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Cost-Saving Tips: Small tweaks, big gains

29th Feb 2024 - 04:00
Paul Tunnicliffe, food development chef at Bidfood, offers up some ideas to help public sector caterers cope with rising costs.

With the cold weather now fully upon us and here to stay for the next few months, it’s going to become increasingly difficult for operators to manage their energy bills, especially if we have a big cold snap.

Couple this with food inflation continuing to be high, and the purse strings tighten even more. But by making a few small tweaks, operators can adapt their kitchen practices to run more efficiently to reduce costs and increase margins.

Energy saving

Remember to turn off the lights! It might seem like common sense, but a big user of your energy will be from needlessly used lighting. Installing more efficient LED lightbulbs could reduce the electricity you use for lighting by up to 80%.

And putting up signage where repeat light waste happens, such as any office areas or staff rooms, can also go a long way. Kitchen equipment can consume masses amounts of energy, but there are plenty of ways to stop or reduce this:

  • When buying new refrigerators, consider A++ rated units as they have the lowest running costs
  • Position equipment like fridges and freezers in as much space as possible to maximise air flow around the fans
  • Inadequate airflow can overwork heating, ventilation, air conditioning equipment and vent hoods
  • Create a schedule for regular equipment maintenance to make sure it is all running effectively
  • Try not to use a solid top stove if possible – this takes more time to heat up
  • Consider hob choice – gas vs induction is a tricky question to consider – gas hobs are cheaper to run but it typically takes longer to cook
  • Grills – consider infra-red elements rather than gas
  • Ovens – combi ovens use less energy and take less time to cook your food
  • Microwaves – can save up to 80% more energy compared to conventional ovens

Empowering the team

Create a culture of energy saving in the team. Have ‘energy champions’ who are responsible for turning off lights, ovens and equipment when they’re not in use and making sure that heating and hot water are set at the right temperature.

If you can create a culture of responsibility to reduce energy use, you will feel a big impact on cost reductions too.

What can chefs do to save?

When developing menus, evaluate all the equipment and find opportunities to use alternatives that don’t use as much energy.

Look at avoiding recipes in early service times that use a fryer to ensure that it isn’t on all day, or perhaps condense your menu with fewer cooked items or recipes that take less time to cook.

Chefs should also look to make some smart swaps to the ingredients that they use in recipes, to reduce costs. For example, come up with solutions such as adding smaller amounts of protein to the larger quantities of cheaper carbohydrates.

Pie fillings are a classic example of a dish that is often not done in a cost-effective way. For example, if a chef is making a chicken pie, they could use frozen diced chicken instead of a prime fillet which would reduce the cost and prep time, but not the taste.

Written by
Edward Waddell