Energy Management

Are We Missing A Major Opportunity To Demonstrate The Power of Energy Management?

Paul Poirier

February 24, 2020
3 min read

What industry in Canada and the U.S. operates from 1.8+ million locations and has approximately 16 million employees? According to the U.S. Department of Energy, this industry is the most energy intensive per square foot overall when compared to other industries. 54% of Canadians visit an industry location at least once a week with fully 36% of Americans doing so daily. The answer: the restaurant industry.

What priority do restaurant operators place on the need to reduce energy consumption? According to a Toast 2019 Restaurant Success Report, energy management is no where to be seen in terms of the challenges facing the industry. In 2017, ABATE sponsored the TDN2K (now called Black Box Intelligence) best practices event which is held every January. They have 300+ clients that generate $75 billion in annual sales, operate 48,000 restaurant units, and lead 2.8 million employees. The same sentiment associated with energy management was found to be prevalent amongst Black Box Intelligence clients. That sponsorship was an expensive lesson!

Most recently, an owner of restaurants challenged my position regarding cost savings and performance improvement opportunities that may be realized from energy management. I asked him why he had negative feelings associated with energy management. His response, “Energy accounts for 3% to 4% of my operating cost while food and labor is approximately 60%.” Rhetorically he asked, “Where would you spend your time?” He also shared with me and I quote: “Paul, it’s not like I wouldn’t want to prioritize energy management and do my part to help the environment, I just don’t have enough time to deal with another priority or to manage another system.” I could see the pain on his face when he talked about having no time.

Natural Resources Canada and the U.S. Department of Energy spend considerable time, resources, and money on promoting the importance of energy efficiency and rightfully so. Both government agencies recommend the adoption of ISO 50001 (energy management) standards. To date, they have seen very little success with their initiatives. If either of these agencies have any hope of meeting their government’s future energy reduction targets, they need a new approach. They will need to be innovative and find new ways to engage energy users. Look no further than the restaurant industry for proof.

Are we missing a major opportunity to promote the power of energy management? Absolutely, positively yes! What do you think the reaction of a newly-hired marketing guru would be if they were told:

1. You are now responsible for our branding efforts of 1.8 million locations in Canada and the U.S.
2. We have more than 117 million daily customer visits to our locations and we have no idea how many total touch points.

I will let you imagine what their reaction would be!

It is time for restaurant industry stakeholders to come together and seize the opportunity to brand energy management in a new way. The evidence is clear that powerful existing paradigms prevent a break from the past. Any winning solution will need to answer at least the two following questions:

1. How can an energy management solution be implemented and at the same time allow restaurant operators to focus more time on front-of-house operations?
2. How can an energy management solution be implemented at no cost to restaurant operators? For clues on this answer, please view the following 3 minute case study video of an energy management as a service (EMaaS) project valued at $500 million US.

I plan on playing a very active role with our alliance partners on the development of a solution that will provide answers to the two important questions above. Why? There is a major opportunity to have a profound impact on the lives of so many people who work so hard, every day, in the restaurant industry. Unfortunately today, restaurant owners’ circumstances prevent them from acting on their wishes to contribute to a better world by reducing their energy footprint. Our alliance is working to change that.

Paul Poirier – Sustainability Services Director with ABATE. Paul has an incredible passion and talent for banishing waste, engaging people, and creating innovative solutions. Paul can be contacted via email:


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