There wasn’t anything particularly complicated behind Wendy’s franchisee Raul Dominguez’s decision to implement an energy management system in his Miami chain of six quick-service burger restaurants. He simply wanted to reduce utility expenses.
“Our costs were skyrocketing because of high fuel costs,” said Dominguez, whose Florida territory also includes another six Wendy’s units in Orlando. “I wanted to save money on electric bills, plain and simple.”
In 2007, Dominguez retained Arlington, Va.-based GridPoint to identify the restaurant’s biggest energy draws and install an energy management system to tighten the controls and halt over-consumption. The project launched with a pilot site in Miami. But the savings didn’t stop there. Although the original battle plan was to see how the pilot store performed for an extended period of time, the initial proof-of-concept went so well that Dominguez installed the GridPoint system in his remaining five Miami-market Wendy’s units in early 2008.
The GridPoint system is actually an energy management and submeter system. It controls HVAC, lighting and refrigeration, monitors the total energy load in the units and essentially acts as the central nervous system for the store. A typical location, whether restaurant or retail store, has a meter that measures electricity and gas usage but is incapable of identifying the biggest energy hogs. In the GridPoint EMS, a submeter augments the traditional meter and allows detailed visibility of energy eaters, whether HVAC, lighting or even broilers.
“The submeter will tell us on a granular level how much energy is being used,” explained Michael Donohue, executive VP sales for GridPoint. “And we don’t restrict our visibility to the HVAC system, as we also likely want to monitor lighting usage, which can be interior lighting, exterior lighting, office and backroom lighting and signage.”
The other hardware component to the system is a control that removes energy command from employees to the owner or central decision-maker. The control in the Wendy’s units allows Dominguez to decide what the restaurants’ set points are for temperature and lighting and maintain those set points without employee interference.
The accompanying EMS software enables proper analyses for energy usage. The EMS installation in Dominguez’s six Miami restaurants revealed the biggest energy users as, not surprisingly, the HVAC and refrigeration systems.
“And that is where we have seen the biggest savings,” Dominguez said. Since the 2008 rollout, energy costs have been reduced between 10% and 15% — from a monthly cost of about $5,000 per month per site to less than $4,500 per month per site.
An added advantage of the system has been a reduction in food spoilage. As part of the GridPoint system, Dominguez receives an e-mail if a refrigerator is not operating at the correct temperature, promoting quick reaction and enhanced food safety.
Looking ahead, Dominguez said he plans to roll out the GridPoint system to his six Orlando Wendy’s units, and he is implementing additional energy-saving strategies.
“Over the past year, we have replaced every fluorescent light bulb in every restaurant with incandescent,” Dominguez said. “And we are looking at on-demand water heaters to further save energy and cut costs.”