EXCLUSIVE: Nando’s trials new heat recovery method in pursuit of green agenda

Nando’s is examining how heat recovery systems linked to its extract ducts might be able to drive energy savings and make its operations greener, FEJ can reveal.

The casual dining chain is driving hard to be one of the most environmentally-friendly restaurant operators in the industry, with its purpose-built restaurant in Cambridge acting as a test bed for new initiatives and techniques.

The Cambridge site has the kudos of achieving RICS SKA Gold, which is the highest possible sustainable fit-out ratin.

Nando’s has used heat recovery behind its grills to heat the water used in its restaurants for some time, but at Cambridge it is now taking the concept one step further by working with Dext Heat Recovery to introduce heat recovery to its extract ducts.

“It is a slightly newer technology and one that we are very interested in,” explained Henry Unwin, who heads up the chain’s sustainability efforts.

Nando’s plans to measure the impact of the set-up and, if successful, will potentially implement it in other restaurants that belong to its 400-strong UK estate.

The chain is open to new techniques for making its kitchen operations as green as possible, including installing low-level extract canopies above its grill.

By positioning them closer to the cooking appliance, the temperature of the air they are sucking in is hotter because less air is being brought in from the restaurant, explained Mr Unwin.

“That means we have got hotter air going out through the extract, which means it is better for heating — we basically have a heat exchange in the extract duct that heats incoming air so we can temper air up to 18°C using little to no energy at all, so if it is -5°C outside we can heat that air up and then give it another boost up to whatever we want it to. But we are not having to start from scratch with cold air.”

The other benefit of low level canopies is not as much of the air that the company has spent time heating up or cooling in the restaurant escapes through the kitchen.

“You are just taking air from above the grill, which uses less energy to suck it out and less energy to heat, which is wonderful,” he added.

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