How to cut electricity & gas costs in your cafe, restaurant or foodservice business


Need to reduce your gas or electricity bills? Every month, it can be an enormous cost, and many operators feel that it's out of their control.

Government grants are occasionally available to cover the cost of installing energy-saving equipment or efficiency audits. If you see one, use our Guide on How to apply for (and win) a government grant.

Action to reduce consumption and billing costs comes under four headings:

1. Monitor consumption patterns
2. Negotiate better gas and electricity prices
3. Install power-saving equipment
4. Introduce more economical ways of working

1. Monitor consumption patterns

There are now a wide variety of metering systems that can give you hourly, daily and weekly figures, for the whole premises and for individual items. The cost of monitoring equipment will usually have a rapid pay-back time, and can often report to a phone app or web service. Think of it like temperature monitoring for food-safety systems.

Useful Resources: How To Check, Track & Meter Electricity Usage plus Powerpal Energy Monitor and the Energy Cut Guide

2. Negotiate better gas and electricity prices

First you need to understand how your bill is structured (standing charges, consumption charges for different times and volume etc), then you need to start negotiating. You already do this with insurance, phone, internet and other suppliers - there are hundreds of dollars to save.

Business electricity accounts are usually divided between a fixed daily 'supply' charge and a variable usage charge. Variable usage charges can be structured in several different ways depending on your business energy plan: single rate business electricity tariffs - one standard kW/h rate that is the same at all times of the day and and all days of the year. Time of use business electricity tariffs - different kW/h rates apply based on the time of day the energy is consumed. Controlled load tariffs - applies to separately metered appliances.

Useful Resources: Find out the gas and electricity suppliers in your State or region through the government's Energy website and prepare to negotiate. It's also useful to understand how power consumption is measured - kWh and Mj etc

3. Install power-saving equipment

There's no shortage of excellent modern equipment that can help you reduce your power bills - the challenge is to work out how much it will save and how quickly there will be a return on the investment in new or Certified Used equipment.

In the second part of this article, we have suggestions from equipment suppliers and consultants on how better equipment can cut consumption costs.

4. Introduce more economical ways of working

Make power reduction a team project - everyone will have suggestions. Google for suggestions about 'how to cut electricity (or gas) use in a restaurant' and you'll find dozens of suggestions.

Simple improvements can be made when staff understand how equipment uses power eg the on-off cycle of a refrigerator as it chills and defrosts during the day, and the way product is stored in a fridge, to allow maximum circulation of chilled air. Useful Resources:

* Energy Cut Guide

* 5 Ways to Reduce a Restaurant's Energy Bill

* Top 10 Energy Conservation Tips for Restaurants

* 10 Ways Food Service Businesses Can Become More Energy Efficient

* Preparing your refrigeration for a trouble-free summer.

* Quick Tips for Lowering Gas Use in Foodservice

We asked some leading equipment suppliers for suggestions...

# Neil Willis from Sydney Commercial Kitchens recommended:

Buy an energy efficient fridge, they literally pay for themselves. The best commercial fridges these days use a R290 refrigerant which is a natural grade propane product, unlike other refrigerants, which are manufactured. When you buy one of these new energy efficient fridges you will save significantly on your electricity bill, compared to the cost of running that old fridge that keeps breaking down. It has been proven that it is possible over a period of years to recoup the cost of buying the new fridge from these electricity savings alone.

As an added bonus, eligible small businesses can get a NSW government rebate for new plug-in commercial fridges and freezers. The state of Victoria is also running a similar program .

Make the switch to induction cooking. Induction is technology that offers all of the benefits of cooking with gas, but none of the drawbacks. In commercial kitchens, gas has always outperformed electric cooking surfaces and because of this has always played a huge role in the kitchen. Professional chefs would have never believed an electric induction cooktop could be superior to gas ... but now it's a fact, and seeing is believing! Induction cooking can now replace your cook tops, griddle plates and wok burners.

Replace the old polystyrene coolroom with a new modular model that is made from polyurethane. Polyurethane panels provide maximum insulation and food safety peace of mind as well as being significantly more energy efficient [up to 40%] than the polystyrene panel type coolroom. Over time, polystyrene panels can also absorb water and this causes the refrigeration system to work much harder, costing you even more money!

Add a combi oven to your cooking line. When used to the full capacity, combi ovens can replace almost every cooking process in a busy kitchen, from the charring of steaks, to overnight slow cooking processes, to the poaching of fish. As cooking in a combi oven is in a contained environment it is much more energy efficient and energy saving than most other cooking methods. They even clean themselves at the press of a button. In most situations they won’t require space under your existing exhaust canopy, provided you purchase the integrated hood with steam condenser option.

# Kayne Enston from Complete Cafe Services in Adelaide suggests:

Onyx by Expobar - it has an Insulating jacket around the boiler, plus an Eco mode. The ECO mode allows the machine to reduce its electrical demand by lowering the boiler temperatures to approximately 60ºC/140ºF during low use times. When the machine is needed again, the user simply needs to press any button to “wake up” the machine for use again. Then it will start heating up to normal operating temperature and will be ready for use within just a few minutes"

On top of this you can even turn off individual groups (coffee outlets) in slow periods.

Victoria Arduino - the new Eagle One machine has some new tech called "TERS" or "Thermal Energy Recovery System, which uses discharged water to pre-heat the incoming water through a recycling method., thus minimising wasted energy. Also a smaller "flash Boiler", that holds and has to only heat less water for the coffee. This also allows for a smaller steam and hot water boiler, which are all also insulated by an insulating jacket.

# Mark Minnis from Minnis Hospitality Suppliers has advice on refrigeration:

Lower quality equipment can use almost double (or more) the electricity used by quality refrigeration. That is 24 hours a day 365 days a year of using more electricity. There are other ways the correct use and choice of refrigeration can save money:

Displays are just that, displays. Display refrigeration is not designed for storage as it will use more electricity than dedicated storage refrigeration. Best practice is to empty displays and switch them off outside trading hours and hold the food in storage, until required. This is extremely important with ice cream and gelato displays which must be turned off as often as possible.

Ice and dust are the enemy and will dramatically increase electricity consumption, ice also impedes (sometimes blocking) air flow reducing performance. Cleaning must be regular with special attention to removing dust from fans and condensers.

When refrigeration defrosts it uses increased electricity and generates more heat and noise so the defrost cycles should be set for outside peak times. Refrigeration shouldn’t be defrosting during service times and when they a generally being loaded. Refrigeration of the same type will come set from the factory all with the same parameters so where there are multiples of the same unit, they will all be defrosting / cycling at the same time. This means a lot of noise and heat and the heat will mean that air-conditioning will have to work harder, using more electricity.

Refrigeration will also use more energy if it is overloaded and the air vents are blocked or covered.

To change the parameters and defrost times it is recommended that a technician change the settings on the controller. CIAM from Italy has introduce a new controller which can be easily managed via an App (also available for some Skope fridges). This change in controller offers a number of advantages but for the business operator it will mean an easy way to change the defrost times and have refrigeration cycle at different intervals. By setting different cycling times noise, heat and energy consumption will be spread rather peaking.

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