Case study - Arby`s energy management and food safety

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Courtesy of Powerhouse Dynamics

Challenge: Get energy costs under control
Locations: ≈900 company-owned restaurants
Scope: HVAC control & management, food safety monitoring
Time to deploy: Five months
Results: 7.6% aggregate energy savings reported by Arby’s

In 2012 Arby’s, a leading global quick-service restaurant company, decided to deploy remotely controlled thermostats across its company-owned restaurants in a bid to get energy costs under control, as well as to ensure proper comfort among their guests.

After reviewing the products on the market, Arby’s selected four products for pilot testing. Among them was Powerhouse Dynamics’ SiteSage (then known as eMonitor). What immediately distinguished SiteSage from the other products was that it was capable of much more than remote thermostat control - it also offered other capabilities that interested Arby’s, including:

  • Central equipment monitoring
  • Patented analytics to uncover hidden inefficiencies
  • Food safety protection via real time temperature monitoring
  • Enterprise level benchmarking of facilities and equipment

These added capabilities played a key role in Arby’s eventual selection of SiteSage. For example, at a demonstration of the system about two weeks after installation, SiteSage was able to show Arby’s that the outdoor lighting system at the pilot location, which was on a timer, was being turned off at noon rather than midnight, and that their walk-in freezer compressor was never turning off, with temperatures sometimes exceeding the levels required for food safety.

After several more weeks of testing, Arby’s was even more impressed with the systems and decided that SiteSage was the best choice for moving into the next stage of the trial – a 23 restaurant rollout in the Minneapolis area.

Stage 2 of the pilot also proved successful, so Arby’s gave Powerhouse Dynamics the thumbs up to roll the system out across all 860 company-owned U.S. restaurants, on a very aggressive timetable. With the help of Arby’s chosen deployment partner, the coincidentally named Powerhouse Retail Services, the rollout was completed just five months later.

At Arby’s, the SiteSage system delivers HVAC controls and HVAC diagnostics, along with food safety alerting and reporting. In addition to managing the wireless thermostats, SiteSage monitors the energy use of each HVAC unit at the breaker panel, and also monitors temperature in the supply and return ducts. SiteSage algorithms alert Arby’s management team to a range of issues with the HVAC units, including compressors that are short cycling, economizers that are not working, and units that are not able to reach the second stage of cooling. Arby’s has created thermostat setting “templates” that can be pushed down to restaurants at a regional level or other basis with the touch of a button, avoiding the need to program each thermostat individually.

The system also monitors temperatures in all walk-in refrigerators and freezers. Managers are alerted when temperatures approach or exceed food safety limits for periods of time set by corporate, to make sure that corrective action can be taken before food safety or product quality is compromised. Managers can also set up weekly reports identifying equipment that shows signs of needing attention. Arby’s has been so pleased with this enhancement to their rigorous food safety program that they recently decided to expand SiteSage temperature monitoring to additional kitchen equipment, starting with their most important asset: roast beef warmers.

Results

As expected, SiteSage has been instrumental in identifying HVAC and refrigeration equipment problems at many locations; in some cases leading to the replacement of units that simply could not keep up with heating or cooling demands. Issues found at Arby’s include detecting failed or failing compressors on rooftop units (RTUs), finding RTU supply air temperatures that were too high due to insufficient coolant levels, and alerting on walk-in refrigeration units drifting above the desired temperature thresholds.

Arby’s issued a press release in July, 2014 that reported corporate energy costs had been reduced by 7.6%, thanks to its energy conservation program. Arby’s credited Powerhouse Dynamics as a contributor to this impressive savings achievement, and expects SiteSage to continue to contribute to their longer term goal of a 15% reduction by the end of 2015.

Next Steps

SiteSage was installed in 35 of 100 restaurants originally excluded from the rollout due to a planned sale, with the remainder planned for 2015. ARCOP, Arby’s franchisee buying co-op, has been promoting the system to its franchise members, several of whom have begun installations, including a 44 restaurant franchise who rolled the system out to all locations in 2014. The system’s use is being expanded to include monitoring of food warming and other kitchen equipment. Arby’s is also planning a SiteSage lighting controls pilot. SiteSage has already delivered considerable benefits to Arby’s, and those benefits are only expected to grow over the coming years.

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