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Smashburger Takes Bite Out of Energy

Fast-casual restaurant chain lowers HVAC runtime, improves comfort levels
Fast-casual restaurant chain Smashburger has deployed a Web-based energy-management system across its corporate locations.

Smashburger is getting on the right track when it comes to reducing its energy use. The fast-casual, fast-growing better-burger eatery has deployed a Web-based energy management system that helps it identify energy cost-savings while also providing a consistent level of comfort.

The system, EnTouch 360 from EnTouch Controls, Richardson, Texas, provides extensive support for facility HVAC systems, including synchronizing operation across multiple units, controlling timing between multiple stage systems and reducing system runtime. It monitors facility energy consumption, providing insight into energy usage and power quality, and, through its Web portal, enables 24/7 access to energy system data from remote locations. This allows Smashburger to monitor and track energy performance and change schedules as needed.

“We tested the system in two store locations in Houston so that we could get real-time data,” explained Justin Retzlaff, project manager, Smashburger, Denver, which operates more than 270 locations and expects to expand its unit count by about 30% in 2014. “We chose Houston because the weather is fairly extreme and also because it is home to some of our oldest stores. Those two components make for a good test situation.”

It didn’t take long for EnTouch 360 to prove itself.

“We tested it during the summer and the fall, and the energy savings and overall convenience (of the system) were quite apparent, even after just a couple of months,” Retzlaff said.

Energy bills for the test stores went down significantly, he added.

Based on the positive results, Smashburger decided to implement the EnTouch system in nearly all its corporate-owned stores and include it in the specifications for new locations.

“After we get past the whole corporate implementation, we anticipate offering it up to our franchisees,” Retzlaff added.

Smashburger is using EnTouch primarily to control the HVAC system in its corporate locations, along with energy monitoring.

“It provides visibility of our HVAC equipment operations,” Retzlaff said. “And we have found the system’s Web portal to be extremely convenient. It gives us real-time data on how the HVAC equipment in each location is performing.”

EnTouch’s energy monitors support a wide range of electrical panels and scale to monitor incoming power and critical branch loads.

“The wireless unit is placed inside our electrical panels. It allows us to monitor eight circuits per panel and gives us good visibility of energy use,” Retzlaff explained.

In another important benefit, the energy management system provides Smashburger with a way to ensure a more consistent store temperature, both from a customer and energy-usage standpoint, and the ability to set temperature standards across multiple locations.

“It’s very configurable,” Retzlaff said. “We have a schedule that we maintain, but we also give our stores a moderate amount of flexibility to respond to customer requests. We set the system up to allow the stores three degrees of temperature range from the set level. It alerts to stores that are performing outside the set range.”

EnTouch helped Smashburger set up regional schedules to accommodate different climates and humidity areas.

Ease of use is another benefit. The system, according to Retzlaff, is intuitive. In an unforeseen benefit, he added, EnTouch has become a valuable partner for Smashburger in the area of facilities management. The system provides the chain with insight on potential equipment failures (by detecting increased energy usage for the systems).

“When there is a problem, we’re able to go out to the site with more information than we had prior to the system implementation,” Retzlaff said. “While we value the input from the store level, HVAC operations fall outside their knowledge base and it was hard to get a true assessment of a problem. But with this system, we have a lot of information before we send out a tech.”

Smashburger is in the midst of putting together a comprehensive analysis to determine real-time savings data system wide.

“The system was retrofitted into our stores in fall 2013, so it’s still fairly new,” Retzlaff noted. “But based on the initial results in the test stores, we are feeling very positive.”