What kitchen maintenance is important to reduce costs?

How often have you been in a commercial kitchen? Do you stroll through without thinking about financial efficiency? I visit them regularly and often see opportunities for substantial savings in operating costs which go unnoticed by both the occupants and the management.

Some costs are tangible and others are intangible — and they both have to be managed carefully

There are two kinds of costs in a kitchen

There are two kinds of costs in any business. First, there are tangible costs for which a specific invoice is received or which have a definite visible relationship to some management decision, e.g. wages or the butcher’s account. Second, there are abstract or intangible costs, which are still incurred, but are not as easily isolated and controlled. An example of abstract costs are your energy bills; they are made up of the combined energy usages of numerous pieces of equipment and even though you are well aware of the total amount, you may be totally unaware that some equipment is using more than its fair share of power.

I chose to use energy as an example because it is usually a substantial cost in any food business and it is one with a good potential for saving. Imagine if you could decrease usage or price by 15%; what would you save in one year?

Opportunities for money saving

Fridge maintenance

If you do not maintain refrigeration equipment properly you will waste a lot of money


Start by examining your refrigeration equipment. Look at the door seals — are they intact and doing their job, or are they split or broken and allowing cool air to escape? Broken seals cause the electric motor to cut in more often and work harder. If they are really unserviceable the increase in running cost can be as much as 75%.

Next, find the heat exchanger in the refrigeration unit itself. The heat exchanger is the panel which looks like the radiator in a car and is located with the electric motor at the top or bottom of the unit. Heat exchangers have a fan behind them drawing air for cooling purposes. After a surprisingly short time they can become clogged with dust (especially if the workings are close to the floor), and cease to function properly. Again, this is costly. It is a simple matter to regularly clean the heat exchanger with a brush.

While on the subject of refrigeration, does your Chef leave the coolroom door open for inappropriate lengths of time; perhaps in order to cool the kitchen on a hot day? There are much cheaper ways to cool a kitchen.

orange gas flame

If your gas appliances burn with an orange flame instead of a blue flame, you are wasting money


Now examine your gas stoves. Turn on all the gas jets and look at the colour of the flames. Do you see any yellow or orange? If so, the jet is not adjusted properly and will not supply the optimum amount of heat for a given amount of gas. This is quite apart from all the extra labour required to clean the black carbon deposits off pots and pans etc. Gas jets should burn with a clean, blue flame; if they don’t, adjust them with the air/gas mixture screw at their base.

Also, are your gas jets left burning outside peak periods because somebody forgot to turn them down or somebody wants to heat the kitchen? Again there are cheaper ways.

Look at your oven doors next. Oven door seals function the same way as fridge door seals and should also be kept in the same good order.

Exhaust system

Now check your exhaust fans. How often do you clean the filters? Perhaps you let them get really clogged before you clean them. This causes the exhaust fan to suck a partial vacuum and also increases costs. Filters should be put through the dishwasher about twice per week.

Dirty fryers ruin product and use extra energy


Wander over to your deep fryer(s). Are all internal carbon deposits cleaned from the elements and interior surfaces regularly? Carbon is an insulating material which causes the unit to require more gas or electricity to function. It can be removed with chemicals specially designed for the purpose. Consult your chemical supplier.

Have you ever checked the actual operating temperature your fryers by using a calibrating thermometer? The temperature on the dial may bear no resemblance to the actual temperature. If the fryer is too hot it will use more energy, break down oil and discolour food.

These are just a few suggestions to set you thinking. What I am really trying to get across is that a regular kitchen maintenance schedule incorporating thorough checks on vital aspects of your equipment will repay you handsomely. Remember that a clean kitchen is not necessarily a well run kitchen.