By Mike Nixon, Sales Director at Abraxas Catering Equipment Ltd. (www.abraxascatering.co.uk)
The last three years have been difficult for the catering sector. The Covid-19 pandemic, combined with unprecedented staff shortages and rapidly rising energy costs, have had a huge impact on businesses across the UK, leading to a drop of almost 5,000 venues in 2022 – with more than three quarters of closures occurring in the second half of the year1.
Sadly, the start of a new year has offered little in way of relief to businesses struggling to stay afloat. Data from the joint Q1 Hospitality Members Survey2 revealed that surviving businesses are expecting their energy bills to be 101% higher during the first three months of 2023, compared to the same period last year. The survey, which has highlighted concerns about the behaviour of energy suppliers, also found that 56% of hospitality businesses have experienced increased standing charges, with 42% reducing opening hours and 34% reducing the number of days they open per week as a result.
This survey data comes as little surprise following the Government’s announcement that the rate of support offered to subsidise businesses’ energy costs will be significantly reduced in the coming months. From 1st April 2023, venues will have access to a new Energy Bills Discount Scheme, replacing the current Energy Bill Relief Scheme3. The Government is offering up to £5.5 billion in support as part of the new plans, but in reality, this equals a discount of just £2,300 over 12 months for a typical pub.
James Cartlidge, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, said that “firms need to adapt and invest in energy efficiency to remain viable.” And as difficult as this may be to hear in the face of such a challenging situation, it is true that venues must do all they can to save energy and reduce their operating costs.
In the current economic climate, not all businesses will be looking to spend money, be it on replacement or additional appliances, which is why extending the lifespan of current equipment should be a top priority.
There a number of ways in which businesses can do this:
Regular and thorough cleaning not only improves hygiene standards, but also reduces the energy usage of equipment. Grease and debris builds up quickly in commercial kitchen environments, which is why cleaning should be undertaken on a regular basis, especially on parts such as filters, vents and drains.
Servicing and maintenance
Ensuring that appliances are well-maintained and regularly serviced by qualified engineers is vital for optimum energy efficiency. While regular cleaning and minor repairs can be carried out in-house, a preventative maintenance plan will keep equipment in the best possible shape, reducing the risk of breakdowns, unexpected repair bills, and a loss of earnings due to business downtime.
Correct usage of equipment
Commercial kitchen equipment works much harder than its domestic counterparts, but venues can make similar adjustments to those at home in order to reduce wasted energy. For example, loading a dishwasher correctly to maximise capacity can reduce energy consumption, as can avoiding over or under-filling refrigeration units. If unsure, kitchen managers should contact equipment suppliers or manufacturers for guidance.
Thorough staff training
One of the key factors in reducing energy bills is to establish best practices among kitchen staff. Venues should be putting energy-saving processes in place and ensuring that all staff are trained to follow them. From performing visual inspections of equipment to turning equipment off when it’s not in use, employees should know what’s expected of them and how they can individually contribute to the energy efficiency of the business.
For those who are currently looking to invest in new commercial kitchen equipment, energy efficiency should also be front of mind:
Gone are the days of buying something based on the price alone. Hospitality has entered a new era, where business owners must be more focused on the cost of appliances in use and pay back. Simple calculations can very quickly demonstrate how even paying a little more in capital outlay can return far more in savings – and venues should be looking to purchase appliances with high energy-efficiency ratings from reliable brands.
Many organisations still need to procure equipment, typically to replace failed appliances, help roll out a new concept, expand their offering or cope with increased numbers. In this case, it’s essential to speak to an independent equipment supplier with a wealth of knowledge on the latest energy saving features, who can offer new ideas to venues based on their experience of other projects. Utilising the expertise of specialist suppliers, rather than jumping on the internet to purchase the cheapest appliance, will pay dividends in the long run, saving money through equipment longevity and reducing running costs.
With many businesses raising concerns over the ‘profiteering’ of energy companies, the simple fact is that this lower level of support is likely to result in further closures – and the loss of thousands of jobs nationwide. However, venues cannot simply sit back and do nothing. The importance of energy savings to business operations cannot be overstated.