A new survey reveals that whilst sustainability is a concern, few are acting to reduce their costs and outputs.
Britain’s restaurants consumes more than £1.3 billion in energy each year – and are responsible for higher carbon emissions than Costa Rica – but new research has shown that three quarters of restaurateurs admit they don’t know how to implement energy saving measures.
The survey by energy company E.ON of 150 restaurant owners, managers and chefs shows that energy worries come second only to staff issues. Yet despite more than 80% of restaurateurs saying they consider sustainability when making business decisions, 75% say they do not have the tools and knowledge to make changes.
Energy costs make up almost a quarter (22.5%) of overheads for the restaurant and catering industry, with an estimated 10% of overheads lost on wastage.
In hotels, working kitchens frequently leave gas hobs burning all day even when not being used to cook, while grills, deep fryers, heat lamps and ovens remain on throughout service so high quality food can be turned out quickly. These practices make restaurants one of the most energy intensive consumer industries in the UK, and the Carbon Trust estimates that the hospitality sector in the UK spends more than £1.3 billion on energy each year, generating the equivalent of around 8 million tonnes of carbon.
Saving money is a driving force for nearly 80% of restaurateurs when it comes to cutting energy bills, but 40% are motivated by ethical reasons too. Reducing energy consumption by an average of 25% across the sector could save up to £325m for the restaurant and catering industry.
Hoping to tackle the issue – particularly for small independent hotels and restaurants - Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell and E.ON have launched a campaign to help businesses save energy and money by highlighting E.ON’s Energy Toolkit  which can help small business customers manage their energy use and plan greater efficiencies.
With the survey showing the average restaurant generates a profit margin of 8% and estimated energy savings of nearly 25% achievable in most restaurants, the business case for hoteliers is clear: energy savings could improve restaurant profit margins by approximately 4.6%, giving the average restaurant a margin of around 12.6%.
The research also reveals that hoteliers, restaurant managers and chefs massively underestimated how much their customers care about choosing hotels and restaurants with sustainable practices like energy efficiency – estimating that only 25% of customers care when in fact four out of ten diners consider sustainability when choosing a restaurant.
Chef Glynn Purnell, who recently reduced his energy use by nearly a quarter at his Michelin-starred restaurant, Purnell’s , in Birmingham said, “You wouldn’t throw food or money away so why would you throw away energy? Yet that’s exactly what you’re doing if you leave things on.
“Running a restaurant is quite tight when it comes to making a profit so energy efficiency is obviously really important. We changed all of our lights to LED which made a massive difference. When I had gas stoves, they were on all day and the fans too. We scrapped gas and went all electric so we’ve got induction hobs and the thermo range which contains the heat within it. The kitchen is much cooler as a result so we don’t need as much cooling, increasing our energy savings even further and making it a better environment to work in.
“All of this was achieved without compromising the cooking techniques and quality of the food. I would never compromise the quality of food for the cost of energy or any other ingredients but everyone wins when you can find a way to let them work together.”
Iain Walker, Head of SME at E.ON, added: “The restaurant and hotels business is incredibly energy intensive and the desire to cut energy use is clear. The industry understands the impact of energy efficiency on the bottom line, but our survey suggests there is a real need for greater awareness and help when it comes to how to tackle that.
“That‘s why we’ve created our Energy Toolkit for small business customers, which provides analysis of energy use based on real consumption data to help firms manage their energy use more effectively. Glynn is a beacon of good practice when it comes to the energy efficiency of his kitchen as well as the quality of the food he serves to diners. His business has already realised the benefit of energy savings so he makes a very good case for what is possible.”
While many of the chefs and restaurants polled took simple steps such as turning off lights and encouraging staff to take part in energy efficient behaviour, only around a third have installed energy efficient light bulbs, and just a quarter had insulated dining areas, managed their air conditioning better or regularly maintained refrigerators.
Refrigeration alone accounts for an estimated 20% of energy costs and regular maintenance or switching to newer fridges could save 20% on that energy consumption. Lighting can account for up to 25% of restaurant energy costs, making it an obvious place to look for efficiencies.
The top tips for reducing energy and carbon emissions in the kitchen include:
- When investing in new equipment, don’t just think of the upfront cost, think in terms of the lifespan of a use including factors such as preheat energy consumption, idle energy rate usage, production capacity, operating hours and maintenance and disposal costs.
- Retrofit old equipment with high efficiency parts and accessories. Consider installing control technology, which automatically switches off or turns down unused cooking equipment. Automatic pan sensors are available for gas and electric hobs, which turn the hob off or down. Install a door closer on refrigerators, hang strip curtains on coolers to maintain moisture levels or use programmable thermostats to automatically adjust ventilation and air conditioning.
- Consult an energy consultant or a commercial kitchen designer and installation team
- Locating refrigerators and freezers away from the hot kitchen will work far more efficiently and use less energy, and it will reduce unwanted heat gain in the kitchen. Install door closers or alarms to prevent employees from accidentally leaving fridge/freezer doors open.
- Use energy efficient lightbulbs or LEDs.
- Don’t keep frozen foods at temperatures colder than needed - increase the temperature of frozen food and product stores from -25°C to -20°C and save 10% of the refrigeration energy.
- An induction hob is up to 50% more efficient than a traditional electric hob and can power up quickly, reducing the need for them to be on all the time. They generate less heat which means less cooling in the cooking areas is needed.
- A combi oven, which offers convection, steam and combination cooking, can reduce energy costs by around 50% because they offer faster cooking times.
- Pass-through dishwashers are the energy-hogging workhorses of many professional kitchens but the new generation has lots of energy-saving features. Choose a dishwasher model with a heat recovery condenser device to reuse waste hot water to heat the incoming supply of water.
- New grill designs can detect something placed underneath them and heat up in seconds. Good designs will respond in less than ten seconds, offering energy savings of 75%.