We don't have to convince any restaurant operator about the wisdom of spending less money on electricity, water and natural gas — especially now. But where exactly is the low-hanging fruit? The four steps listed below can reduce your energy bill and maximize your profit dollars while, in the process, you go “green.”
Turn It Off!
Just like leaving the lights on in your home, leaving equipment to run idly will cost you hundreds of dollars in unused energy. For those times when you forget to turn off equipment after closing, or during idle hours in the kitchen, rely on electrical timers to automatically switch off equipment when you aren't around.
But even if you remember to turn off most equipment, others pieces are often forgotten. For instance, after you turn off your dish machine, don't forget to turn off the booster heater. And while you may not want to turn the whole griddle off, you can turn off some of the burners during slower business hours. This will save you energy while still keeping kitchen services available.
Review Your Lighting
Areas such as walk-in coolers or your storerooms don't need to be illuminated all day long. And you already know that turning off lights as you leave typically unused areas is a great way to save money on your energy bill. But your employees may not be so thorough. Again, electrical timers are the answer.
The kind of lighting you use matters, too. Fluorescent lighting uses 1/4 to 1/3 less energy than incandescent. Replacing bulbs with more efficient options will reduce your monthly bill. These higher efficiency bulbs can be used in areas that require constant lighting. Replace incandescent lights in your walk-in cooler with fluorescent lights, which are cooler and consume less energy.
Reduce Water Consumption
The U.S. Green Building Council has developed LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification, a national standard for the design, construction and operation of high performance green buildings which result in energy savings. When replacing kitchen equipment, make sure to purchase products that contribute to these new standards.
For example, some types of faucets support these new standards by promoting efficient water usage in hand, prep and cleanup sinks. That means you can replace older faucets with new models that conserve water without compromising performance. You can find a list of endorsed products on the official Green Restaurant Association web site, www.dinegreen.com/solutions.asp .
Get Up to Date
In older kitchens, saving money means replacing outdated equipment. The cost is high in the beginning, but over time you earn that money back in lower utility bills. You can find plenty of highly efficient restaurant equipment at sites such as www.cooksdirect.com  or other online distributors. These sites can help you replace old equipment notorious for high energy consumption, like dishwashers and ovens,
But where will you find the money? Be sure to check with your local government officials to learn how to take advantage of government incentives and tax benefits for any steps you take in your kitchen to reduce energy usage, such as Energy Star equipment rebates. These incentives go straight to your bottom line, while the steps you take provide continuous benefits for your operation and the environment.
Jeff Breeden is chief merchant at Cook's Direct. Reach him at [email protected]  or at 800-956-5571.