Restaurants use a lot of energy. And in this busy working environment it is all too easy for energy efficiency to slip off the agenda. An increasing number of restaurants are discovering that reducing the amount of electricity, gas or oil they use isn't just an environmentally positive action, it can also save them considerable amounts of money.
Some restaurants are making wholesale changes. These can involve a fairly substantial initial outlay, but for many that investment is being paid off quickly with annual savings of up to 40% on utility bills. A little known but illuminating fact is that a 20% cut in energy costs can represent the same bottom line benefit as a 5% increase in sales.
With refrigeration and cooling accounting for about 15% of a restaurant's total energy use, simple, regular maintenance can make a real difference. Similarly lighting, which accounts for about 10% of a restaurant's energy use, can be cut back by just changing the light bulbs - fluorescent lamps last up to 10 times longer and use 75% less energy than standard bulbs.
A great first step for restaurants interested in reducing their energy consumption is to carry out an audit. Once average use is established, operators can then identify those areas where savings can be made.
One restaurateur who is reaping the rewards of substantial energy efficiency measures is Clifford Freeman. When taking over St Mary's Hall hotel on the Isles of Scilly, Freeman was acutely aware of its environmental impact as well as the potential savings he could make.
Lighting costs have been reduced by 90% by installing energy efficient light bulbs. Energy efficient equipment in the kitchen has reduced bills by 40%. Energy management systems fitted to fridges and freezers continually monitor and manage the temperate to ensure efficient use of energy and kitchen fans are on a electronic timer to ensure they cannot be left on overnight, wasting electricity.
Freeman says: "We have significantly reduced our electricity and water usage, are operating more efficiently as a business and have reduced our carbon footprint dramatically - something we will look to do further as our other monitoring programmes continue to develop. This year, our electricity bill, for example, will be 40% less than last year."
In July he'll begin using a year-long electricity, water and oil monitoring system linked to the internet which will constantly monitor all usage, raise alarms if normal usage levels are exceeded and highlight savings opportunities.
"This approach is continually progressing and evolving so that we can evaluate this and implement ways to reduce usage further in the future," he adds.
five ways to reduce energy use and cut your bills
1 Ensure regular cleaning and maintenance of refrigerator coils and exhaust systems - energy and money is wasted when these systems have to work harder from dust and grease build-up.
2 Encourage staff to report when something needs cleaning or repair. Energy and water - and therefore money - can be wasted by staff not notifying anyone when appliances and equipment aren't working properly.
3 Consider whether the extractor fan needs to be on the entire day - most commercial kitchen hoods operate at 100% capacity all day long, even during idle, non-cooking periods. This costs the UK food service industry millions of pounds in wasted energy every year.
4 Make all kitchen staff aware of simple efficiency measures, such as only turning on equipment when required, turning down ovens, using the right sized pan and putting lids on. Energy management training can reduce catering energy use by up to 25%.
5 Apply for an Enhanced Capital Allowances (ECAs) loan from the Carbon Trust, which enables business to buy energy efficient equipment using a 100% rate of tax allowance in the year of purchase.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit organisation helping restaurants become more sustainable