Restaurateurs ‘lack tools and knowledge to save energy’, survey reveals

Three-quarters of restaurant owners, managers and chefs claim they do not have the tools and knowledge to implement green initiatives at their establishments, despite 80% considering sustainability when making business decisions.

A survey of 150 restaurateurs, carried out by energy supplier E.ON, found that energy savings could improve profit margins by approximately 4.6%, but only if there is a greater understanding of ways to reduce carbon emissions.

E.ON’s head of SME Iain Walker said: “The restaurant business is incredibly energy intensive and the desire to cut energy use is clear.

“The industry clearly understands the impact of energy efficiency on the bottom line, but our survey suggests there is a real need for greater awareness and help when it comes to how to tackle that.”

Restaurant workers admitted to leaving kitchen utilities such as cookers on throughout working hours and only a third of restaurants polled installed energy efficient lightbulbs, with just a quarter of survey respondents claiming that they insulated their dining areas.

Cooler kitchens

Commenting on the survey’s findings, Michelin-starred chef Glynn Purnell said: “You wouldn’t throw food or money away so why would you throw away energy? Yet that’s exactly what you’re doing if you leave things on.”

Purnell has reduced the energy consumption at his eponymous restaurant by almost 25% through various energy-saving initiatives. 

“Running a restaurant is quite tight when it comes to making a profit, so energy efficiency is obviously really important,” added the chef. “We changed all of our lights to LED which made a massive difference. We scrapped gas and went all electric. The kitchen is much cooler as a result so we don’t need as much cooling, increasing our energy savings even further. All of this was achieved without compromising the cooking techniques and quality of the food.”

According to the Carbon Trust, the hospitality sector in the UK spends around £1.3bn on energy each year – equivalent to eight million tonnes of carbon. With energy costs accounting for 22.5% of overheads for the industry – 10% of which is lost on wastage – the E.ON report states that reducing energy use by an average of 25% across the sector could save up to £325m.

Money is considered the main driving force for nearly 80% of restaurateurs when it comes to cutting energy bills, but 40% are motivated by ethical reasons too.

Customer satisfaction

The E.ON report comes a week after the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) published a survey on consumer habits at restaurants in regards to sustainability.

That survey revealed that 83.7% of diners feel that ethical and sustainable criteria is now a deciding factor in their choice of dining destination, while 95% said they expect sustainability issues to exert an even greater influence on their dining decisions in five years’ time.

But the E.ON survey saw restaurant owners significantly underestimate how customers prioritise sustainability when choosing a restaurant, with an average estimate that only 25% of customers would consider sustainable factors.

The E.ON survey has been launched to coincided with a new campaign between Purnell and E.ON to help small business save energy and money using the energy company’s Energy Toolkit.

Matt Mace

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