Energy Management Systems and a View into the Smart Restaurants of the Future

Elan Frantz, Research Engineerelan

Disney’s movie “Smart House,” released in 1999, was based on a fictitious, futuristic house with a mind of its own. Upon a command from the owner, the house could whip up a smoothie, clean instantaneously, and even cook dinner. Everyone who has owned or helped operate a restaurant can dream about a “smart restaurant-” a place which can take some of the responsibility of running a foodservice establishment away. While we don’t have kitchens that run themselves yet, we are coming closer to having intelligent restaurants with the emergence of Energy Management Systems (EMS). With an EMS, operators can view the real-time status of the energy-using systems in their restaurant from their computer or smartphone and even control certain aspects like the temperature of the building or the lighting settings. Luckily for restaurant owners, EMS systems do not typically turn evil and trap you like the house in the Disney movie.

Installing an EMS is like adding a central nervous system to your restaurant. Information like restaurant temperature and light settings are all controllable and viewable through a single system. As the name suggests, the goal of EMS systems is to carefully manage the energy expenditure of a building to reduce the total energy footprint and save money for the operator. Before EMS systems entered the foodservice world, these products were popularized by effectively saving energy by managing the HVAC and lighting systems for office buildings. Simple programs that would turn down the lights and air conditioning systems when the building was unoccupied were successful in significantly reducing energy bills. More recently, EMS vendors have been targeting restaurants because of the large energy saving opportunities of these facilities. Unfortunately, the intricacies of energy management in the restaurant space have made it difficult for EMS to gain widespread popularity. With climbing energy costs and monthly energy bills upward of $5,000 for a single restaurant, energy management is beginning to make a great deal of sense.

We at the FSTC are dreaming about what the EMS of the future will look like. One day, restaurant operators will be able to view and control the energy consumption of nearly all of their energy using systems, from fryers to freezers, from hot plates to HVAC systems. Allowing operators to control these systems will allow energy usage to be optimized in ways never previously realized. These are the areas we hope the EMS of the future to touch on:

– HVAC
– Lighting
– Refrigeration
– Ice Machines
– Demand Control Ventilation
– Kitchen Appliances
– Water Heating

By opening an application, you, the restaurant operator, will be able to see real-time charts and graphs depicting where your energy is being used and how you can save money. You can already do this with many systems on the market today with your HVAC and lighting systems. Ultimately, we hope that all of your energy systems will be under this EMS umbrella, saving the most green possible!