Research by Dr Samantha Mudie, whilst undertaking her doctorate in energy reduction in commercial kitchens, has proven that energy reductions of over 70% can be made in school kitchens by turning appliances off when not in use and being mindful of how equipment is used.

Dr Mudie is not only an energy reduction specialist, she is also the Energy Manager at the University of Reading.

In her webinar for TUCO, she highlighted that energy consumption in commercial catering is more than double that of agriculture and food retail combined. “One of the issues is that staff arrive in the kitchen, turn on the equipment immediately to warm up and then it isn’t switched off until 10pm, irrespective of whether it’s used or not,” she says.

It is clear that the impact of a good behaviour change programme cannot be under-estimated and can be low cost to implement. Dr Mudie says “Some operators are unwilling to invest in staff training because of high staff turnover, but training in energy reduction is a worthwhile investment. Even if you think it’s not going to be long term, wouldn’t you rather save money over a couple of months by engaging staff rather than save nothing at all? It gives staff something they can put on their CV and when they realise you’re investing in them, it encourages them to stay.”

Dr Mudie recommends telling staff how the initiative will be measured as this will encourage support. “People won’t buy into it unless they see the results. Give staff data on a weekly and monthly basis in a way that means something to them. For example, leaving the coffee machine on overnight is costing £1,000 a year, the same profit as serving 1,800 coffees. Staff can relate to that.” Training via online webinars and in-person workshops should be held for teams including cleaners, security, procurement and head office. “The bulk of the training I conduct is for kitchen and front of house staff,” she adds. Dr Mudie is currently working with TUCO to develop a qualification for trainee chefs in energy reduction. “I’m keen to do more with chefs being trained, rather than those already in the job,” she says.

Examples of how to engage staff in energy saving activities include introducing a theme every two weeks to see how much energy consumption can be reduced by making small changes. Teams can also hold “It’s A Knock Out” style
competitions with league tables to show staff how their outlet is faring in reducing energy. “It encourages competition and can also highlight problems. If a kitchen drops 30 places in the league table in a week, this might be as a result of a piece of equipment failing or someone coming in to carry out maintenance and leaving the equipment on,” she says.

Menu modelling is also vitally important for cutting down energy and bills.

“The idea is that the kitchen has flexibility for seasonal menu changes using the kit you have, without the need to purchase new equipment for a specific use,” says Dr. Mudie. Depending on the number of meals required, a basic kit would comprise an induction hob, combi oven, table-top Merrychef-type appliance and induction griddle. “For a small operator, you can prepare almost anything with that. Purchase the lowest energy equipment with the most flexibility. If
you spend an additional £500 for the more energy efficient one, this can be made back in a couple of months.” Smart plug sockets by Measurable Energy, which cost around £15 each, can help to not only monitor energy, but save money. Dr Mudie says, “Remove the 13amp three pin plugs and replace them with these. You can then start turning off appliances you won’t need to have working overnight via your mobile phone.”