How Nando’s is spicing up its on-site energy management

EXCLUSIVE: International restaurant chain Nando's is rolling out a number of on-site technology upgrades and innovative behaviour change methods, while exploring the possibility of food waste-powered restaurants, in a bid to take energy management in its UK sites "to the next level".

Speaking to edie ahead of next month’s Energy Management Conference, Nando’s UK energy, waste and water manager Julie Allen – who is speaking at the Conference – revealed that the restaurant group has attempted to “to ignite a change” in the way it manages its energy – with efficiency technology, green innovation and staff engagement highlighted as the three key pillars of this movement.

“There’s always something around the corner for us,” Allen said. “We’ve got buy-in from the top-down to make the changes, but we want to do it so that it actually works, rather than it coming across as a marketing exercise.”

Tasked with monitoring, and ultimately reducing, energy consumption across Nando’s 360 UK restaurants – all of which are now fitted with half-hourly reading monitors – Allen initially turned to technology upgrades and energy efficiency innovations to provide immediate reductions in carbon emissions, while applying slow-burning behaviour change initiatives across the entirety of Nando’s staff.

New Nando’s restaurants have been fitted with LED lights which make up 85% of all lighting in new-builds. In the kitchen, the group has also introduced a range of variable extractor fans which only operate and consume energy while the chefs are cooking. Allen believes this has produced energy savings of around 37% compared with conventional fans.

But while staff members – or ‘Nandocas’ as Allen refers to them – are aware of the technological advances, some are still not completely aware of the need for them. Allen is attempting to remedy this through intrinsic gamification models to compare each individual store’s energy consumption with the same time period from last year.

“We’re using league tables for each restaurant to try and drive competition,” Allen explained. “The problem we have is that our restaurants differ in size, so we can’t measure them against each other like-for-like. Instead, we measure them against themselves and track the progress of each restaurant against the same period last year.

“Not all Nandocas are green warriors, but if we let these restaurants know what can be done, usually they’ll try to do better. We’ve had some poorly-performing restaurants perform U-turns because it’s reflected on their profits and losses, which is something that they understand.”

Piri-Piri power

One of the more exciting sustainability developments being explored by Nando’s is the potential use of food waste to power a selection of the fast-casual restaurants in its portfolio. Allen said the group is currently discussing the purchase of green gas credits which would see food waste sent to an anaerobic digestion (AD) plant where it is fermented and turned into methane gas. This gas is then either pumped into the National Gas Grid or used to generate electricity.

Allen revealed that discussions are underway with a German firm that would store liquid food waste from the restaurants in tanks, before being sent to nearby anaerobic digestion plants once a fortnight.

“At the moment, we don’t generate enough food waste to power our restaurants,” Allen said. “It would be beneficial if we could power a percentage of our restaurants with food waste. I’ve got meetings on the horizon to discuss the purchase of green gas credits, which would allow us to source energy from AD plants.”

Nando’s is operating within a hospitality sector which has had to continuously adapt to an increase in customers and facilities, while simultaneously combating the rising waste and energy costs associated with those increases.

The Portuguese chicken restaurant chain was among the minority of companies that complied with the Government’s Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) in December last year, ahead of the extended January 2016 deadline. With some energy managers remaining sceptical about the potential business benefits ESOS offers, Allen confirmed that the legislation didn’t offer up any surprising revelations. “It was a simple process,” she said. “But it’s just another layer of legislation and we weren’t surprised by any findings of the survey – we didn’t come across anything we weren’t aware of.”

Julie Allen at edie Energy Management Conference

Nando’s UK energy, waste and water manager Julie Allen will be speaking at edie’s Energy Management Conference at the Birmingham City Centre Holiday Inn on 20 April. She will explain to delegates how robust methodologies can impact the potential savings associated with energy management.

The fifth annual edie Energy Management Conference is an essential one-day event for professionals who want to find innovative ways to reduce energy consumption, increase efficiency and reduce costs.

Find out more about the Conference and register to attend here.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie