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…


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


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!


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!


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!


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


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.


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%. 


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.


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.


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.

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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 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.

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10 Issues In Your Restaurant You May Be Overlooking

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

The Nitty Gritty

Running a restaurant is taxing and dont get me started on restaurant maintenance. There are so many things that you have to take care of but some of the largest, most costly problems are in your every day and you don’t even realize it. With 7 years of working in the restaurant industry, we have seen a thing or two when it comes to maintaining a restaurant’s critical systems. Some of these problems you may be aware of some…you may not. So keep reading and brace yourself for the creative things humans do.  

1. Walk-in’s and Coolers not reaching temperature

   This is something our technicians see way too often in the food industry. How do you know if your cooler is reaching its set point? Is it cooling? Typically you wouldn’t think anything was wrong with the unit until you walked it and noticed it wasn’t as cool as it normally is. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the cooler is functioning properly. The only way to tell is to have a regularly calibrated sensor inside the unit that reports temperatures back on a consistent basis. This also works for the reverse scenario, the cooler is too cold. This can cause food to become too cold and lead to freezer burn, bringing down the quality of your food dramatically.


2. A/C unit not cooling

   Summer months are a rude awakening for some restaurant owners/operators, but even then you may have so many units that you don’t realize when other units are functioning properly or at all. In some cases, we have run into the scenario when we are installing our system into a new client’s location and find that their units aren’t functioning correctly from the word go. Upon inspecting, most of the units suffered from clogged filters. The filters are so clogged it doesn’t allow air to pass through making the space feel hotter. So what does one do when they feel hotter? Turn the A/C down, which can cause a whole slew of new problems and severely decrease the life of your equipment….and all of that could’ve been prevented by a step that takes less than 3 minutes to fix.

Other common things we find upon looking into a location related to this issue are pinched duct-work, clogged A/C coils, compressor fans out, one stage compressor of two stage unit out, and low refrigerant.

3. HVAC compressor running 24/7

   This can happen for a number of different reasons. One of the most common is the clogged filters (as stated from above) or equipment failure. Often once we enter locations the employees are aware that the units may not be cooling correctly but rather than having a technician come out to repair the problem, the setpoint of the A/C is just turned down which can cause more, extensive problems in the end. Lowering the setpoint of the A/C doesn’t fix the problem, it just causes the A/C to run ALL of the time. This creates extended run times which lower the life of the equipment dramatically, freezing of the coils which can cause the unit to stop functioning altogether, and overall just decreasing the life of the equipment. In order to maximize efficiency and create a comfortable space, the unit needs to be serviced immediately…prolonging this will only create costly repairs later that could’ve been avoided.

4. A/C duct work not properly connected

   You would think that one would notice when ductwork is not connected to their A/C unit….because it would be hot right? Not always, we have seen instances where ductwork is not connected to an HVAC unit that should be pushing air into a designated space but employees are completely unaware. Many restaurants have more than one A/C unit so they typically wouldn’t notice this, the other units, however, are slowly decreasing their overall life expectancy. How? They are compensating for the one unit that isn’t working and working harder and more often than they should be to cool the area. With commercial grade A/C units ranging anywhere between $5,000 and $13,000, you don’t want to be paying for multiple units at one time if they decided to go out simultaneously due to extended run times.

5. Cooler doors being propped open

   This is a HUGE no-no, and sadly we see this all too often. What we see often in the field is the doors are propped open for deliveries but often they are forgotten about and left open to expose the food to higher temperatures as well as the cooler to run for extended times trying to cool the freezer/cooler and the kitchen.

6. Lights being left on during the day

   Not only does this point burn a TON of energy we find that it is more frustrating when the owners/managers show up and it’s daytime and the lights are on outside. Deterring the schedule that the lights are on is ok so long as you remember to turn them back off, most of the time we find that is not the case.

7. Ice buildup in coolers and freezers

   In walk-in coolers and freezers, the evaporator is responsible for defrosting the unit to melt frost and ice that builds up on the evaporator coils. Water from the defrost is drained from the freezer. We see evaporators in poor maintenance and the ice doesn’t properly melt or water isn’t properly draining which leads to the ice taking over the evaporator. This leads to ZERO defrosts and the ice continues to build. The compressor then works harder and longer to compensate until it cannot anymore and stops cooling.

8. IT Problems

   Often we go into locations and they don’t realize they even have an IT structuring issue until someone comes in from the outside to access their system. We find It racks not labeled or disorganized which leads to longer diagnosis time when a location suffers from internet connectivity problems. IT equipment hanging from cables is another sight we seen often which is just begging for internet connectivity problems.

9. Bad door seals and latches on Walk-in’s

   Poor seals or latches on doors are what seem like obvious problems but with everything else you have to deal with in a restaurant the last thing you do when you go into the walk-in is inspect the door seals. Old or bad door seals do not allow for proper suction and could be leaking cold air out into the kitchen space. This causes the unit to work harder to reach its setpoint. Same goes for the bad or old door latches.

10. Human Factors

   We have left the best for last!!! Touching on every one of the above issues, we have found that the human factor plays a large role in how and if the above scenarios happen in your restaurants. We often hear a variety of reasons why equipment is known to be broken but not fixed. “If it’s not broke don’t fix it” we hear this a lot. Often times this can cause more damage than $$$ savings. Employees are under the impression that a piece of equipment must be completely broken to warrant a technician to come look at it when calling a technician before the problem worsens can save thousands in repairs. “Not from my PL bonus”, yeppers! This happens all of the time. A lot of standard repair and maintenance is reduced to pad the area managers profit and loss statement (don’t fix it until it’s dead) which feeds into the above problem. It’s a vicious cycle that often continues and costs more than it saves.


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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 with 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.

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How Are You Managing Critical Systems?

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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

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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!

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Tracy Markie and David Andow lead an IoT educational session @ the Outlook Leadership Conference

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IoT can Reduce Operating Costs for Convenience Stores

The Outlook Leadership Conference is a significant educational event for Convenience Store operators around the US. Tracy Markie, CEO and David Andow, president of Small Box Energy, were delighted to participate as speakers at this annual conference being held in Scottsdale this week.

It is no secret the convenience store industry is facing many different challenges with labor reclassification, minimum wage increases, and health insurance costs; among many other obstacles. Even faced with these challenges, the industry continues to grow and experienced record in-store sales in 2015, led by strong growth in foodservice products. Foodservice sales accounted for 33.7% of gross revenue.

At the same time, the industry saw a dramatic increase in maintenance costs – a 5% increase over 2014. IoT technology can help provide visibility and control to reduce these costs, as well as other operating costs for this industry.

IoT technology touches everyday things from wearables to sensors; it surrounds us. But often, many people don’t realize the huge impact IoT can have on their business. It enables remote diagnostics for HVAC, refrigeration, kitchen and lighting equipment. Tracy spoke to the audience about how IoT technology can be used to control, automate and schedule key equipment in the convenience stores. Almost 75% of the electricity consumed by convenience stores is from refrigeration and lighting equipment. This equipment can be monitored and automated to reduce electricity using IoT technology. Newer equipment has IoT technology built-in; but there are solutions for existing equipment, as well. With IoT, you can have insight into how much electricity each piece of equipment is using, and when using a simple web browser or your phone. Simply put, IoT solutions now give you the tools to control what we thought was ‘uncontrollable.’

David went on to speak about how IoT is like an x-ray for your business; it gives you a birds-eye view of one store, twenty stores or hundreds of stores. When an employee calls and says the space is too warm, the facility manager can look at their phone or on the internet and see how long the HVAC unit has been running, as well as the historical data associated with the unit(s). When the beer is warm, the manager can pull up the data to see if the compressor is running, failing, or if the door was propped open for an extended period of time. He used real data and charts, walking the audience through various remote diagnostic scenarios that saved the stores time and money, and most likely extended the life of the equipment.

Now that foodservice is a key initiative for this industry; the audience agreed all foods need to be temperature probed, recorded and available for health inspectors. With IoT solutions, the temperatures are automatically loaded to the database in the cloud and accessible long-term. Food probes and temperature monitoring with real-time alarms is another IoT feature and tool to help this industry become more efficient.

Technology cost is coming down, yet many executives still believe the cost for equipment diagnostics or food safety using IoT far outweighs the benefits, but Tracy went on to explain that implementing a system like Small Box Energy’s chameleon also enables energy conservation. Automation and control reduce total consumption and, in some cases, pays for the system. Additionally, IoT is so mainstream, the costs are lower and many companies, like Small Box Energy, have moved to a managed service agreement with a monthly subscription and no up-front capital costs for equipment.

At the end of the presentation, a customer in the audience spoke up referencing the hot summer they had just seen in the southern part of the US. He analyzed and compared their office kWh consumption, which does not have an energy management system, and their stores, which are using Small Box Energy’s chameleon. Their electricity usage at the office went up approximately 13% over last year; whereas their stores remained almost flat.

As this industry continues to grow, we see many benefits to implementing an IoT-based solution to save energy, reduce maintenance costs and implement food safety procedures. For more information contact Small Box Energy by emailing

IOT_David Presenting

David and Tracy Presenting

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Small Box and Avnet Announce Partnership for Installation Services

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Small Box Energy today announced their partnership and formal services agreement for NorthAvnet Installation
America with Avnet, Inc. through its Technology Solutions group (Avnet TS), a leading global technology distributor. Avnet TS is now the primary installation services provider for chameleon solutionchameleon™, the Internet of Things (IoT) energy management platform that is powered by Intel® (INTC) technology and used by restaurants, convenience stores, and retailers. Under the agreement, Avnet TS will provide inventory, hardware installation, cloud-based commissioning services for the system, as well as support services. Small Box Energy’s chameleon is currently installed with more than 65 brands throughout North America, with several pending contracts from national corporations.

Read the full release here.


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Why Should Restaurants and Convenience Stores be Interested in IoT?

By | Early Equipment Diagnostics, Energy Management, Food Safety, IoT, Uncategorized | No Comments

IoT cloud_3IoT touches every person, every day and we barely even think about it – cell phones, laptops, security devices, HVAC controls, and lights. They are all connected:

Today*: 6.4B “things” connected via IoT technologies
Tomorrow: 5.5 million things will be connected
2020: 20.8 Billion things connected

Eventually, virtually everything electrical will be connected – appliances, blinds, locks, garage doors, water heaters, landscaping lights, even irrigation systems.

But the important question is why?  Why has technology permeated so many aspects of our lives?  Well, there are lots of reasons.  First, we might say it’s cool.  Who doesn’t feel just a little bit of power when you can turn your lights on and off from across the country?  Right?   However, the more practical applications of these “things” provide us convenience, save us money or provide some added safety for us.  They make our lives easier, they help us get more for less all while improving the world we live in. The same is true for businesses and especially restaurants.

It is very common to be using IoT for your POS, social media and even operations like inventory or ordering. Nearly every asset in the business has been impacted by the internet and/or IoT to save money or increase efficiency. For Front of the House, IoT applications typically focus on increasing revenue and loyalty; where as the Back of the House applications typically focus on increasing productivity through schedules, inventory, and bookkeeping.

Small Box Energy leverages IoT to provide a solution focused on providing operational efficiency to improve profitability for both restaurants and convenience stores:

  • Improves Food Safety by automatically documenting temperatures for refrigeration equipment and food probes on the cloud, giving users historical and real-time access.
  • Reduces Food Loss by providing real-time alarms to employees when refrigeration equipment is out of the defined temperature range, notifying employees to take immediate action.
  • Reduces Maintenance Costs by providing data to distinguish between equipment failure and operational inefficiencies; as well as data to determine truly urgent repairs over routine maintenance needs. Facility managers are becoming empowered through remote access and diagnostics.
  • Extends Equipment Life and Improves Inefficiencies by providing the data necessary to determine doors being left open, repetitive and unnecessary HVAC overrides, or general excess operation of compressors.
  • Reduces Energy Consumption through automation, scheduling and decreasing unnecessary defrost cycles in equipment to help control what is often perceived as uncontrollable costs.

So why is IoT important for restaurateurs? It will touch every aspect of your operation and it will help you save time, mitigate risk and increase profitability. Learn more about how Small Box Energy can help your operations by emailing



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