Operational Efficiency Blog for Restaurants and Convenience Stores

Smart Cities a Thing of The Future?

By | Efficiency, IoT, Uncategorized | No Comments

Flying cars, diners with tv waiters and hovering trash cans…. a scene from the 1989 Back to The Future Part II movie that depicts a severely futuristic 2015. Although we do have semi-autonomous cars and not flying ones, tablets to place your order at restaurants the city of Chicago has a new approach to smart cities and we have some insight at how they plan to get there.

The Smarter City

Chicago has recently been expanding their efforts in becoming a smarter city according to a recent Cnet article that was published. What does that mean? Chicago residents can open a browser on their phone and see the location of every snow plow in the area. City officials can use a computer analysis to predict where rats will be in the city using information like locations of overflowing garbage and planned sewer pipe repairs, helping them combat their immense rat problem, along with replacing 270,000 street lamps with LED’s starting in September 2017.

The new project in progress is a new digital mapping system that will help determine what pipes are where under the city and just what each of those pipes is for. Currently, if any repairs are to be done in the city, crews must contact the office of underground coordination to identify what pipes are nearby and if they encounter an unknown, a specialist has to be brought in to determine if the pipe can be removed. This causes the city time delays and money.

The Solution

A phone app and computer program that creates a digital blueprint of Chicago’s underground pipe maze consisting of water, sewer, electric, gas and broadband lines…not including other services from 30 other companies and utilities. Chicago partners withhttp://www.uilabs.org/ UI labs to create a 3d map of Chicago’s pipeline infrastructure. The map is created by an image analysis startup company called reconstruct, using software from Cityzenith. After a construction crew unearths pipes, replaces old ones with new ones, he then could pull out his phone and take a 360degree video of where the construction took place. This data is given to Reconstruct where they use an analysis technique on the video called point clouds. They analyze the points in the video which helps to create a 3d image of the pipes that were just recorded. Right now it takes 2 weeks to create a 3d image of the construction site video to map the underground of pipes, their hopes are to create a google maps of Chicago’s underground to make several processes more efficient and easier.

They will no longer need paper blueprints of the pipe maps, and can easily update where pipes have been replaced with the new technology. “My whole thing is to allow us not just to use data to be better at what we do, although that’s what it is, but also to continue to give people a chance to interact and interface with their government,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel stated.


Started From The Bottom Now We're Here

This type of innovated thinking all started with snow plows and a simple tracking mechanism and has grown into bettering the city for not just the government planning but the residents who live there. Chicago seems to have embraced technology to its fullest and made moves to become more efficient. This is not only applicable on a city-wide scale but in our everyday lives, our work, our schools, and our home. It’s not about technology taking over but utilizing one of the greatest tools we have at our disposal to be a better, more efficient, sustainable culture.

How Are You Managing Critical Systems?

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

Total Visibility, Total Control

In the restaurant and convenience store industry, managing your critical systems can seem like a very low priority in relation to all of the other issues and fires you face daily. The truth is, the typical restaurant consumes about 2.5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial buildings. That means you are spending more than any other commercial building, and that is just on power! Early equipment diagnostics is a huge focus in the restaurant and convenience store industry today. Leaders in these industries are realizing that early diagnosis of faulty equipment is the best way to save money on food loss, and total equipment replacement.

The only true way to manage anything is to first understand it, and to understand it you must have a way to measure it.  Making sure your locations have a locking thermostats is not good enough, visibility into your ENTIRE operation is key. The chameleon™ cloud app from Small Box Energy, not only gives you this visibility but it provides you with remote control of these systems as well. Take a look at some of the perks below:

  • Complete Visibility:
    • See your complete portfolio in one user-friendly overview.
    • The quick glance feature allows you to see what locations are in alarm by the color designation.


  • Alerts and Alarms:
    • Alarm notifications tell you why the alarm was triggered and the possible causes


  • Complete Remote Control:
    • Remotely view the current status of all your critical systems.
    • Change the current state of lighting and HVAC from any tablet, browser or mobile phone.
    • Adjust lighting and HVAC schedules remotely to fit the needs of the business
    • Adjust Override times for HVAC to ensure maximum energy savings.


  • Food Safety Through Temperature Monitoring
    • Measure temperatures in reach-in and service area equipment.
    • Alarms are sent for coolers reaching above or below defined temperature range.
    • Temperatures are automatically recorded up to the cloud for real time and historical reference.
    • Alerts are sent immediately to employees/managers when equipment fails to prevent food loss.


  • Early Equipment Diagnostics
    • Accurate, real time graphs provide early equipment diagnostics for HVAC and Refrigeration.
    • Client Success Team helps analyze data to determine the time of equipment failure and possible causes.
    • Utilize graphs to help determine when equipment is being shut off by staff or when doors are left open unnecessarily.


  • Increase Operational Efficiency:
    • Provide graphs and time of failure to your maintenance team for more accurate and faster diagnosis and unit repair.
    • Smart data helps technicians determine cause of failure which reduces equipment run time and extends unit life



These are just some of the key benefits of the chameleon-cloud application. If you think managing your critical systems is a”nice to have” and not a “need to have”, rethink where your dollars are going and take action today! To talk to someone at Small Box Energy today about seeing everything you’re missing out on, in your locations! Click HERE to contact someone at Small Box Energy. Download the chameleon-cloud app today on the App Store and on Google Play, or visit www.chameleon-cloud.com.

Summer Heat and Your Restaurant Energy

By | Energy Management, Restaurant Tips | No Comments

The month of July is upon us, that means celebrating our independence, fireworks, BBQ’s, and let’s not forget the HEAT! July of 2016 according to NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the mean temperatures were the warmest on record for any month dating back to the 1800’s. We can only hope that temperatures this July don’t supersede that of last years.

Not only is it hot outside but your customers are looking to escape the heat, so no more setting that thermostat to 78 degrees. To keep customers happy and spending more time & money in your establishment your going to want to turn that AC down. The problem with that: your employees will want to turn it down as well but much lower than your billfold would allow. Energy costs in summer months rise…gotta love that whole supply and demand scenario. Lock those thermostats and keep them locked, ensure your customers are happy and employees too with a scheduling system for your air conditioning. Click here if you don’t have a scheduling system set up for your current thermostats. 

Some would argue that since the heat is so unbearable their business is affected because no one wants to venture outside in the heat. Here are some tips to help drive business to your restaurant during these summer months from restaurantengine.com.

     1.Post colorful, refreshing drinks online

          Take advantage of Facebook and those Instagram hashtags! There is no better way to lure people in than with the refreshing drinks they don’t have at home!

     2. Update your Website with summer dishes

          Don’t just update the dishes….but add photos. People are visual and love to see what they are getting. You can also add a dish of the day to your Instagram if you don’t already do so.

     3. Offer online ordering to increase business. 

We live in the age of now and convenience. Rarely do people want to call in to place a to go order if they first don’t seek out the option to place it online. This may lessen the amount of phone calls you receive, it also helps that online order tickets are 5-25% larger than phone-in orders. SHOW ME THE $$$!

      4.   Distribute “Order Online!” cards to customers

             This will help spread the word of your new online ordering feature to people who already clearly love your food! Hand them out to current customers, have them on tables, even distribute to nearby business to place in their break room.

      5.   Upgrade your restaurant decor for summer.

Switch up your decor and do something fun and new that screams summer. New outdoor lighting strands or plants that say….you are not in Phoenix’s 120 heat but a balmy 70 in Oahu!

      6.   Set a blogging schedule and stick to it.

             Creating a buzz about your restaurant and the food offered will help only to bring people in. Pick something different everyday, your blog doesn’t have to look like the prologue to “War and Peace” but just enough to satisfy and leave them wanting more. Don’t forget to post pictures and updates on Facebook whenever you do a blog post. Spread the word and let social media help!

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!

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