Charlottetown Pizza Hut part of green energy restaurant makeover

Mary MacKay
Published on July 7, 2014
FMI energy savings co-ordinator Ernie Tracey, left, shows the new LED bulbs that replaced the incandescent models like the one held by Jeff Hillier, general manager of the Charlottetown Pizza Hut. This is just very small part of a big green energy renovation plan that will eventually be put into place in more than 100 of FMI’s restaurants.
Guardian photo by Mary MacKay

Employees in one Charlottetown restaurant are now seeing the light in a whole different way.

That’s because Pizza Hut is in the midst of a green energy makeover, with upgrades being made to everything from the lighting, heating, cooking and cooling systems to the kitchen sink’s water flow.

This is part of the New Brunswick-based Franchise Management Inc. (FMI)’s ongoing energy-saving renovation and refurbishing program which, at present, is focused on the more than 25 of the company’s Pizza Hut in Atlantic Canada and Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurants in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.

For some problem areas, it was just a matter of changing a bulb, says FMI energy savings co-ordinator Ernie Tracey, who solved a cost-inefficient lighting situation above the Pizza Hut ovens by switching from incandescent bulbs to seven-watt LEDs.

“For lower wattage we get higher output; and the LEDS are rated for 100,000 hours (of life) as opposed to 1,000 for the incandescent,” he said.

This easy fix is part of FMI’s four-phased four-year program that will green all of FMI’s Atlantic Canadian restaurants and eventually be rolled out to 100 of its stores in the rest of Canada and the United States.

The idea started with FMI development manager Dak Conklin of Cornwall who, prior to working with this company, had taught a few courses at

Holland College, including one connected to the Energy Systems Program.

“That’s what they are looking at is all these (energy-saving) ideas and that’s when it clicked in my head that we should be looking at a lot more. We have 200 stores so it made sense (because) the power bills in some of our stores are very high; (some being) in the $30,000 to $40,000 range per year,” he says.

He hired Tracey, who at that time was a Holland College student, to do an energy audit of four FMI stores on the lights, heat, ventilation and air condition systems, coolers and so on.

This pinpointed the power corporation’s demand charge — a charge based upon the highest 15-minute interval average demand at any time during the billing period — as one of the biggest cost culprits.

“What happens in most of our stores is people come in the morning and they turn on all the switches and all the equipment and it all powers up at once, and so there is this big spike,” Conklin says.

“Our demand charge is anywhere from 25 to 35 per cent; that’s a big chunk of change. So we looked at how we could sequence equipment coming on so that there’s no spike in that 15-minute period.”

Tracey and Holland Collage instructor Darryl Hardy created a control system to turn on lights and equipment in 18-minute increments to element that costly energy spike.

Another part of the green energy plan is to install daylight harvesting systems, which use daylight to offset the amount of electric lighting needed to properly light a space.

“We harvest that daylight through the windows, so instead of all the light being on at 100 per cent, they’re all down to percentages of what is required,” Conklin says.

Low-energy letter/menu boards and exterior signage with dimmable LEDs are also being installed and three KFC locations now have solar-powered LED lights in the parking lots.

In the Charlottetown Pizza Hut location, water conservation measures have also been put into place, such as aerators on the sprayers in the three-compartment sinks, reducing consumption by about 70 per cent.

“It was interesting because when we put the aerators on in the three-compartment sinks where they do the dishes, we were concerned it might take them twice as long to clean things. But when we got a couple (and tested it) we found the opposite. . . it actually cleans the trays off quicker,” Conklin says.

A study was conducted in a KFC restaurant in Lower Sackville where the power consumption of existing cooler units was monitored on a minute-by-minute basis for two weeks.

This was then compared to new equipment.

The cost saving was estimated to be more than 70 per cent with the new state-of-the-art coolers.

At present, all of the heat that is exhausted from restaurant cookers, ovens and fryers goes straight up the chimney, so another goal is to capture that to heat the stores in the cold months or at the very least heat the water.

Once the project reaches its goal of a 70 per cent energy consumption reduction in the restaurants, the focus will shift to solar and wind power, the transition of which is projected to begin by 2018.

“It’s a win-win-win scenario in what we are doing with our energy savings,” Conklin says, “a win for the environment, a win for cost reduction and a win for maintenance and replacement reduction.”