
  • Check each item separately. Throw out any food that has an unusual odor, color or texture or feels warm to the touch.
  • Check frozen food for ice crystals. The food in your freezer that partially or completely thawed may be safely refrozen if it still contains ice crystals or is 40°F or below.
  • Never taste a food to decide if it’s safe.
  • When in doubt, throw it out.

The precautions and steps listed above are crucial to maintain the quality of your food during an emergency such as this.

chameleon™ provides this kind of visibility into your restaurant/convenience store all remotely. Notifications for walk-in freezer/coolers above or below a set temperature will go straight to you and your team so that you know exactly when your walk-in’s loose power.* Not only does it provide the visibility of connection, but chameleon also reports real time temperatures and stores all historic data for later use.  Let Small Box Energy help ease your mind when it comes to food safety, call or email us today for a demo of the chameleon platform.









Easy-to-use interface gives users control of energy-using equipment

*additional backup power feature required

Tips to Help Maintain Your Walk-In’s

By | Education, Service | No Comments

Summer is here and tis the season when all your equipment problems come to light. It’s basically Murphy’s Law when equipment goes out in the summertime. Imagine having a restaurant packed full of customers for your lunch rush and your dining room Air conditioner just went down….hopefully you are located someplace that isn’t Arizona. There are more things to consider in the summertime than just your air conditioning units. Walk-In freezers and coolers are no exception to this law as well.

When temperatures rise so does the workload on your equipment running like walk-in freezers to maintain its set temperature. Just like a car your walk-in cooler, and any equipment for that matter, will last you a lot longer if it’s properly maintained. Even if you have a preventative maintenance company it’s always good to glance at these items every so often to ensure equipment is in good working order.

Here are 6 Tips that will help:

  1. Visually Inspect: Look for:
    1. Corrosion on fins, copper tubing and solder joints
    2. Excessive or unusual vibration of fan blades when the unit is on.
    3. Oil stains on headers, return bends, and coil fins.
  2. Cleanliness: It’s always a good idea to keep the coolers/freezers clean. Soap and water are the best methods to clean avoiding any harsh chemicals as they may harm the metal surfaces.
    1. Not Just Inside: be sure to clean evaporator coil and blades using a brush and pressurized water.
  3. Inspect Door seals and hinges quarterly
    1. Ensure that the door is getting a good seal and is not damaged. Make sure the hinges are properly lubricated and not sticking.
  4. Check condensing units to ensure there is proper airflow and nothing is obstructing the evaporators and condensing units.
  5. Monitor temperatures Daily
    1. If you are not currently documenting and monitoring temperatures there is no way to ensure your freezer or cooler is meeting it’s setpoint temperature. a unit that is unable to meet its setpoint could have something fundamentally wrong and may be in serious need of maintenance or repair . 
  6. Talk with your refrigeration tech to ensure you have a scheduled maintenance program set up.

Small Box Energy’s Director of Deployment Jim Parker installs the chameleon™ platform in the field and has seen a little bit of everything. Jim talked with me about common problems he sees in the field, “One thing I always hear is when the unit ices up we just add more defrost…this does not solve the root issue of why the unit is icing up, but making it. This extends the run times as well as the wear and tear on the system, ultimately reducing the efficiency and life of the equipment.” Jim lists common problems with Walk-In units that he comes across:

     1. Dirty Coils

     2. Fans not Functioning

     3. Low Refrigerant

     4. Tune-Ups Not Up To Date

     5. Bad Door Seals

     6. Evaporator Not Sealed Allowing Moisture Intrusion

Most of the above problems can be remedied by using the tips provided above. We hope you found these tips useful and remember to stay COOL!

Small Box Energy at NFA BKC Summit 6/6-6/9

By | Events, Tradeshows | No Comments

Off to Arlington VA, Small Box Energy will exhibit its energy management system, specifically designed with restaurants in mind. The NFA BKC Summit is an annual event where Burger king franchisees and suppliers come together for networking, educational and social opportunities. This year the NFA BKC summit is at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City  in Arlington, Virginia June 6- June 9th.  

Tracy Markie, Small Box Energy’s CEO, will be there exhibiting the award winning energy management platform, chameleon™ at booth #94. Burger King Franchisees will have the opportunity to learn about the benefits that having an energy management system can have on a restaurant’s bottom line as well as the environment.

With convenience being a key factor in today’s society what an amazing thing it would be to be able to view not just one of your restaurant’s energy consumption and temperatures real time from your phone, but your entire portfolio?! This is what the chameleon app does, it provides real time visibility and remote control that give restaurant owners peace of mind and actionable data.

Gone are the days of showing up to one of your locations during the afternoon lunch rush and the outside lights are still on. Alerts can be sent when connected equipment is not following schedule,and remedying that problem right from the app makes energy management and facility visibility a breeze.

Check out the website to see what the chameleon can do for you! Start saving for summer months now!

Remember to Follow Us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook #smallboxenergy @smallboxenergy

Champ Spotted on Earth Day 2017!

By | Efficiency, Energy Management | No Comments

Champ was spotted in the beautiful, picturesque mountains of the Superstition Wilderness on Saturday April 22,2017…. or better known as Earth Day! Champ spent his day hiking and picking up trash along the hieroglyphic trail in the Superstition Wilderness. Many people may not know that many national parks have limited funding and rely heavily on volunteers to help keep the parks clean.


Here are some eye-opening statistics about littering:

info graphic on litter-01

Here at Small Box Energy we want to keep our Earth beautiful, that’s why we provide services that help restaurants and c-stores cut their energy consumption by up to 30%. Litter is not the only thing endangering our earth…Energy consumption in the United States in 2015 was about 97.7 quadrillion Btu, 39% of that being electric power. This power we get from most power companies are generated by mechanisms that release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the Earth’s atmosphere. Knowing is half the battle…but changing…that’s the way to keep our Earth beautiful. Be sure to follow our instagram @smallboxenergy to see where Champ goes next!

Restaurants, Relationships, and Perspective!

By | Events, Tradeshows | No Comments

Restaurant leadership conference 2017 was centered around returns on relationships, which we all know in the restaurant industry is pivotal. Speakers included Susan Adzick vice President of McLanerlc talk food service, Brian Little distinguished scholar, Greg Creed CEO of Yum! Brands, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, Pepsi Co. CEO Indra Nooyi and many, many more!

All the speakers focused on discussing relationships and how they affect every facet of our lives.   Relationships are how we connect with other human beings, how we make lifelong friends, and how we teach future generations to interact with their peers. The speakers this year gave great insight and offered different perspective on interactions small and large and how they mold people.

Here at Small Box Energy one of our most coveted core values is “Bring out the Best in People”. There is no better way to describe this than the energy that surrounded everyone at RLC this year. Post the personality test given by Brian Little, you could hear people chatting and laughing about how they scored in comparison to some of the coworkers and even a topic for discussion at the exhibitor booths. The halls seemed to come alive with people embracing their differences, overcoming their introverted-ness and establishing relationships that would last a lifetime.

tracy david mike laird

Attending trade-shows has always been a huge priority for Small Box Energy as we get to build new relationships, reconnect with old acquaintances and meet with current clients. We got into this business for the return on relationships all while making the industry more sustainable.

Small Box Energy Attends Restaurant Leadership Conference 5 Years and Running!

By | Events | No Comments

Just back from RFMA and BRFA we are heading back out on the road again, only this time one of the industry’s biggest events for the restaurant world is right in our backyard in Phoenix, AZ. The Restaurant Leadership Conference April 9-12 at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.

Every year at the JW Marriott in Phoenix Desert Ridge thousands of franchisees, c-level execs, sponsors, operators, senior management and many more gather to build relationships that bring value to the business. This year’s RLC’s new tagline ROR: Return on relationships….is the new ROI.system

ROI on relationships may not be instant, but in a world where everything is now and it’s all about convenience wouldn’t it be nice (as the Beach Boys say) to get instant visibility into your restaurant operation? Even just as instant as checking your security camera at home from your smartphone? chameleon™ provides that convenience and peace of mind in an instant.

Our Smart Data based platform enables you and your leaders to take control of the uncontrollables. Energy, what was once seen as an uncontrollable is now under your complete control…even remotely. Our walk-in controllers reduce defrost cycles significantly by as much as 87%. Food safety through temperature monitoring makes keeping tabs on prep stations and reach in cooler temperatures easier than ever. Never will you pull up to your location to see the lights on during the day, with our astro- enabled lighting panel and photocells for cloudy days those days are a thing of the past. We like to provide you with ammo that you will use, not useless data that you have to decipher and call up Tom Hanks to break the DaVinci Code to understand…a Client Success Manager is assigned specifically to each of your locations to identify patterns and correlations in data. This not only makes the data useful but actionable as well. Equipment Diagnostics is also derived from several of the 100,000 data points that we collect daily.

Stop by and see our platform demo at booth# 111 at the 2017 Restaurant Leadership Conference.

While you are in beautiful Arizona, don’t forget to sign up for the Browns Ranch Hiking Excursion, our landscape is like none other.

National Puppy Day

By | Small Box Energy Family | No Comments

Full of cute and cuddly, Awwww’s and Ohhh’s…you’ve probably seen your social media pilling up with your friend’s pictures of their puppy’s. National puppy day was founded in 2006 by Colleen Paige, an animal behaviorist and Author. It was created to, not only celebrate the little fur babies that bring so much joy and happiness to our lives, but to bring awareness to orphaned puppies needs for home and love. There are approximately 3.3 millions dogs that enter animal shelters in the United States annually. Of those 3.3 million, 1.6 million dogs are adopted to a loving home annually. More people obtain their furry friends via a breeder, 34%,  while only 23% of people adopted their dog through an animal shelter.  If you know of an animal that needs a home, share it with your friends…love is found in the most unlikely of places.

In honor of National Puppy Day we are sharing photos of our own beloved fur babies!  ❤️🐶❤️





Leo loves to lounge around and play fetch till the cows come home!





Toki keeps ducks at bay from her backyard with her ferocious bark!





Xena is a new addition to the family and loves to give cuddles!





Oso was a loved companion and forever a part of the Small Box Energy family!

IoT Today & Tomorrow- Tracy Markie Speaks @ RFMA 2017

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Tradeshows, Uncategorized | No Comments

Tracy Markie, Small Box Energy’s CEO, spoke at the RFMA conference on IoT Today & Tomorrow- Practical Use for Facility Managers. He expressed the differences in IoT today, how 6.4 billion

David Andow President of Small Box Energy

David Andow President of Small Box Energy

‘things’ will be connected; and IoT of tomorrow and how research suggests that 20.8 billion ‘things’ will be connected. IoT affects everything from the front of the house (POS, Customers, Marketing, Social, etc.), to operations (employees, Accounting, Suppliers, & Inventory), and to the back of house (Food Safety, Equipment Monitoring, Energy Efficiency etc.). The impact that a cloud based platform that connected every aspect of your business to conserve energy and gain visibility is priceless.

The session also included educational content about using EMS (Energy Management System) Data collected with IoT platforms can provide insight into HVAC issues at your restaurant.  Poor performing HVAC systems are energy wasters.  Servicing or replacing old HVAC units also lead to fewer complaints from customers.

RFMA Closing Party

RFMA Closing Party

We enjoy having the chance to attend these trade-shows as it gives us the chance to meet new people and build strong, new relationships; but it also allows us to meet up with old friends and have a great time!

Proven Results – Case Study Shows Significant Equipment Energy Savings

By | Case Studies, Efficiency, Energy Management | No Comments

Real Data. Real Results.

Every day we get asked, ‘How can we be certain we are saving energy and money?”  The truth is we monitor your equipment daily. We take action if we see a warning or get an alarm. More so, we look at the details of the equipment and if a something is running too long, or too short we take action to notify you.  Equipment runtime is provided in quarterly reports and compared across your entire portfolio. See Portfolio Post.

Occasionally, customers ask for a pre-metering phase so they can understand the baseline metrics of each store. This is a bit more expensive, but it does help you understand the amount of energy your critical equipment is using and how much money we will save you.  We never pre-meter your entire portfolio, but we will pre-meter up to three stores.

I wanted to share with you a recent pre-metering case study because it is homogenous to most of the portfolios using Small Box Energy’s chameleon™.  The estimated ROI for this portfolio ranged from 30-49% depending on the location and equipment used – after the managed service fee.

Below are metrics from three stores. This is real data; we just omitted the name.

Overall Energy Savings

All three stores experienced overall energy savings based on the pre and post meter data. Overall savings were achieved by reducing refrigeration defrost cycles and automating HVAC and lighting schedules.

Store 1 Savings

Overall, the largest reduction in energy consumption from this site comes from their refrigeration equipment. By eliminating unnecessary defrost cycles, our chameleon adaptable controller reduces energy, eliminates ice formation and maintains a steady inside temperature.

Store 2 Savings

For this site, the largest improvement was for the HVAC equipment. In most cases, we find employees override the system and forgot to set the temperatures back. With chameleon, the system is locked with limited override capability. This ensures comfort and conserves energy.

Store 3 Savings

This site also saw a large reduction in refrigeration energy use. However; not all equipment improved. For Store 3, we had to move the room sensors. While this increased the comfort, it also increased the run-time for the unit. Room balance and sensor placement will always dictate the run-time for the HVAC unit. Many times we find moving the sensors improves efficiency, where in this situation it did not.

To learn more about how we can help you, call us at 480-253-3999.

Achieving Energy Star Advantages Everyday

By | Efficiency, Energy Management | No Comments

Why wait to do routine energy and equipment audits when chameleon™ provides it 24/7.


Energy Star recommends 5 practical things for increasing profitability by making improvements to your building.

Step1: Retrocommissioning –Identify underperforming equipment, determine which equipment should be replaced, and review operational tips to improve building performance.

Step 2: Lighting – Improve your lighting systems to reduce lighting energy use, improve the visual environment, and affect the sizing of HVAC and electrical systems.

Step 3: Supplemental Load Reductions –Improve heating, cooling, and electric loads in your building to reduce the size and cost of equipment upgrades.

Step 4: Air Distribution Systems – Upgrade or adjust your fan systems to maximize energy efficiency.

Step 5: Heating and Cooling Systems – After implementing the steps above, you may be ready to upgrade to a new, properly sized system, or to retrofit your existing system to optimize operation, reduce noise, and reduce the amount of required maintenance.

chameleon webDid you know Small Box Energy gives you the tools and data to achieve all these requirements, every day? In fact, these are part of our goals.  

Retrocommissioning – 24/7 data allows you to easily find underperforming equipment through graphical analysis, as well as urgent and warning alarms. Small Box Energy’s chameleon platform provides continuous commissioning meaning your system settings will never be left off target.

Lighting Controls – Controlling and scheduling lighting is instrumental in keeping lights off during non-operating hours and exterior lights off during daylight hours. We can also add motion-based sensors for maximum efficiency in less used areas.

Supplemental Load Reductions – Being able to review run-times and how often your equipment reaches the target room temperature gives you the data necessary to see if your equipment is sized accurately for your demand, or if it just needs maintenance. Because of the details our system provides, customers have identified a number of small improvements to reduce energy and load on the equipment including window shades and temperature set-point adjustments. And if anything starts to go off track, our alarms and alerts let you know immediately.

Air Distribution Systems – Our interface shows the status of the equipment at all times. Sometimes, the room isn’t balanced, sometimes the duct work isn’t correct for the configuration of the room, or sometimes users believe fans need to be running for ventilation. Use the data to make the adjustments and you will save money.

Heating/Cooling and Refrigeration Systems – Having the data for your entire portfolio helps you become more strategic with your cash flow when determining when to replace or upgrade your current equipment. Our chameleon controllers also optimize runtimes, maintain food quality and extend the life of existing equipment.

Small Box Energy is more than an energy management solution for today; we are your operational efficiency partner well poised to support your business every day for years to come.  All this data is available to you 24/7, so you are always maximizing equipment efficiency with early equipment diagnostics when repairs or replacements are needed.

What’s stopping you from getting started with us? Call your sales representative and let’s talk through your concerns. We have many customers saving money and seeing the value of early equipment diagnostics, temperature monitoring, and remote portfolio management and we want you to achieve these same great results!

The entire list and additional information from Energy Star can be found here.

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