Energy efficiency in food preparation and catering

Food preparation businesses have big overheads from energy in their overall costs, so careful planning and simple steps could help you with more budget certainty. Some kitchens waste as much as 60% of the energy consumed through heat loss dispersed from the cooking process.

By lowering your fixed costs, you could improve bottom line results and demonstrate that you care for the environment at the same time.

Being proactive about energy efficiency measures and taking steps to reduce your consumption could result in bills that are 18-25% lower, usually getting your money back in less than 18 months.

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Who is this for?

Simple no cost changes

A little goes a long way: £500/year worth of savings over 3 years would make the same profit as a 5% margin from £30,000 of extra sales.

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Catering equipment

  • Match pots and pan size to the heating ring or oven to avoid wasting energy.
  • Don’t overfill saucepans or kettles and use lids where possible to prevent heat loss.
  • Remember to switch off all equipment after use.
  • Keep hot storage of cooked food to a minimum to avoid continuously firing heat.
  • Discourage staff from turning on equipment at the beginning of a shift ‘just in case’. It should only be on if you’re sure it’s needed.
  • Turn hobs to minimum when only simmering is required, as boiling will waste energy.
  • Reheat small amounts of food in microwaves rather than on the hob where possible because they are faster in this case, so you will use less energy.
  • Have a maintenance plan in which you clean, check for damage and corrosion, and check that elements (such as thermostats) are still accurate.
  • Stack items correctly in the dishwater to maximise loads and only run when full.
  • Use the economy setting on dishwashers.
  • Avoid washing under running water to minimise hot water wastage.
Refrigeration energy efficiency


  • Up to 20% of the energy used for refrigeration could be cut with little or no cost.
  • Refrigerators and freezers should be in the coldest part of the kitchen, away from cookers and heat sources.
  • Leave at least 5cm of gap around them for good ventilation.
  • Keep fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible as they can account to up to 30% increase in heat load. If you see ice build-up, it’s a sign that shows too many air changes occur.
  • Introduce a maintenance programme – check for scaling and ice build-up or damaged vent fins, drip pipes and so on.
  • Defrost regularly – every two months as a guide, or check the manufacturer recommendations.
  • Check you’re using the correct temperatures, as just 1°C too low ramps up energy use by 2-4%. It’s best to check the correct temperature for what you’re storing. For example, a change from -25°C to -20°C in a freezer can save 10-15% of refrigeration energy and still keep food safe.
Ventilation and air energy efficiency

Ventilation and air circulation

  • Can account for as much as 11% of electricity used in this sector.
  • Good ventilation is crucial to create a safe working environment and it should include smoke capture, grease extraction and disposal, fire protection, control of external emissions and heat recovery.
  • Make sure ventilation is at a minimum level or off outside of business hours.
  • Turn off kitchen fans when not in use.
  • Keeping filters clean can increase efficiency by as much as 50%.
Heating energy efficiency


  • Discourage staff from turning on cooking equipment at the beginning of a shift to warm up the place. It’s more efficient to change heating settings if needed.
  • Set the hot water temperature to 60 degrees which is warm enough to kill bacteria.
  • Because kitchens are a hive of activity, a suitable heating temperature is 16-18 °C. Turning the heating down by 2°C could save you £140 on a £1,000 bill.
  • A reduced temperature of 10°C is sufficient during the night for most buildings.
Lighting energy efficiency


  • Can account for 10% of energy use in this sector.
  • Encourage staff to turn off lights when not in use and use simple light switch stickers so everyone feels confident that they are turning off the right one. The Carbon Trust website also has printable posters and labels you can use.

Straightforward low-cost changes

Refrigeration energy efficiency


  • Consider buying 7-day time switches to automatically switch off equipment when your premises are closed.
  • Install special blinds or curtains for open refrigeration units to prevent cold air loss.
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Catering equipment

  • Use automatic water treatment or water softeners where possible to improve the lifespan of your equipment, which could be affected by scale build-up.
  • Save water with automatic timers for taps and flow restrictors.
Lighting energy efficiency


  • Fluorescent tubes are recommended for a good balance of light output, colour reproduction and high efficiency
  • If using tungsten halogen spot lights, use 35W bulbs with infrared reflective coating rather than 50W bulbs. These will give you the same light output with a 30% reduction in energy use and 60% reduction in heat.

Cost per lamp: LEDs vs CFLs vs halogens

  LED CFL Halogen
Watts (equivalent lamps) 6W 11W 35W
Purchase per lamp £6.00 £3.50 £2.00
Typical annual lamp use (hours) 1,000h 1,000h 1,000h
Typical lamp lifetime (in hours) 30,000h 10,000h 2,000h
Typical lamp lifetime (years) 30 years 10 years 2 years
Cost of lamp purchases over 30 years £6.00 £10.50 £30.00
Annual energy consumption per lamp 6kW 11kW 35kW
Annual electricity cost per lamp at 14.05/kW £0.84 £1.55 £4.92
Total cost per lamp per year (Averaged over a typical LED malp life - 30 years) £1.04 per year £1.90 per year £5.92 per year

*Data from the Energy Saving Trust's "Selecting low energy lighting" guide.

Long-term savings from the right investments

For larger savings from energy efficiency you might need to spend some money upfront, especially when you’re planning refurbishment already.

Ventilation and air energy efficiency

Ventilation and air circulation

  • Use variable speed drives where possible to match demand for ventilation.
  • Consider investing in air-to-water recovery devices to minimise wasted heat.
Heating energy efficiency


  • Thermostatic radiator valves which control the heat based on the ambient temperature using a sensor could be an easy automated solution.

Catering equipment

Consider investing in automated sensors which turn off after a time of having no pan on the hob and you could save up to 5%.

When investing in new equipment, consider getting:

If your needs vary, opt for two smaller machines rather than one large one because running a dishwasher at half of its capacity is inefficient.

Install heat recovery condenser devices in large machines to reduce their consumption by up to 25%.

Action plan


Start by making a note of your current consumption.

By default, your smart meter will record consumption data in 30-minute intervals. You can use this starting point as a benchmark.


Do you notice any variations during the year?

Make a note of them and think about what could cause them. For example, if your business is affected by the weather, you could save energy by investing in better insulation and save money in the long term.


Benchmark your current energy use

How does it compare to last year or last season? Make sure you analyse similar time periods (for example, December 2018 with December 2019) to make sure the improvement in efficiency isn’t influenced by other factors.


How much are you going to reduce your consumption by?

Set a realistic goal and a target date of when you’ll measure consumption again to track how you’re doing.


Choose the steps you’ll take to achieve those goals

Use the categories above to put advice into practice and involve your employees. To motivate staff, try to make it into a competition. Why not offer a free meal out to the team that comes up with the most energy saving ideas or commit to donating the savings to a local charity that they choose?


Make the changes and measure the results

Communicate all improvements with your staff, no matter how small, to encourage an energy efficient state of mind. And when you're ready to make more changes to become energy efficient, come back to this action plan and start again.

The facts, figures and advice have been sourced from the Carbon Trust, Energy Trust and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly known as the Department of Energy and Climate Change).