Commercial Catering – Getting to Grips with Energy Efficiency

The financial landscape has never been more volatile. With this come challenges for both businesses and individuals to reduce costs, especially when it comes to energy consumption. In the commercial catering environment, this is a particularly important issue, given that energy often represents one of the biggest costs associated with a given menu. The choice of fuel – electric or gas – choice of equipment and of course quality of maintenance all play a part in energy consumption.

As well as the financial implications, the environmental factor is also becoming ever more important – and if current trends continue, could ultimately become the most important deciding factor for both customers and stakeholders.

In this article, we present a brief overview of energy consumption in the commercial catering environment and offer some tips to help you improve efficiency.


Energy Wastage

Estimates suggest that a significant proportion of the energy consumed by commercial kitchens is not actually used in the preparation of dishes but is wasted as dispersed heat in the kitchen. Not only does this have huge environmental and cost implications, it is also an important contributor to negative working conditions. Findings have estimated energy wastage to be as high as 60% of total consumption.*

 Commercial Catering Energy Efficient


An Overview of Consumption

In 2008, the total energy consumption of Britain’s catering industry was estimated by the Carbon Trust to be in excess of 21,600 million kWh per year*. Over 30% of the energy was used in purely commercial catering establishments, with another 17% in hotel restaurants and guest houses and more than 50% in non-commercial catering such as schools, hospitals and Ministry of Defence organisations. This figure remains the most widely accepted estimation with relatively little fluctuation in subsequent years+. What has changed, however, is the cost of energy which has seen progressive increases.


Average Costs

Research by the Carbon Trust put energy costs for selected cooked meals as follows:


Coffee shops  – over 7 pence

Steak houses  – 18 pence

Traditional English restaurants  – 19 pence

High class restaurants  – 27 pence

Hotel restaurants – almost 36 pence


The report goes on to state that with moderate improvements in efficiency and effective use of equipment, savings of up to 20% are achievable, leading to an overall saving of over £80 million per year (reducing national energy consumption by over 4000 million kWh per year) – food for thought!


Indirect Consumption

The energy that goes directly into the preparation of food is generally obvious and therefore consumption is easy for people at all levels of the establishment to visualise and quantify. However, the 60% of energy that does not go directly into production is much easier to overlook. Heating and cooling, lighting, ventilation, and hot water for cleaning are all essentials but can quickly eat into budgets if not monitored and controlled.

 Energy Efficient Commercial Catering


Staying Efficient 

Refrigeration Equipment

Ensure that your fridges and freezers are regularly serviced by a professional engineer. As well as ensuring that equipment is running to its optimum efficiency, a good engineer will also be able to advise you on how to get the most out of it. You should also ensure that the all important elements such as vents and fans are kept clean to maximise performance. Location can also play a role in energy efficiency – it can pay to seek expert advice when planning your layout. Situating cooling equipment away from obvious heat sources is one such consideration.



Ventilation is an important element of a safe and comfortable working environment in the catering industry, and as such is subject to strict legislation.Ventilation is of particular importance where gas-fired appliances are used, as it helps to ensure complete combustion. An inadequate air supply can quickly lead to a build-up of dangerous Carbon Monoxide.

Given its importance, it is hardly a surprise that the kitchen ventilation system is one of the largest single energy users in catering operations, amounting to a significant 15% of overall electricity use.

Regular professional cleaning by a certified engineer will not only ensure that you are legally compliant, it can also increase the efficiency of ventilation units and extractor hoods by up to 50%. As well as increasing the risk of fire, dirty or faulty fans, air ducts and components directly affect hygiene, system efficiency and will increase running costs and risk of breakdown.


Cookers & Ovens

Just like any other equipment, cooking apparatus such as hobs and ovens should be maintained in line with the manufacturer’s guidance by a gas-certified professional in most cases. It is also important to ensure that such equipment is not used to heat the premises – a practice that is still common despite being hugely inefficient compared to systems that are designed specifically for this purpose.

At Carlton, we take pride in offering a comprehensive service solution covering Swindon and the South West. We invest in our team of experts to ensure that your engineers are not only compliant with all the latest legislation, but are qualified over and above the minimum requirements. Our aim is simple – to get things fixed right, first time.

To talk to an expert now contact us or give us a call on 01793 512 550.






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