Aug 17 2011
Press Publications (Minnesota) - by Mark Nicklawske
If a restaurant can save a few bucks on heat and electricity bills, the owners may not have to raise prices on that cheeseburger, burrito or plate of spaghetti.
More than a dozen White Bear Lake-area restaurants are participating in a two-year Energy Efficiency Community Development Block Grant organized through the city of White Bear Lake, the White Bear Chamber of Commerce and the Green Institute. The $50,000 federal grant examines restaurant energy consumption practices, building infrastructure and recommends a list of improvements.
Officials said the program is designed to save restaurants 10-15 percent on energy bills. For most area restaurants, that’s a savings of $1,500, to $2,000 a year.
First year 2010 results show gas use consistently below 2009 levels and electric use varying from month to month. One restaurant saved an average of 4 percent on electricity and 10 percent on gas in the first year.
“That’s some nice savings,” said Food Service Energy Leadership Program Coordinator Carl Samuelson.
The program evaluates how area restaurants operate, noting practices in high-energy consumption areas like the kitchen and refrigeration units. It also evaluates building doors, windows, heating and air conditioning units, lighting and insulation.“We look at low cost behavioral things first,” said Samuelson. “We’re not talking about spending a ton of cash because who has that right now? In this economy, it’s all about saving money.”
Donatelli’s restaurant on County Road E has shown some good early results, said Samuelson. He said the restaurant made big changes with some of its major appliances and small changes throughout the building.
The restaurant replaced one of three air-conditioning units with a new energy efficient model. It also replaced an open refrigerated display case in the lobby with a closed unit, installed a programmable thermostat and hung some new lighting.
On a smaller scale, a best practices study showed the Donatelli’s kitchen could turn off heat lamps during non-rush hours, install low-flow faucets and new door gaskets on a walk-in cooler.
Donatelli’s co-owner Trish Appleby said the project has been a success for her restaurant.
“It’s a pretty cool program,” she said. “I’m all over anything that can save me money.”
Appleby said she tries to keep a close eye on energy bills, but experts can give the process a much closer look.
“You just don’t think about it until someone comes in and says, ‘Hey here’s the impact,’” she said. “It all adds up.”
Appleby said the restaurant plans to install new lighting which is expected to save $2,000 to $3,000 a year in electric costs. That means the lights will pay for themselves in 18 months.
“In our society we’re always looking for the magic bullet that will save all this money,” she said. “But it’s small changes that are going to make a difference in our quest to save energy.”
Donatelli’s also plans to do more with its food waste, noted Appleby. She said composting will save the restaurant money too.
In the end, Appleby expects the changes to save Donatelli’s $200-$300 per month or up to $4,000 a year.
“That’s a lot,” she said.
Food Service Energy Leadership Program has conducted a similar project with restaurants in Minneapolis, said Samuelson. White Bear was selected because of the small, independent nature of its restaurant community.
Mark Nicklawske can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-407-1231.
You Should Know
White Bear Lake restaurants involved in a two-year energy savings program include: Betty’s Pies, Casa Lupita, CG Hooks, Dellwood Hills Golf Club, Donatelli’s, Dug Out Bar, The Hanger Room, Keep-Zimmer VFW, Manitou Station, Roman Anthony’s, Rudy’s Red Eye Grill, Ursula’s Wine Bar and Washington Square Grill.