How to minimise energy waste to maximise efficiency in the commercial kitchen

Those in the catering industry should take a sustainably focused view at optimising commercial kitchens in order to reduce the impact on the environment through energy efficient operations. This can be from using equipment that is energy efficient as well as implementing working practices that reduce waste and increase output.

There are two main objectives to put into practice in order to become a more sustainable business:

  1. Minimise the consumption of resources i.e. gas, electricity and water
  2. Reduce waste products from your processes i.e. food waste, by-products, chemicals and packaging

So, how can this be achieved?

Powering equipment from renewable energy sources

When planning your kitchen, you will need to choose a type of fuel that will power your equipment. Typically, in the past gas has always been the preferred option in commercial kitchens as it provides heat, power and controllability. However, when implementing a sustainable kitchen, it is possibly the worst type of equipment you could choose and with new technologies now outperforming gas, there would be no reason why you would choose a gas appliance unless initial outlay cost was an issue.  

When gas is burned, it produces greenhouse gases and harmful byproducts of combustion, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, this combined with copious amounts of excess waste heat pushed into the surrounding atmosphere can create uncomfortable working environments for kitchen staff.

Hot kitchens are not only difficult for people to work in, they make equipment work harder too, consuming more energy. Many appliances that have electrical components have an optimum operating temperature, and when the working environment exceeds a certain temperature mechanical cooling of components is required in order to keep systems operating efficiently.

A prime example of this is refrigeration. The purpose of refrigeration is to keep its internal temperature at a constant low temperature. When the external atmosphere temperature rises the cooling generator has to work harder in order to maintain the internal temperature. It also has an affect with hinged door refrigeration where cool air falls out of the cabinet when a door is open and filled with hotter air. The system then must work hard to bring the internal temperature back to its set level.

The preferred choice of cooking appliance in a sustainable kitchen is induction cooking technology. Not only is induction more energy efficient than gas burners and electric radiant plate hobs, it is powerful, controllable and keeps working environments cool, so machines don’t have to use so much power to operate, which in turn reduces ongoing running and maintenance costs.   

Kitchen ventilation systems can then also be reduced in size and capacity to deal efficiently with the by-products of the cooking processes by way of odour and fume while providing the required number of air changes in the kitchen for a comfortable working environment.

Consider your needs and quantities and don’t over specify  

When specifying and purchasing equipment it is important that you consider your expected and possible future output of the kitchen. With various size appliances available you will need to do your research and speak to the manufacturers or kitchen designers to find out the best appliance for your needs.

For example, if you over specify an oven which is too large for your requirements, it will use more power compared to a smaller oven which can complete the job to the same result. It will also cost more to run and waste more energy.

When specifying appliances, you can use the ‘Energy Technology List’, a government list of energy-efficient plant and machinery which is part of the ‘Enhanced Capital Allowance’ tax scheme for businesses.  

Reduce your usage of resources whilst maintaining desired level of output

Hands-free push valve operated taps are a great solution to help reduce unnecessary water consumption. Not only are they hands-free for improved hygiene, they dramatically reduce the consumption of water up to 85%, as taps cannot be left on continuously when unattended and the push valve allows users to easily control the amount of water used.

The Mechline Basix hand wash station is ideally suited to promote efficiency and hygiene within commercial kitchens as it comes complete with a soap dispenser, hands-free push valve operated tap and waste bin attachment. Lever operated spray arms on dishwash tabling and prep sinks also reduce water consumption in kitchens, automatically shutting off the water when the trigger is released.

Another area where kitchens can become more sustainable is ware-washing. With new technologies continually being developed, machines can now offer a range of energy efficient features suitable for kitchens looking to be more sustainable.

Front loading dishwashers can offer 2-in-1 double racking, reducing the amount of water and chemicals used and the number of loads to be put on.   

Pass through dishwashers with exhaust air heat recovery systems use the energy from the hot steam to pre-heat the cold inlet water. The advantage: up to 20% of the operating costs are saved every wash cycle. When you open the machine, hardly any steam escapes.

In addition, dishwashers using ‘Power Granules’ and water to blast dirt during the washing cycle eliminate the requirement for pre-washing and chemicals.

It is also important to note that induction cooking technology can complete the same job in less than half the time of gas and electric hotplate cooking. With induction technology, 90% of the energy used goes directly into cooking the product, compared to 40% of the energy used by gas. This reduces the amount of energy you require and completes jobs much quicker.

Good lighting in kitchen and retail services and counters is key for seeing what you are doing and for keeping products looking great in display cases. LED lighting is energy efficient and great for this, and when well incorporated, can increase sales by making sure products always look their best to the discerning customer. LED lighting offers much-reduced running costs and extended service life compared to traditional lamps and tubes.

All the above reduce overhead costs and your impact on the environment.

Consider how the waste you produce is being processed in order to reduce waste

A total of 3,415,000 tonnes of waste is disposed of in the food sector every year, of which; 1,473,000 tonnes are sent for disposal. The food sector produces 0.4 million tonnes of avoidable food waste per annum.

According to WRAP’s research and estimates, compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), approximately one-third of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted. This equates to £20bn worth of food waste in the UK annually.

Consider reducing your waste by getting daily deliveries from local suppliers, which in turn reduces refrigeration requirements and transport impacts on the environment.  

Look at how waste is processed to avoid it going to landfill. Waste disposal systems are now being developed to process waste more efficiently. Fats, oils and grease disposed of irresponsibly down the drain can also have massive cost implications, so great emphasis should be put on correctly recycling and reprocessing them with specialist grease removal accessories fitted in combination ovens.

The specification of deep fat fryer pumped filtration systems to extend oil service life improves the quality of the oil and makes handling and decanting easier, so all spent and waste oil can be easily recycled in appropriate containers. This saves on costs and keeps deep fried products top notch.

All these measures are vitally important; however, the most important aspect is attitude and training to help produce the desire to want to minimise waste in whatever shape, ensuring a sustainable future the responsible way. The greatest challenge is the human one, to change the mindset to act responsibly and with care for our environment and our future.

We must look to the future and make the right decisions now.

By David Pedrette, managing director of Target Catering Equipment, a family-run business that has been providing quality, bespoke catering equipment to the foodservice industry for over 30 years

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