As Easy as Pie: Shari's Cafe and Pies Drives Energy Savings through Employee Behavior Change


Shari’s Café and Pies is a 24-hour, full-service restaurant chain located in the Pacific Northwest, and was the first full-service restaurant to join the Better Buildings Challenge, committing to a 20 percent reduction in energy intensity by 2025 across nearly 400,000 sq. ft. of restaurant space. Shari’s conducts multiple energy audits, chain-wide, throughout the year; in addition to metering and measurement, these include auditors walking through restaurants and observing the operations of the restaurant and the staff. Through these exhaustive audits, Shari’s identified several employee behavioral changes to reduce energy and water use while cutting costs across the chain’s 100 restaurant locations.

Two years ago, to promote the necessary behavioral changes amongst employees, Shari’s developed tools, checklists, and training modules for managers and kitchen staff. Posters and checklists were created for each employee position, with a breakdown of how changes would impact them specifically, making the need for these behavioral changes more relatable. By engaging employees in Shari’s goal of managing energy use and being a good corporate citizen, the company has achieved measurable savings in its energy and water bills.


Shari’s has always been an active member of the communities it serves and is committed to resource conservation. As part of a larger energy and water conservation strategy that includes capital investments towards new and efficient equipment, Shari’s integrates efficiency practices in resources for new hires. All new employees are required to complete an online energy and water conservation training, and required to recertify annually.


Resource Audits
In addition to conducting regular energy audits and walk-throughs at restaurants, Shari’s installed EMIS technology at different locations and worked with a third-party energy efficiency contractor to monitor the data produced from different systems and equipment (e.g. heat lamps, dipperwells, broilers). Shari’s also worked with the contractor to analyze optimum performance periods for specific technologies and to find ways to prevent energy loss from equipment being left on needlessly. This is especially relevant for Shari’s since they are a 24-hour chain. Through these audits, Shari’s identified several behavioral changes that would impact energy use.

All Shari’s locations share similar restaurant design (3900 sq. ft. interior floor area), and have identical kitchens, both in terms of layout and equipment. This allowed Shari’s to standardize recommendations across its portfolio. For example, Shari’s was able to negotiate a custom rebate (which reduced costs by about 70 percent) with gas utilities, and outfit the gas broilers at all locations with smaller orifices within one month.

Shari’s found that reducing the kitchen water-heater temperature from 155°F to 140°F would produce savings of 225,000 kBTU, or $2,204 per location, annually. Turning off two of the six broiler burners for eight hours a day – during non-peak business hours – would save almost $600 per restaurant without compromising food quality. The “10 Easy Actions” and “10 Easy Conservation Measures” documents list other energy saving behaviors that Shari’s was able to identify and validate.

Posters & Checklists
Shari’s developed innovative, cost-saving checklists and tools for employees in different positions. The checklists outline behaviors that target areas such as the cook line, the back-of-the-house lighting, and the dishwasher rack in the kitchen. For example, servers are instructed how to operate freezers properly and dish machine operators ensure that racks are completely full. The resources include a 10-minute walk-through for managers to use at the start of each shift, SOPs for lighting at each restaurant, a document to check water leaks, and a guide for purchasing equipment. The checklists and posters were tailored to each position (kitchen staff, line cooks, managers, etc.) and even translated into Spanish, to ensure all employees had access to this material and understood the impact of their role in reducing energy consumption and cutting costs.

Based on the checklists, a Shari’s in-house team created an Energy Management training module – including a training video – for employees. New employees were offered the opportunity to take the online course, and were awarded a certificate of completion and a free Pie Shake for successfully completing the training and online quiz. Veteran employees are also offered the opportunity to recertify annually. By providing incentives to employees and integrating energy efficiency into job descriptions, Shari’s is able to better engage new and existing employees at all levels.

Tools & Resources

Shari's developed a number of posters and checklists for employees in different positions, ranging from dish machine operators to cooks and managers:

  • Shari’s 10 Easy Actions
  • Shari’s Easy Actions for Cooks
  • 10 Easy Conservation Measures
  • Shari’s Easy Actions for the Team
  • Shari’s Easy Actions for Dish Machine Operators
  • Employee Training Video


Shari’s distributes a bi-monthly Energy Newsletter to all restaurant managers and restaurant staff.  The newsletter covers a variety of topics, including HVAC maintenance, lighting, irrigation, and waste/recycling, and shows progress for the current year’s energy reduction goal. The newsletter highlights the top five energy reducers during the past two months, and shares their creative strategies, including behavioral changes, for reducing energy usage at their restaurant.

Measuring Success

Shari’s measures its success by the amount of decreasing usage and avoided costs at each restaurant resulting from energy efficient equipment and employee behavioral changes, as well as overall awareness and the adoption of Shari’s core values.


Over the last two years, Shari’s has made posters, checklists, and trainings available to staff at all levels, at all 100 restaurant locations. It is now a fully integrated part of Shari’s Café and Pies’ energy management efforts. Chain-wide, between 2008, when the energy plan was first developed, and 2015, Shari’s saw electricity use drop by 6 percent, and gas use drop by 25 percent. Water use also dropped by over 40 percent. The total estimated avoided cost over seven years is over $5.5 million.