Energy prices are one of the biggest costs for food businesses across the UK, alongside other expenses including labour and rent. In households, gas and electricity bills at the end of the month usually take a big chunk of money from homeowners’ paychecks.
Just like any home, food businesses - including restaurants and cafés - reduce their profits significantly by having to pay energy bills. Amidst the rising cost of living, it’s becoming increasingly important for food business owners to cut costs wherever they can to keep their companies afloat, and one of the most effective ways that they can do this is by evaluating their energy usage.
However, previous research has highlighted that UK businesses collectively waste a huge amount of energy. So much so, in fact, that this energy could power London for seven years, equating to nearly £33.9 billion annually.
So, it seems that businesses across the country aren’t yet realising the true extent of the energy that they are wasting in their day-to-day operations, and therefore the amount of money that they could be saving. Not to mention the impact that this is having on the planet, with the food sector being responsible for high carbon emissions.
Therefore, the time to take action to reduce energy consumption is now, and one of the biggest areas in food businesses in which efforts can be made to conserve energy is in the commercial kitchens. So, how can restaurants, cafés, and eateries think about reducing energy usage to make their kitchens more efficient and reduce energy costs?
Research by e.on has shown that three-quarters of restaurant owners, managers, and chefs do not have the tools or knowledge to make changes to be more energy efficient and sustainable. This is why, in this article, we reflect on how food businesses can create an energy efficient kitchen, with actionable energy saving ideas, that will reduce your energy costs and help protect the planet.
One of the best ways to get your employees on board with your vision of becoming more energy efficient is to set realistic targets across the company. This will help show employees the progress made in the long term (if these targets are met), while also helping you measure the impact on the company's finances.
Targets can include setting percentage reductions for your energy usage each month, which you can monitor with inbuilt systems in your kitchen. This way, you can see exactly how much energy you’re expending in your food business, and monitor this on a regular basis to try and meet these targets to reduce your energy costs.
However, these targets must be realistic. Instead of setting ambitious goals that you know may be difficult to meet, set a number of achievable targets that will reassure staff that they are heading in the right direction. If these targets are quickly met by your team, you can always increase them sooner.
Encouragement and motivation go a long way with your employees, and when you’re trying to increase energy efficiency in commercial kitchens, this is no exception. Try and adopt an ‘every little helps’ attitude, and promote this with your employees so that they can understand that even the slightest energy saving actions contribute to a bigger picture.
However, in order to do this, you must engage your workforce so that they understand why it’s important to think this way. Answering the question of why energy efficiency in commercial kitchens is important, as well as offering a simple and actionable plan to reduce energy usage, will help them adopt energy-saving tactics in their day-to-day roles.
Training staff on how to save energy will also go a long way, offering them the skillset and knowledge that they require to think in a more energy efficient way. Here at Virtual College by Netex, our Carbon Literacy Course is designed to help anyone, including food business owners and staff, understand the effects of climate change and our individual roles in taking action. With this, food businesses can gain the basic knowledge needed to understand the importance of having a more energy efficient kitchen not just to save money, but to help the planet.
Finally, employers can also measure the progress of staff and reward them when they are successful, as this will provide them with an incentive to help save energy.
Cleaning plans should be implemented in your food business anyway to abide by food safety and hygiene regulations in the UK. However, many may not initially realise the importance that structured cleaning plans play in helping keep energy efficiency high in food businesses.
For example, having a dirty oven has considerable disadvantages for energy efficiency. If it is covered in grime and dirt, this can lead to uneven heating and cooking, causing the appliance to work inefficiently and waste energy. If you clean appliances regularly, this will ensure that you are preventing anything that could hinder your commercial kitchen’s energy efficiency from occurring.
In a similar vein to the above, executing regular maintenance checks in your commercial kitchen will allow you to spot signs of damage in appliances early. This will mean that any appliances that are damaged, and may therefore be operating in a way that is wasting energy, can be fixed so that they’re not wracking up additional costs.
This will help not only lengthen the lifespan of your kitchen equipment but also help you save money.
When considering how you can be energy efficient in your commercial kitchen, it’s important to think beyond the short term and develop a long-term strategy. This will allow you to realise how you can continue to adopt energy-saving techniques and save costs on your energy bills in the long run.
With a long-term strategy, businesses will also realise what the more pressing energy-saving tactics need to be in the short term to help reduce their energy costs. Then, later down the line, they may consider building automation systems, implementing smart meters, and using more energy efficient appliances and equipment.
Tying into the above, monitoring your energy consumption is important so that you can see exactly how much energy you’re using, and therefore how much money you’re spending on energy in your food business to help you see where you can save.
It’s worth installing monitoring systems to help collect this data so you are able to review your systems and appliances, and you will then be able to see which appliances consume the most energy, and whether or not they can be justified.
You will also be able to spot patterns in the use of energy to see the times of year, month, or day, which could help you better plan your finances.
The positioning and placement of your commercial kitchen appliances can play a big role in the extent to which you save energy in your food business. Finding the best layout in which your kitchen equipment doesn’t have to work as hard means you could save a considerable amount of energy and money.
Therefore, you may want to consider placing your freezers or refrigerators away from hot appliances, such as your cookers, so that they don’t have to work quite as hard to maintain their temperature. Ventilation also plays a big role in this, so you’ll want to make sure that there’s ample ventilation around your kitchen appliances so that they use less energy.
Equally, ventilation systems play a significant role in helping maximise energy efficiency, and you can pay for assessments to see how efficient your ventilation systems are and consider whether you need an upgrade.
When it comes to being energy efficient, it pays to be sustainable and invest in new energy efficient commercial kitchen appliances and equipment. According to research, induction hobs, for example, convert 85% of their energy into heat for cooking compared a 75% conversion for gas hobs. Additionally, induction hobs typically use only 90% of the energy that is needed of them, making them a very efficient choice compared to other commercial kitchen appliances.
Alternatively, if your equipment is adequate and an upgrade isn’t necessary, you should still be considering how you can use them in a more energy efficient way to reduce energy consumption and costs. For example, with your refrigerators, avoid overloading them, and do the opposite for your freezer.
However, it may be impossible to use a commercial kitchen appliance in a more energy efficient manner and an upgrade is necessary, so weighing up to costs that this could save will help illustrate the benefits that it will have on your business financially.
One of the simplest energy saving tips is that some appliances will continue to run when they’re in stand-by mode, so ensuring that they are switched off will help you reduce your energy costs.
Similar to opting for more energy efficient kitchen appliances, you can choose to install energy-saving light bulbs. These alternatives have been known to reduce energy bills by as much as 90% compared to traditional incandescent bulbs, according to insight. This is a simple energy saving idea that can save you a lot of money long-term.
You can also take things a step further by installing sensors or timers that mean your lights won't have to be switched off manually. But this shouldn’t be used as a replacement for enforcing the importance of switching off lights when they’re not in use!
Freezers and refrigerators are the least energy efficient appliances in a commercial kitchen. However, efforts can be made to prevent them from expending quite as much energy, which will save you money in the long run. For example, not overloading a refrigerator is a simple method to bear in mind that will cut your refrigerator's energy costs considerably.
The most energy efficient appliance in kitchens is a fan-assisted or convection oven. This is due to these ovens circulating heat around the food in order to cook it, which can be done at lower temperatures compared to other appliances like electric cookers.
When it comes to a kitchen, appliances and equipment that can consume electricity overnight include coffee makers, microwaves, or anything else that has LED lights that stay on permanently.
If you’re looking to reduce energy costs on these appliances, make sure they aren’t left on stand-by and that you turn them off when not in use.
When it comes to energy saving in commercial kitchens, you want to ensure that you’re implementing the necessary strategies and procedures to help reduce your business’s energy consumption and, therefore, bills.
Whether you’re a food business owner or an employee, being clued up on the ways that you can be more energy efficient in your workplace will allow you to take strides towards a better financial and environmentally-friendly future for yourself and the food industry.
We hope that this article has shed some light on a selection of ways that you can begin to be more energy efficient in your commercial kitchen, and will inspire you to strive to find more ways to save energy in your workplace.
Whilst the proper storage and handling of products in a food business are important for energy efficiency, this also plays a crucial role in abiding by food safety and hygiene regulations in the UK. At Virtual College, we offer a selection of HACCP training courses to help professionals develop an understanding of EU law requirements for food safety standards.
Our Level 2 and 3 HACCP Training Package, for example, is designed to help develop a more in-depth understanding of Hazard Analysis and critical control points to maintain the highest standard of food safety in your business.