Is this a good time to invest in new catering equipment? 

Steaks on a Grill


Is this a good time to invest in new catering equipment? 

Steaks on a Grill

For many chefs, there is a traditional start-of-shift ritual firing up the oven, as much to get some heat into a chilly kitchen as it is to be ready to start preparing for the day’s orders. Old habits and bad practices can easily get in the way of savings and efficiency drives, but so can old equipment that is no longer the right fit for your business or simply past its best. 

A recent survey of the sector found that operators on average expect energy bills to double in the first quarter of 2023. With the Government’s energy cost support for business due to be significantly reduced in April, that’s a daunting prospect for operators already dealing with higher costs overall, as well as lower consumer spending. 

The joint Q1 Hospitality Members Survey carried out by UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping and Hospitality Ulster also found that 56% of members have seen an increase in their standing charges for energy. 

One response has been for many hospitality operators to cut back on trading, with the survey finding that 42% of businesses have reduced daily opening hours and 34% have reduced the number of days they open per week. 

However, cutting the business off from potential trade by restricting opening hours is not an option to be taken lightly. Not only does it threaten to send customers into the arms of competitors, it also does nothing to address fixed costs such as standing charges for energy and utilities, as well as business rates. 

The kitchen, and in particular catering equipment, represents a significant cost for hospitality businesses, but also one that with careful management and by encouraging good practice, can be significantly reduced. 

Existing equipment 

In the current market, many businesses will be planning to postpone upgrades and replacements, and stick with their existing kit for the time being. Ensuring that proper regimes for use, maintenance and servicing are followed will help manage the running costs of existing kit. 

Simple steps include; 

  • Discourage staff from turning on all equipment at the beginning of a shift. Kit should only be turned on as and when it’s needed. 
  • Don’t heat or cool space you’re not using. Pots and pans should be the same size as the rings, oven trays should make maximum use of the space, and fridge and freezer containers should stack neatly. 
  • Switch off, whenever you can. For example, a microwave that’s left plugged in while not in use is just an expensive way to tell the time. A simple sign such as ‘switch off after use’ will help remind staff to turn kit off fully.,
  • Only run dishwashers and glass washers when full, stack them efficiently, and use economy cycles when practical. 
  • Check fridge/freezer thermostats and don’t overfill fridges/cold rooms. Locate fridges/ freezers well away from ovens and other heat sources. 
  • Keep kitchen appliances clean and well maintained. Make regular descaling, defrosting and degreasing part of the kitchen regime. 
  • A regular full service, especially of larger kit such as ovens and freezers, is money well spent. Cutting service is a false economy if it reduces the energy efficiency or shortens the life of equipment, 

New equipment 

Catering equipment is at the heart of every hospitality operation and it determines how well everything works and how smoothly your business runs. Investing in new catering equipment could help you tackle many of the major challenges of 2023 – cut your costs and retain staff and customers. 

New back of house heavy equipment is more energy efficient. New light equipment such as better glassware or crockery will emphasise quality and elevate your offer. Better equipment is guaranteed to improve productivity, making kitchen and front of house teams happier. More consistent food quality and service will attract and retain customers. 

Buying new equipment makes financial sense if it means replacing older, inefficient kit with high energy use and running costs or worn and unattractive tableware. 

  • Work out exactly what’s needed in terms of menu style and trading patterns. Building in a little headroom in terms of capacity will give the business room for growth and can make sense. But being too ambitious and buying bigger kit than needed will eat the budget quickly. 
  • Shop around to check prices, but also be sure who you’re buying from. Reputable suppliers and distributors should offer warranties, service agreements and staff training.
  • Invest in energy efficient models when replacing kit. Ask suppliers to estimate how the equipment will perform in your kitchen – energy ratings logged under factory conditions may be different in the real world. 
  • Take full advantage of any staff training sessions on offer. 
  • Keep the paperwork so you know when equipment is still in warranty.
  •  Consider the second-hand market both as a buyer and seller. There is plenty of refurbished catering equipment on the market – especially in a downturn, sadly – and finding a buyer for kit your business has grown out of will offset purchase costs.
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