Temperatures are hot and energy bills are high. It’s summer time in the restaurant industry, and as a small business owner, it can seem impossible to keep everyone and everything cold. From A/C to refrigerators to ice machines, everything in both your back and front of house is running at full blast, and not doing so could mean losing business. But don’t fret. Here are a few creative steps to increase cost savings and perhaps even boost business during the summer swelter.

Lighting is everything. Having the right lighting in your restaurant sets the tone for your guests and the ambience for the entire space, but it also can mean spending a pretty penny on just the right bulbs. Incandescent bulbs run hot – in fact, 90% of the energy they put out is heat – and depending on where and how many you’re using, they could be running up both your electric bill and your A/C bill, trying to cancel out the heat they’re putting out. CFLs are a good first step, but particularly in the summer, it’s time you take the leap to the latest innovation – LEDs. LEDs run cold and use only a tiny fraction of the power needed for other bulbs. It’s a win-win. And they’ve advanced considerably in the past couple years, with Soft White and Warm White options, as well as specialty bulb sizes and colors. From the smallest decorative bar lights to the largest overhead ceiling lights, it’s time to swap out for LEDs and stop living in the Dark Ages.

Raw is the new brussel sprouts. Kitchens are hot, especially in the summer. Your kitchen staff and your wallet will thank you if you simply switch-up your menu during the hotter months. And there’s no better time to do it than now, when raw foods are the latest fad. Roasted brussel sprouts are so last year. Now, it’s raw brussel sprout salad, zucchini noodles, gazpacho, heirloom tomato salads – basically, if it’s uncooked and all natural with a twist of creativity, it’ll save energy and likely be a trendy sensation. Who knows, you might find your next hit dish. At the very least, you’ll cut down on cooling that kitchen.

Smoking is in. Not that kind of smoking. We’re talking outdoor grills and smokers. Check out the meats on your menu and see what can be cooked on a smoker or replaced by smoked or grilled meats in the summertime. Folks like seeing “house smoked” on a menu, and they love to drive by and smell meat on a smoker. Draw folks in while keeping the heat out by adding an outdoor smoker or grill to your kitchen’s summertime setup.

Embrace the heat. Outdoor patios, beer gardens and rooftop bars are all the rage. If you have space to offer outdoor seating, take advantage of those extra tables. Add a couple umbrellas and some big ol’ fans, and call it a day. Some folks love the heat, so let them enjoy it while consuming all your restaurant has to offer – minus the A/C. Pro Tip: Don’t prop the doors open, and limit the amount of wait staff you have going in and out. Consider adding a wait staff station and computer terminal outside to keep the doors from opening and closing with every order.

Sometimes the simplest solutions can have the greatest impact. Every restaurant is different, so consider your brand, your clientele and your space, and then consider making some adjustments. You’ll never know if there’s cost savings right under your nose unless you scope it out for yourself.