The hospitality sector is the most energy-intensive of all commercial property types thanks to the equipment that’s installed back of house. According to the Carbon Trust, energy used in catering accounts for 4% to 6% of operating costs and the sector in the UK spends more than £1.3 billion a year on power.
It will come as no surprise to operators that investing in efficient equipment can make for long term savings. But by looking in detail at the energy consumption of a kitchen on a kit-by-kit basis and making small changes to factors that are often overlooked, operators can realise the sort of marginal gains that make a collective difference.
Sustainability and resource efficiency specialist, Clephane Compton, is better placed than most to know that providing a detailed breakdown of energy bills rather than seeing them as a set cost can create considerable savings. The consultant is of the opinion that if a foodservice operator wants to see the savings that efficient equipment can bring, it’s better to monitor energy usage on an individual kit level rather than square footage.
Speaking at Gram’s Go Green Summit, Compton, who works mostly with casual dining groups, drew on the example of one operator’s HVAC system. “It realised its electricity consumption was twice that of a normal site. We did a thorough audit of their HVAC kit and it was blowing air from the restaurant at a powerful rate. They had spent a lot of money on the HVAC install, it was just the commissioning of it — the run hours were way out for what it was needed for. After we identified that, the reduction in energy usage was more than half,” Compton explains.
Wahaca is championed by the consultant as one operator which pushes for efficiency by embracing energy usage monitoring. The Mexican-themed chain is using 90% LED lighting, including in all back-of-house areas, and it has installed presence sensors in its premises to reduce the amount of time that lights are on.
Compton comments: “Variable air volume technology has been installed on all their extracts, which ramps the fan speed on the kitchen extract up or down according to when it’s used — there are temperature and grease sensors that detect when the cooking is taking place and reduce the fan speed accordingly.”
Further to this, he explains that Wahaca uses heat recovery from its walk-in freezers and fridges, which takes the wasted heat and uses it to heat up hot water. A number of Wahaca sites do not have gas-fired traditional water boilers. Similarly, coffee retailer Caravan Coffee Roasters makes use of heat recovery from its roasters.
Coffee roasters in particular emit a lot of heat due to their afterburn feature which is required because of the volatile organic compounds they emit. Air is heated to about 400°C and would usually go straight into the atmosphere, but this can be used to fuel hot water and much more, according to Compton.
“Monitoring can be installed from fit-out and it can be monitored on your phone; everything is going to be digitised”
Another monitoring survey involving a restaurant group that used sub-meters on its lighting found that it could save more than 50% by switching to LED, with a payback of less than one year, including install costs. Monitoring an individual site’s lighting and equipment, for example, and measuring the savings can be an indicator as to whether it is a feasible investment to roll out across multiple sites.
Compton is keen to note that energy monitoring does not have to be expensive or complicated: “It can be installed from fit-out and it can be monitored on your phone, so you can go onto your phone and see that your over door heater is working and it’s 1 o’clock in the morning. Everything is going to be digitised. The EU is pushing it in order to meet carbon targets and that is part of the way it’ll be met.”
Speaking in regards to SKA retail — an environmental assessment process whereby certain criteria must be met by operators to gain certification — Compton notes how there is a potential for sites to save about £17,000 a year, depending on the location and opening hours.
He says: “Wahaca does this for instance. Using 100% FSE sustainable timber, low flow taps and energy efficient lighting. There are 109 of these different measures split between each member of the design team and, depending on how many measures are achieved, each project is certified by SKA from bronze to gold.”
There is clearly an abundance of long term savings that operators can make by investing in energy efficient kitchen equipment.
But as specialists like Compton point out, it is the simple techniques, such as identifying which equipment is using the most energy and when, coupled with marginal gains in areas such as lighting, that can help deliver the greatest rewards.