The Carbon Trust has warned the catering industry that it could be missing out on a staggering quarter of a billion pounds in energy savings every year.

According to recent reports, just using kitchen equipment inefficiently is costing the industry over £250 million every year; and there are further savings to be made from optimising menu options and using a short term approach to catering equipment.

The Carbon Trust has been working with the catering industry trade associations to come up with a useful calculator designed to help businesses save money and cut their carbon emissions down at the same time. Here are a few top tips for cutting down your energy use.

Don’t waste your energy

It’s easy to leave equipment switched on all day long, and it’s a fairly common practice too, but it’s a wasteful way to run your catering business. Not just that, keeping everything running all day generates excess heat, making everyone uncomfortable. Implement a policy of switching things off when you’re not using them and make sure that you and your staff are aware of preheat times, control settings and good practice.

Control equipment automatically

If possible, try to implement ways to control your kitchen equipment that enable you to automatically switch off or turn down cooking equipment when you’re not using it. You can get hold of automatic pan sensors for gas hobs, and electric hobs that will turn the hob down or even off completely when a pan is removed, and these can save quite a bit of energy.

Ranges and hobs

These are usually your most important pieces of kitchen equipment and so they are a great place to make energy savings. When you’re setting up a kitchen or replacing equipment, look for open top ranges that have individual burners which can be controlled separately. Also, look for a model with an automatic shut off valve – this small detail can yield energy savings of up to 30%.

Use cooking equipment efficiently

It’s been estimated that around 25% of all the energy used in a catering business is used in the preparing, cooking and serving of the food. Most of this energy is used up by cooking equipment and there is potential for a lot of energy to go to waste if it isn’t used efficiently. Fryers that reach the right temperature quickly, using microwaves and induction hobs where possible, and not leaving gas burners alight when they are not needed are all ways to make your equipment work better for you and save energy.

Keep everything in order

Making sure that all of your important equipment is working properly and keeping it well-maintained are ways to significantly reduce your energy use. Keeping equipment in good working order also makes it last longer, and is good for maintaining food quality as well as energy usage.

Keep your kitchen equipment regularly serviced to make sure that vital components such as heating elements, burner jets, thermostats, seals, valves and switches are working as they should be. Keep everything clean too; get rid of any scale, dirt, deposits or corrosion which might affect heat transfer. Additionally, catering equipment repairs can be costly especially for an emergency breakdown, but regular services can help to avoid these issues.

Replace old with new

If you have any equipment that’s over 15 years old, it’s probably time to think about replacing it. There will be newer and much more efficient models on the market now and you could save money by replacing the out of date models. When you’re replacing your catering equipment, think about the costs of the energy you’ll use over its lifetime and not just the capital cost, and keep an eye out for energy efficient features.

For more advice on energy saving, download the Carbon Trust guide to Food Preparation and Catering.

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Written by James Sheehan, a technology enthusiast.

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