Operational Efficiency Blog for Restaurants and Convenience Stores

3 Reasons Why an EMS is a NEED to Have

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Efficiency, Energy Management, restaurants | No Comments

Let’s start this article off with..no one actually NEEDS anything…you don’t need to have a car…you don’t need to have a tv…..but we have these things to make our lives easier and much more enjoyable. The same goes for an energy management system (EMS) for your business, whether it’s in a convenience store, retail store, casino or a restaurant.

Around since the 1990’s, energy management systems have been creeping their way into our everyday lives. Whether it’s in your home with your programmable thermostat or in your office building with automatically scheduled lighting, EMS systems are part of the new IoT revolution. A new study conducted by Forbes found that businesses are fixated on IoT and how it can slingshot their business into the future with ease, over 90% of businesses surveyed in fact. Why?

The Environment:

It’s just the right thing to do for our environment and for your business. Restaurants consume twice as much energy per square foot than any other industry. The energy that Americans consume is 90% nonrenewable and this vast energy consumption is contributing not just to the depletion of resources but is contributing to the deterioration of our environment. Having an Energy Management System in place helps to cut back energy consumption, not only do you have the piece of mind that you are doing your part to save the planet but it allows for functionality.

Convenience

Everyone has a smartphone in their pocket. The world is shifting to an IoT state of mind. Access to your house lights, garage, and A/C all from your phone. If your house has it….why wouldn’t you implement it into your business? Most EMS gives you the flexibility to not only monitor remotely but they also enable control. Gone are the days of driving up to your restaurant on a beautiful, sunny day, birds chirping and parking lot lights on. Give yourself a break and your staff for that matter, give them the convenience that will make facility maintenance using early equipment diagnostics, lighting schedules, and temperature alarms right in their back pocket.

The Bottom Line

An energy management system or building automation system can help with your bottom line in several different ways. Providing energy savings by way of reducing your energy consumption is the first, most obvious way. Your energy consumption can be monitored and scheduling can be set on your critical systems to reduce the amount of consumption and limit the times to non peak times, maximizing our energy savings. Other ways that are not as apparent are in early equipment diagnostics and food safety. Food safety is a bit of a tricky one, it’s sort of like insurance. You don’t really value it until you need it. Having a food safety incident where your food temperatures come into question with the public, you can’t afford to have some sort digitized way of keeping track of your food temperatures and the times they were last checked. Early equipment diagnostics is something the industry has shifted focus to recently, managing an entire portfolio and prioritizing maintenance can be a daunting task. With an energy management system in the mix you have a way to analyze that data and prioritize your maintenance dollars to go where they are needed most. Most energy management systems provide reports on the equipment functionality and number of problems encountered. This data coupled with your effective management team makes your facilities maintenance unstoppable.

IoT is the most important emerging technology today. To effectively compete in this data driven, digital economy you have to at least have a grasp or plans on how your business will incorporate IoT to make your business successful. These smart systems predict future equipment failures, and  help you manage and address them accordingly.

10 Reasons Why Your Food Shouldn’t be the Only Thing That’s Sustainable

By | Community, Efficiency, Energy Management, IoT, Restaurant Tips, Uncategorized | No Comments

Sustainable is an all to familiar buzz word in the restaurant and several other industries as of late. It seems to have become more prominent the more we learn about our environment, our food, and how the two are connected. We deep dive into the industry every time we perform a new install, according to trends for restaurants and EMS systems as of late here are some reasons why your food shouldn’t be the only thing that is sustainable…

1

Because it’s good for our environment: Getting food from the farm to our fork eats up 10 percent of the total U.S. energy budget, uses 50 percent of U.S. land, and swallows 80 percent of all freshwater consumed in the United States

2

Restaurants use 2x more energy per square foot than any other industry: Producing energy contributes to the breakdown of our environment. Power plants must produce more power to keep up with the demand, which emits more co2 emission into the air. Americans emit about 9 tons of co2 emissions per person per year, this is only accounting for the power sector!

3

LEED the Restaurant industry: Prove to your customers you are going the extra mile to help the environment in every way you possibly can. Get a LEED certification to initiate change and do your part in the restaurant community. Check out the requirements to become a green building here. Not to mention all the awesome PR you’ll get because you love the environment and are doing your part to help!

4

Millennials love the environment: Young adults age 25-34 and families are more apt to be influenced by a range of sustainability and sourcing menu terms. This only increases your business when millennials comprise about ¼ of the U.S. population!

5

unEaten food at retailers, restaurants, and homes costs about $161 billion annually: Uneaten food by patrons does not always get taken home…diners leave 17% of meals uneaten and 55% of that 17%  are not taken home and just thrown out. That’s money that could have been in your pocket and lessen food waste. Options to help reduce food waste include offering smaller portion sizes, identifying what options are being wasted, and a restaurant in London even charges a fee for unfinished food and donates those proceeds to the charity Oxfam.

Restaurant Energy Consumption

6

Refrigeration accounts for 32% of a restaurants total energy consumption: Simple inspections of refrigerator equipment is all it takes to ensure you are as efficient as you can be. Regular cleaning and inspection of refrigeration coils and door seals can save you a headache later. Controllers that mitigate defrosts are also ideal to cut down on defrosts and conserve energy.

7

19% of a restaurants energy goes directly to lighting: Making the switch to LED or installing an EMS that controls and puts all lighting on schedules can significantly cut your costs where you may have thought that there was nothing left to be done. In a specific Small Box Energy case study we decreased lighting consumption by 8%. 

8

As of 2016 10% of the total U.S energy consumption came from renewable energy sources: That means that 90% of the energy consumption came from non-renewable sources. There is a limited amount of fossil fuels and it takes millions of years to produce, it is estimated that the world. not just the U.S., will run out of fossil fuels within 100-200 years.

9

Food waste that goes into landfills generates methane. Methane is 21 times more harmful than CO2: Another reason to offer carryout containers that are environmentally friendly or add that smaller portion section to your menu like you have been thinking.

10

Installing an EMS (energy management system) can reduce your energy consumption by up to 25% and in some cases $8000 annually: An energy management system can help your business cut where it makes sense and a difference. Simple automated controls and sensors installed in all your critical systems (HVAC, refrigeration, lighting..etc) helps you monitor, control, and reduce your kwh consumption. Reducing your energy consumption by 25% will significantly help in efforts to reduce your carbon footprint. It’s a win win win!

All of these suggestions are merely that, suggestions. They are just words and will remain that until you take action. That’s the challenge. Take action, lead others, inspire and show your customers and peers your motives are not just driven by just making money, but by how what you do has a lasting impact on the environment.

3 Reasons Why Your Standard Thermostat Isn’t Cutting It!

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, Restaurant Tips, restaurants | No Comments

Restaurants are busy places filled with customers, employees, food, and lets not forget the hot kitchen equipment. We have installed several systems all across the United States in all different types of restaurant builds. In our travels we have seen lots of different types of thermostats installed in locations, from a standard basic thermostat, to high tech programmable thermostats, or the thermostat that came with the building when it was built 40 years ago. We have also come across hacks that employees create and use to get around restrictions for thermostat setpoints.  We all have seen those plastic thermostat guards…but there are even ways to get around those; We’ve seen it all! Here are our top 3 reasons why your standard thermostat isn’t cutting it in your restaurant.

1.Your employees will always set the temperatures to what feels good to them, this temperature may not feel good to the customers.

Time and time again we see this, the balance between the staff and the customers. A good starting point is researching what local business keep their thermostats at around you, or you can simply peek at the thermostat next time you go out to eat. Once you get that baseline you can change it based on your customer’s comments. We often see the employees will turn temperatures way down because they are hot. Of course, they are hot, they are up and moving around and if its a lunch rush forget about it they are sweating. The problem with this is your customers aren’t moving around as fast and frequently as they are so they will most likely be freezing in the temps that feel good to the staff. Find a good balance and stick to it.

2. Employees, and anyone else who can see your thermostat can change set points causing extended run times for A/C units.

You may not have had a problem with your typical, run of the mill thermostat but your energy bill and your A/C units are seeing the repercussions. Having an open thermostat can cause several problems like employees and the general public changing the setpoints which can result in equipment failure if they are tampered with too often or set too low. In this instance, if you think you are covered because you have the plastic thermostat guard…think again. We have seen employees sitting with a hairdryer or setting freezing foods on top of the box in order to get it to turn on. We have even seen implements used to stick through the open spaces to change the temperature. In this case, the best option is thermostats that come as part of an EMS system. In addition to being fully customizable, you get data and alarms that show you when temperatures were changed. These nifty thermostats also give you the option to be locked out completely at a local level, so even if the buttons are pressed or menus are tampered with they will not be able to be unlocked at a local level.

3. Schedules can’t be set or can be set and are tampered with

Scheduling is super important in the restaurant industry, there are rushes and there are times when it’s really dead. During the rushes you will want the temperature to be lower than normal to compensate for all of those bodies in one place at the same time, but who would remember to turn this back up after the lunch rush is over? No one, we see it often where the setpoint is left super low and just continues to run. This causes your customers to be uncomfortable and not to mention all of the wasted energy and money. Having a thermostat capable of schedules is best for the restaurant environment simply because you are subtracting the human error out of the equation. You no longer have to rely on someone to change the setpoint after a lunch rush and back down again because most likely, they won’t remember. Not only will these save you a headache, they will save you the money on your HVAC consumption.

There are several solutions out there to alleviate some of the pain that comes along with each one of these, deciding which is best for your business is the tough part. With the chameleon platform, we utilize schedules that fit to your specific business needs and give access to who you deem necessary. We have the capability to lock out thermostats completely or have an adjustment range of 2 degrees up or down so your staff still feels empowered but you don’t pay for it. We also alert and alarm you to changes if you opt to keep the system open. Providing data on override times, temperatures, and alarms is what helps you pinpoint what your customers want while simultaneously providing you with equipment diagnostics on units and their likelihood to fail.

Holiday Donations For Families In Need

By | Community, Education | No Comments

The holiday season has always been the season of giving, and this year just like every year before, for the past 14 years Engenuity Systems and Small Box Energy have combined forces to help a local cause. Catholic Charities Community Services, a charity that has been located in downtown Phoenix since 1933. They first started out helping vulnerable children, and over the years have molded and changed with the valley to provide life-changing services that protect families in the Maricopa, Yavapai, Coconino and Mohave Counties. They now help over 100,000 men, women and children every year with these services and donations.

Engenuity Systems (Small Box Energy’s sister company) has been hosting the My Sisters’ Place donation site for just over 14 years now. “I can’t imagine these families having to deal with this. It makes you realize how much these little ones need our support”, Kim Markie explains when talking about the children affected by domestic violence. Kim Markie,  the wife of Chief Executive Officer Tracy Markie, started the charity work with My Sisters’ Place when she worked at Engenuity Systems. My Sisters’ Place is a part of the Catholic Charities Community Services, they help all victims of domestic violence. My Sisters’ Place founded in 1985 and are only one of two confidential domestic violence shelters in the East Valley.

“This is something that would not be made possible without the generous donations from the community,” Valuikas says. Donations come in the form of typical Christmas presents, toys for all age children, movies, movie tickets, gift cards; but also include day to day items like personal hygiene items, shoes, clothes, diapers, wipes, hair products etc. Donations being accepted must be new and unwrapped items, Engenuity will be accepting items until Friday, December 22nd. You can drop any donations off at Engenuity Systems located at 2165 w. Pecos, Suite 1, Chandler, AZ 85224. If you have any questions please call 480-782-5600.

“Even though sometimes it feels like your contribution may be so small that it couldn’t possibly help, if every one of us gave a little of ourselves it would add up to a lot,” says Markie.

Remember that this holiday season even the littlest amount of help counts. It may not feel like much to you but to someone else, it’s everything.

If you are unable to donate at the Engenuity Office please visit the Catholic Charities Community Services to donate in other ways.

https://www.catholiccharitiesaz.org/phoenix/domestic-violence

Check out our Facebook to See a list of items needed!

Food Safety Tips for a Flawless Thanksgiving

By | Community, Food Safety, Small Box Energy Family | No Comments

Tis the season for giving thanks, food, holiday cheer, decorations, food, family, sharing and….did I say food? Thanksgiving is the ultimate stuff yourself until you can’t even stand the sight of turkey holiday. The three F’s of Thanksgiving is what makes it so enjoyable…family, friends, and food. Thanksgiving feasts consume more than 20 percent of the number of domestic turkeys raised in the United States this year!! That’s a total of 51,650,000 turkeys! We all want to watch our favorite football team play on Thanksgiving, talk politics with the family and gorge on food but to ensure you actually get to do these things foodsafetynews.com has provided a holiday guide on everything to do from your plane flight to your relatives house to prepping that turkey. These food safety tips will keep you and your family happy this Thanksgiving.

Travel

Taking a plane flight to Aunt June’s? You may want to consider purchasing your drink before you board the plane rather than indulging in that complimentary in-flight soda. In an Environmental Protection Agency study, one in eight planes does not meet water safety standards…that includes their ice!

“Please ensure your tray tables remain in their upright, locked position”…another bacteria hangout culprit. The National Science Foundation found that tray tables contain 10 times more bacteria than the flush handle IN the toilet! If you aren’t a mom and have the sanitizing wipes everywhere you go, get some before you travel…you won’t be sorry.  

Turkey Time

Proper thawing and preparation of the turkey are imperative. Turkey should never be defrosted at room temperature, the refrigerator or cold water thawing is the best way to defrost your turkey.

Turkey temperatures!!! Your turkey is not safe to consume until it reaches 165° Fahrenheit. Always use a thermometer to check the temperature of the bird, you cannot tell by color if the turkey is done. It’s best to take the temperature in three different spots with varying thickness.

Leftovers

After everyone eats, no one wants to clean up. It’s the worst! But all perishable foods should be thrown out if they have been sitting longer than two hours at room temperature. Temperatures between 40° and 140° F. are considered the danger zone, where bacteria multiplies the quickest…so buck up and put those leftovers in the fridge ASAP.

To make sure everyone enjoys their Thanksgiving meal and no one gets sick use these guidelines and the worst thing you’ll have to worry about at the family get together is your football team losing 🏈 ….and of course the turkey coma you’ll be in for days. 🦃

Happy Thanksgiving from the Small Box Energy family to yours!

6 Things to Consider When Choosing an Energy Management System

By | Efficiency, Energy Management, restaurants | No Comments

Restaurants fit into the commercial sector that accounts for 8.9% of the nation’s energy consumption. Energy Star found they consume 2.5 times the amount of every other commercial sector PER SQUARE FOOT! That’s awatt (haha I had to) of energy, and with energy prices only rising, the monthly utility cost for restaurants is exponential. Future Market Insights says that the energy management industry will soar to 21.6 million by 2025, that’s a drastic change from the 6.3 million that it’s valued at now. That’s because restaurants are not the only ones switching to EMS systems, residential, commercial and even entire cities are switching to more energy sustainable solutions. Because of the large market and overwhelming amounts of information, we put together some key things to look for when considering a building automation system or energy management solution.  

      1.  What are you trying to alter?

This is something that most people would say is a no brainer…but when it comes down to it are you just trying to cut energy or are you looking for an all in one building automation system? It’s important to know exactly what you aim to do with your energy efficiency project and how you plan to measure its success.

      2. Visibility

Don’t settle for less in this area. You don’t want to pay for something that tells you exactly what your standard thermostat tells you. Historical data and trend graphs can make all the difference in how you manage your locations. Don’t settle for knowing the current temperature and what the temperature will change to in 3 hours, know the last time the temperature was changed, how much it was changed by and how it is currently affecting that A/C unit. Document your pain points right now when it comes to what you wish you had in an energy management system and this will help identify and disqualify potential candidates.

      3. Support

Having tons of data collected for you is useless if you cannot understand or do not have the time to decipher it. Choose an option that has dedicated people to help when you are in need. Whether it is identifying trends in data or following up to make sure your staff reacted appropriately to an alarm, make sure you get the support you are actually paying for.  

      4. Modular

Look for a platform that gives you visibility into the areas you are concerned with but don’t limit yourself to what you want right now. We all know too well that the needs of any business are ever changing and right now you may just want energy management…but what happens when corporate wants to incorporate food safety standard that needs to be electronic? More training and possibly different software and whole new system to learn.

      5. Identify existing issues with equipment that affects what you are trying to control

You can’t fix energy consumption related to your HVAC if one of your 4 units is down and making the other 3 work harder resulting in more energy consumption and depleting existing equipment life. Making sure your units are in good working order is half the battle and will not seem like such a surprise when an outside company cannot install their energy equipment because the units aren’t even functional.

6. Ease of use

Get something that is user-friendly. The last thing you want is to have to train your whole staff on a new piece of software/hardware that is not easily navigable and not intuitive. Let’s not forget you will have to use this too 😁

All in all, make sure you chose something that will fit your business not the other way around. There are several options out there for a  energy management solution that is coupled with other areas you might want to venture into at a later time. Seamless is the key, easy training, easy transition, easy money!

Case Study Shows chameleon™ Platform Saves 15%!

By | Case Studies | No Comments

The Results Are In

A new case study has been posted online concerning the energy consumption of a quick service hamburger chain and methods used to decrease their consumption. Restaurants consume two times more energy per square foot than any other building. With the food service industry only growing, now at 620,807 restaurants in the U.S, we can expect the energy consumption to grow along with it.

A franchisee was seeking an enterprise-wide energy management, equipment diagnostics, and food safety platform all in one. Three different locations, located in varying geographical areas, were tested over a 6 week period. The chameleon™ platform consisted of lighting, refrigeration HVAC and food safety equipment.

While the system proved to be successful at reducing energy consumption, it also provided some auxiliary benefits to the client. ‘We often see a shift in staff behavior” says Small Box Energy Director of Deployment, Jim Parker. The shift in staff behavior leads to decreases in energy consumption when it comes to adjusting the A/C down and leaving walk-in doors propped open. These types of behaviors happen a lot less when restrictions are put in place for HVAC, and when alarms are sent when doors are propped open for extended periods of time. This is how our system provides visibility to every owner and operator. You become more aware of the things happening with your critical systems and staff while you are away. When you have the data to back it up, you can manage all of your locations more efficiently. This is why our platform is not just an energy-saving platform but a critical systems platform. Food loss and early equipment diagnostics came into play in this particular study. The franchisee saw as much as 15% monthly savings on energy consumption alone in just one of the locations.

Check out the full case study and more HERE.

Convenience Stores Step Up Tech Game

By | c-stores, IoT | No Comments

The Age of Convenience

There is one thing I consistently find so interesting, the one thing almost every single person has on them at all times….their phone a $800 (sometimes more now) dollar piece of our lives. Which, by the way, is not just a phone anymore but a smart device that can make calls, surf the web, be your personal assistant, translate a foreign language for you, and the apps….there are multiple apps for anything you can think of. This is a device of convenience…we don’t even have to leave our house or pick up the phone to get any kind of food delivered to our house. In this age of convenience, where anything and everything is right at your fingertips retailers have since been capitalizing on that and now come the convenience stores.

Convenience Store News conducted a study focusing on technology and how it plays a role in convenience stores. They discovered that over 50% of those who participated in the study plan to add new equipment and replace old technology this year. The change is thought to be attributed to the realization that technology can bring together and help grow other aspects of a convenience store owners business. Much like a building automation systems already do for retail and restaurant locations. With the trend of food service growing in convenience stores now the food safety aspect will come into play as well.

Another notable finding from the study was the increase in new products being introduced to the customer via social media, 46 percent to be exact. The companies already using social media have their own mobile app and are using it to keep their customer base educated and engaged. According to Statista, 81% of Americans have a social media profile, over 1.96 billion people are on social media worldwide and that number is expected to grow to 2.5 billion in 2018. With that eye-popping number, it’s a given that social media marketing is a must.

Casey’s General Stores’ mobile app just surpassed 1 million downloads since it launched in January 2016. The app offers the essentials: hours of operation, location but with some awesome feathers like ordering pizza and made-to-order sub sandwiches. The success of this app just reinforces the findings from Convenience Store News, technology integration is essential for your business to thrive in this technology-driven world. It’s not just about having an app or system that integrates with your store, but an app that is useful to your customers, a system that is useful to you….an app that keeps your customers opening it daily and a system that keeps showing its worth to you and your staff daily.

Safe Quality Food (SQF) Changes in Store for 2018

By | Food Safety, Restaurant Tips, Uncategorized | No Comments

Changes Are A Comin'

Food safety magazine reported that 2018 will be the year of food safety advances. The food safety system certification 22000 will go to version 4.1 and the third party, safe quality food (SQF) will advance to edition 8.0. The 8th edition will go into effect January 2, 2018, what that means is that all recertifications and unannounced recertification audits will use the edition 8 code as a guideline. There have been many changes but we will go through the major changes to the code and list out appropriate modules here. The modules and new codes can be found at www.sqfi.com under document downloads.

  • The “levels” of the code have been replaced with Food Safety Fundamentals, Food Safety Code, and Quality code.
    • Food Safety Fundamentals, which was formerly level 1 in SQF edition 7, is the entry-level food safety code for small or developing food and pet food manufacturers. HACCP reporting is not required at this level and the applicable modules are 7,11,12 and 13.
  • Food Safety Code, which was formerly level 2 in SQF edition 7, is applicable to primary production, manufacturing, storage and distribution, manufacturers of packaging materials and retail. Primary production is held to food safety codes 1,3,5,6 and modules 5,6,7,7h, and 8. Manufacturing is held to food safety codes 4,7-22,25, 31-34 and modules 3,4,9,10,11. Storage and distribution are held to food safety code 26 and module 12. Manufacturers of packaging materials are held to food safety code 27 and module 13. Lastly, retail is held to food safety code 24 and module 15 which is a new module in edition 8.
  • The Quality Code, which was formerly level 3 in SQF edition 7, is applicable to system elements to specify quality. Can be conducted with or without the food safety audit and the results will not affect the score of the food safety audit. This is not available for food retail.

There are also some new additions to edition 8 that edition 7 did not have before. There is an SQF food safety code for manufacturing, one for storage distribution, and one each for packaging and primary agriculture which there was not before. There is also a new food safety code for retail locations. Some notable changes were made to SQF 8.0 regarding food packaging lines and food labeling, quality code, food sector changes and implementation of a communications program by senior management.

This new code will be more stringent on those who will have to abide but was much needed since the Food Safety MOdernization Act (FSMA) that was signed into law in 2011 by President Obama and the most recently used code, SQF 7.0, which was published in 2012.

CB Insights Features Small Box Energy as Game Changing Startup!

By | Small Box Energy In the News | No Comments

Sweet, Sweet Data!

In a recent online article from data giant, CB Insights, topic up for discussion was a vibrant, information exploding infographic that depicted Small Box Energy as one of 89 startup’s that are “reinventing the restaurant”.  The article covered every area from good ole inventory management to newer restaurant tech like table-top devices and smart kitchens. Obviously, even with these innovations, there is still so much that goes into running and managing a restaurant.  But,  this is one of the sole reasons we entered this space, we saw an opportunity for assisting with a part of the restaurant that frankly you as an owner don’t have time to manage yourself… There is so much on an owner’s plate (pun intended 🙂 ) that the last thing they need to worry about is how much energy your locations are consuming and how large their carbon footprint is.

The Cold Hard Truth

The reality is that restaurants consume nearly three times the energy of the average commercial building according to the energy information administration. Some of the largest consumption culprits are refrigeration, heating, and lighting at roughly 16% percent each. Having solutions to help in these areas is the first step…taking action, that’s the second. All too often we, at Small Box Energy, hear that time is a constraint but every minute wasted not taking control of the once “uncontrollable” is slicing into your profits. The money saved on early equipment diagnostics, food spoilage prevention, and simple lighting control adds up in some cases to a savings of up to 30% reduction per month. That’s money that could be going toward the bottom line! On something you typically write off as an “uncontrollable”!

Input, Input, Input!

The infographic not only points out great systems and services but also reminds us of the large role that big data plays in every industry around today. Everything that is happening in your restaurant is valuable information to you, from the number of people waiting, to the number of times you take food temperatures during the day, right down to your lighting schedule. The more you know the better you can manage your operations and ultimately increase your profits. New tech like the ones listed in the infographic help to work together and bring that seemingly useless data to light to increase your productivity and profits. Knowing your area of opportunities is key to success, we are just lucky that in this day and age we have awesome infographics that help educate and provide perspective into the food service world. Now if there were only robots that could run the entire restaurant for us.

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