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Four ideas for a more energy-efficient, sustainable commercial kitchen

September 16th , 2022 by

Running an environmentally responsible commercial kitchen isn’t just an act of conscience – it can also mean significant operational cost savings for your business. With food and energy costs increasing every year, sustainability is no longer just a ‘buzz’ word – it’s now a business necessity.

In this blog, we explore four ways you can reduce your carbon footprint and environmental impact, while also saving on operational running costs. Not all of these ideas will be financially achievable in the short-term, but they do provide food for thought, and something for you to work towards as your business evolves.

1. Reduce and manage food waste

Not only is food waste a huge environmental problem worldwide, it’s a significant – and often unrecognised – financial cost to food businesses. In Australia, food waste leaves a $36.6 billion hole in the economy each year, with around 7.6 million tonnes of food wasted across the supply and consumption chain.

So how much food does your business throw out each day? Most businesses have no way of answering this question. But new technologies can help you identify and quantify the food items you throw out, giving you the data you need to minimise the associated financial and environmental cost. See Winnow Solutions as an example of innovative food waste management technology.

You can also turn your food waste into a renewable resource, with on or off site composting, or even by converting your kitchen scraps and leftovers into an energy source! For example, Meiko Green’s on-site tanks convert scraps into a liquid biomass which is then transported to a biogas plant.

Sometimes, food waste can be the result of an equipment malfunction – where an entire cool room of food is consigned to landfill overnight. Your best defence against such catastrophic loss is to install remote, live monitoring of your refrigeration equipment, so that stock can be saved before it spoils. For a typical food operation, this can equate to $12,000 a year in savings.

2. Invest in energy-efficient equipment

Typically, 20% of a business’ annual energy costs are wasted through the use of energy inefficient equipment (source: The Carbon Trust). Check your utility bills now and see what 20% could mean to you!

Equipment such as dishwashers, ice machines, holding cabinets and refrigeration units are notoriously energy-hungry. But new generations of equipment are emerging all the time, with increasingly impressive energy credentials. If you don’t currently have the budget for replacing any units, it’s a good idea to have a replacement plan in place. That way you’ll have a ready-reference when something fails at the eleventh hour – rather than simply grabbing the first unit available. Make sure you research any government incentives too, as you may be able to get a rebate.

Warewashing is both water and energy-intensive for any commercial kitchen, so it makes sense to invest in quality equipment. Consider low-flow pre-rinse sprays to reduce the volume of water used, and the energy required to heat it. Look for models with heat recovery condenser hoods, improved insulation, reduced rinse volumes and smaller wash tanks. A cheaper machine may cost a fortune over its whole life in wasted power.

Ventilation is another big consumer of electricity in commercial kitchens, so low energy consumption exhaust hoods can be a great asset. Switching from gas to induction can also reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions – the food service industry’s gas cooking equipment is a huge emitter of carbon dioxide.

3. Turn idle appliances off

Typically, a commercial kitchen will leave all its appliances running 24/7. But some of these will spend a large portion of that time idling, resulting in added maintenance costs and wasted energy. Consider putting some simple procedures in place to shut down idle equipment, such as creating a startup/shutdown schedule according to when appliances are most used.

This can either be done manually, or with the use of smart technology that starts them up and shuts them down automatically. For example, a product like ecosense has automatic on/off capabilities for exhaust fans, shutting them down when idle and can be set to come on based on temperature and smoke. It even instructs your exhaust fans to work only as hard as necessary to match the cooking activity!

4. Proactively monitor and maintain your equipment

Next to picking the right equipment, maintenance is perhaps the most important aspect of keeping your kitchen equipment running efficiently. Make sure you have a comprehensive equipment maintenance schedule in place that covers regular cleaning and replacement of parts.

Refrigeration costs represent around 13-18% of a typical restaurant’s total energy bill. Regular maintenance of refrigeration units will keep your energy costs down and your equipment running correctly for a long time. Dirty coils on refrigeration compressors make the cooling units work harder and longer to keep the box cool. This consumes a lot more energy and can lead to compressor failure. It’s also important to replace leaking door seals on all refrigeration equipment.

Monitoring technology for your refrigeration and dishwashing equipment can save you thousands in annual maintenance costs. MonikaPrime’s Equipment Management technology can provide detailed, real-time diagnostics on your equipment performance such as duty cycles, heating and cooling curves, and usage cycles. This helps you identify equipment that is failing or operating inefficiently. You can quickly prioritise maintenance or identify equipment that needs replacing – resulting in improved energy efficiency and equipment longevity.

To find out more about how MonikaPrime can improve energy efficiency and reduce operating costs in your business, give us a call on 1300 857 025 or email info@monika.com.au

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