GE Capital has launched a new mobile application, WattWise, to its franchise restaurant operator customers in the U.S. WattWise analyzes the energy consumed by the lighting currently installed in a restaurant, then estimates the savings operators can achieve if they switch to more energy-efficient alternatives.

Restaurants spend up to five times more on utilities than other commercial businesses, according to the 2011 Chain Restaurant Industry Review, released this week by GE Capital, Franchise Finance. Lighting accounts for 13 percent of that total energy usage but it's also one of the expenses that can be most easily managed.

Initial testing with WattWise identified at least $500 in cost-saving opportunities per store per year. Savings are dependent on a number of factors, including the number and age of the lighting fixtures in use.

"A simple system like this for improving light bulbs can directly impact an operator's bottom line over the long run," said Chris Armbruster, vice president of franchise development for Taco Bell Corp. "WattWise is a great way to save money and be environmentally conscious at the same time."

WattWise was introduced at the Restaurant Leadership Conference held earlier this week in Scottsdale, Ariz. It is available for free to all companies that finance directly through GE Capital. Customers should contact their GE Capital, Franchise Finance sales representative for more information.

"The franchise restaurant industry is beginning to grow again as consumers dine out more frequently," said Agustin Carcoba, president and CEO of GE Capital, Franchise Finance. "Operators are optimistic about the industry's top-line results, but they're still searching for new strategies and tools to improve margins. We believe WattWise is a simple tool to help our customers identify energy cost savings and improve the bottom line."

WattWise was developed through a GE collaboration team spearheaded by GE Capital's Access program through which the company shares tools and insights to help customers tackle business challenges.

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