Surviving the energy crisis while tackling the climate challenge

Written by Mark Chapman

Having spent 14 years helping hospitality operators measure, report and reduce carbon emissions, energy use has always been a good place to start. While up to 90% of our emissions are from the food and drink we serve, the compelling business case that energy provides to cut carbon and costs is a good way to engage businesses on the road to net zero.

Operators can recover lost profits worth up to £12,000 and ten tonnes of carbon per outlet from eliminating operational energy waste. The actions needed to survive the energy crises will also help tackle our response to the climate crises. As David Attenborough put it: “Don’t waste electricity, don’t waste paper, don’t waste food. Live the way you want to live, but just don’t waste.”

In hospitality, finance report energy use, procurement buy it and operations use it, but typically, no one manages it. In the past, energy costs have been controlled from buying better, and in a flat or falling energy market, that approach has been good enough. Energy costs can now account for 11% of business turnover, up from 3% before the crisis. The new reality for operators is that their ability to manage energy use is as important, while not as exciting, as their front-of-house offering.

Understanding and managing energy use across multiple locations, large numbers of staff, pieces of equipment with variable sales, hours and weather effects isn’t easy. Eliminating energy waste needs more than just telling people to turn the lights off. But it can be done. Combining energy analytics, engagement campaigns and ongoing coaching can support your teams to identify and eliminate the behaviours that cause wastage. Kitchen teams are trained to “be ready”, which for many means turning everything on when they open up.

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The climate-conscious generation that work in hospitality have never been more willing to engage with the actions they can take to make a difference. The Zero Carbon Forum’s “Save While You Sleep” campaign to reduce energy waste from equipment left on overnight has already delivered collective savings of £1.43m and 1,243 tonnes of carbon dioxide, just from one behaviour. A well planned and resourced programme can reduce usage by up to 30%, delivering the biggest impact of any energy initiative, and can be funded from operational savings.

 As well as operational energy waste, there are numerous opportunities to minimise energy use from reviewing the types of buildings you operate in, menu choices, opening hours, equipment and maintenance practices. Implementing best practices in all these areas can reduce usage by a further 30-50%. Menus for many operators are developed without consideration of the equipment or energy needed to produce them. Along with more plant-based dishes, engaging chefs to design menus that minimises energy use can be part of lowering the carbon impact of your food offering.

The Forum’s low carbon technologies action group has led the collaboration of the sectors property teams to identify the equipment and maintenance practices to minimise energy use. Through sharing best practices and experiences, operators can ensure valuable capex isn’t spent on initiatives or equipment that doesn’t work. Understanding how to assess the total cost of ownership of equipment through connecting the operational and capital costs has also enabled operators to increase the efficiency and profitability of new openings. The group’s checklist of equipment and practices for property teams ensures they don’t waste time working out what to do.

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One of the founding purposes of the Zero Carbon Forum is that it is better, quicker and more cost effective to work out and implement the solutions to these problems together than on your own. The support we’ve provided to help our members and the industry survive the energy crises has recovered lost profits and cut our emissions to accelerate our progress to net zero. Through collaboration and the expertise of our teams, we can cut carbon and costs across every area to not just survive, but thrive in the new environment. Together at pace.

Mark Chapman is chief executive and founder of Zero Carbon Forum