Inefficient kitchens creating £250m black hole

An online ‘calculator’ that tells caterers how much money they can save by using certain items of catering equipment was officially unveiled at a gathering of more than 100 industry stakeholders in London yesterday.

The ‘Cut Cost & Carbon Calculator’ — a Carbon Trust initiative backed by Defra, CESA, CEDA, FSCI and BHA — has been designed specifically for anyone involved in catering equipment manufacture and supply or the design, specification and operation of a catering site.

As revealed by Catering Insight back in March when details of the initiative first emerged, the calculator will enable users to fully understand how to enhance profitability and reduce environmental impact through a range of activities including behavioural change, kitchen design, menu complexity and equipment selection.

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The Carbon Trust insists the calculator is much needed as its research suggests that failing to improve energy efficiency in kitchens, service equipment and tailor menu options is leading the catering industry to overspend on energy by more than £250m a year.

It says the figure equates to more than a million tonnes of carbon every year or 3p for every meal served in the UK.

Dominic Burbridge, associate director for business advice at the Carbon Trust, said: “The catering industry is acutely sensitive to volatility across its entire cost base with inflation outstripping RPI over the last 10 years. A great way to tackle this is to improve energy efficiency in kitchens, an area that is not currently regulated.”

The calculator will use a caterer’s data to work out the total energy use, taking into account a range of factors including the equipment, menu and hours of operation.

The factors can be varied to see the impact on energy use from replacing gas or electric hobs with induction units, for example, or switching from electric to gas combi steamers.

Energy costs could rise by a further £154 million a year by 2020 if the current “short-term approach” to the cost of capital equipment continues, the Carbon Trust has warned.

Nick Oryino, CESA’s chairman, called the calculator a “significant development” for the industry.

“It has the potential to radically change the way in which capital and operating expenditure costs are judged and it will help ensure that more efficient equipment is manufactured, specified and installed,” he said.

The catering operations of the UK catering industry account for almost 2% of all business and public sector emissions in the UK.

Over eight billion meals are served every year across 260,000 sites, meaning kitchens are costing £770m to run in energy terms. This also results in 3.9 million tonnes of carbon, according to the Carbon Trust.

More information on the Cut Cost & Carbon Calculator can be found here.

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