The MA Energy Focus in partnership with Heineken

How food-led pubs are fighting rising energy costs

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

How are food-led pubs dealing with the energy crisis?

Related tags Food Gastropub Chef

Operators have been taking a number of steps to reduce energy consumption around their food offer including changing kitchen equipment, menu adaptions and a focus on sustainability.
  • The Morning Advertiser's Energy Focus in partnership with Heineken is looking at ways in which operators are battling the ongoing crisis. We launched the series last year​ and will continue to speak with licensees to provide advice and information on how businesses are mitigating rocketing prices.

Operator of the number one Top 50 Gastropub​ the Unruly Pig in Bromeswell, Suffolk, Brendan Padfield outlined a number of ways in which he is reducing utility costs.

All these little steps have already made a little bit of difference.

Cook up a plan to save in the kitchen

Charlie Fryday, Heineken UK on-trade category and commercial strategy director, discusses small changes which food-led pubs can make to reduce energy and save.

Charlie Fryday- Headshot 1

“Kitchens are typically one of the highest energy usage areas, so encourage teams to get creative over ways to reduce consumption.

“This could include coming up with less energy intensive dishes to feature on the menu – with a small incentive for the most inventive idea.

“It may sound simple, but make sure staff are checking that hobs, extraction fans and other equipment are turned off when not in use, ovens are pre-heated just before service rather than to warm the kitchen and freezers are defrosted regularly.

“When it’s time to replace equipment, look to install induction hobs which use all the heat generated and cook at a faster speed. Most of the heat generated by gas hobs is lost round the side of the pan.”

Chef, Peter Weeden from the Duke of Cambridge pub in Islington, north London shares how his team are monitoring efficiencies.

He explained at the SmartDispense™ Energy Well Spent Summit​: “We have a daily sheet where we set out what we want to achieve throughout the day.

“On there, we have a water monitor to make sure everyone is drinking water throughout the day and a green person, so somebody who is appointed to look at the oven being at the right temperature at the right time.

“That individual will consider if we really have to have the oven on at 200° or 210°. Getting those last 10° is like when you’re driving a car, it’s just so much harder work for the piece of kit.

“If you can drop it to 190 to 185°, especially on a quiet night, it will save energy and cost. Naming it and having it explicitly on the management sheet is a good way to remind everybody to look out for what we’re doing.”

Listen to more expert advice from the SmartDispense™ Energy Well Spent Summit​ and the SmartDispense™ Debate Series​.

He said: “In this energy crisis, the Tesco mantra always springs to my mind – Every Little Helps. ​Here’s how we have adapted – nothing earth shattering but all these little steps have already made a little bit of difference.

“Instead of waiting for the oil tank to get in its lower quarter, we now order ‘little and often’. For instance, the price of kerosene recently dropped when I still had three quarters of a tank. Nevertheless I quickly ordered another 1,000 litres regardless at the reduced price.

“As gas is so expensive, we have dramatically cut gas consumption by taking out the gas fryers and now offering our dripping chips only on request, using an electric fryer where we have a fixed priced electricity contract.”

Padfield has also adjusted the heating at the pub in a number of ways as well as trying to ensuring heat is contained.

Temperature changes

He added: “[Thirdly], the 2° rule. We have turned the thermostat down and no one seems to have noticed.

“The heating now comes on in the morning and goes off in the evening 30 minutes earlier saving seven hours heating oil consumption a week.

“On what I call ‘shoulder’ temperature days, we simply light the log burners and don’t turn on the central heating.

“As soon as the lunch service finishes, the curtains and blinds are closed immediately to insulate and to try to contain the ambient heat.

“And finally ….my 12ft Christmas tree will be chopped up and dried out as it makes the most brilliant, ‘free’ (ish ) kindling! “

The current headwinds facing the sector are challenging operators up and down the country and multi-site business Revolution Bars Group, which recently acquired gastropub business Peach Pubs, has been forced to close sites as a result.

The group CEO Rob Pitcher highlighted how it is tackling the ongoing issues including rocketing energy prices.

He said: “We are no different to any other operator in the sector, in that we expect the first few months of this year to be challenging. The impact of ongoing rail strikes, rising energy costs and the cost-of-living crisis have resulted in us taking the decision to close a small number of our bars on strike days and on Mondays and Tuesdays through January and February.”

Pitcher suggested operators look into the prices they are receiving from suppliers when it comes to food costs.

Supplier partnerships

“With regards to mitigating food cost inflation our main focus is on working closely with suppliers to ensure the partnerships are delivering positive outcomes for both businesses,” he added.

“We are looking to rationalise the numbers of products we buy to drive more volume over fewer lines, in order to mitigate price increases and would advise any operator to review suppliers if the price increases being pushed through seem unsustainable. It’s our view that someone in the marketplace will want your volume and so it’s always worth looking at other options.”

Looking at ingredients in dishes is something fellow multiple operator Fuller’s is also using in light of the current economic climate.

We can remove ingredients which are hard to source because of external factors and can easily swap in alternative dishes from our dish bank without impacting customer choice.

The London-based group has kept its dishes adaptable to help enable flexibility when needed as part of its response to the ongoing energy and cost-of-living crisis.

Food marketing manager Ella Cranmer said: “We have dynamic menus that allow us to flex our offering depending on what’s happening in the market as well as to respond to the cost and availability of ingredients. The latter is inevitably one of the issues dictating menu choices at the moment.

“We have a large range of dishes at various prices and use elements such as sharers to widen the customers’ options both on flavours and price points.

Top tips on reducing energy in your kitchen from licensees:

- Keep menus flexible

- Reduce temperatures where possible

- Retain as much heat inside as possible

- Consider changes to become more environmentally-friendly

- Work closely with suppliers to ensure the best deals

“In addition, we use smaller portions which can be added to menus to create easier entry points for customers watching their purse strings.

“In certain cases, we can remove ingredients which are hard to source because of external factors and can easily swap in alternative dishes from our dish bank without impacting customer choice.”

Meanwhile Revolution Bars Group, which has a mission to become the first Net Zero bar company in the next seven years, is using its green credentials to its advantage in more ways than one.

Pitcher added: “Regardless of the current challenges, Revolution Bars Group finds itself in a strong position.

“We are expecting our Peach Pubs, acquired last year​, to perform strongly as they are not impacted by rail strikes, and we have already reduced our energy consumption across the portfolio by 30% over the last five years, leaving us less exposed to energy price hikes.

“The reduction was achieved as part of our commitment to being a Net Zero business by 2030 and the investments we made in green technology and in cutting wastage, will stand us in very good stead, not just over the next few months but far beyond.”

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