Save Money while Saving the Planet | Sustainability Series

By Niall McKenna posted 25-02-2020 10:08


Sustainability Series - Niall McKenna | Chef Network

Part of being sustainable means cutting down on the amount of utilities you use throughout your business. In the process of running a business, it’s common that a big portion of income ends up being spent on these resources. It makes sense that a business becomes more sustainable by cutting down on all the unnecessary uses of utilities as well as saving money overall.


In my opinion, all Restaurateurs and Chefs need to know the cost that Water, Gas and Electricity plays within the business.

Look at the long run. Invest in ways to be more resourceful, it will pay off over time. Giving the example of induction hobs, we’ve seen significant long-term impact switching to induction. The initial investment in the induction hobs cost around €55,000, however I  estimate that the change could save us anywhere in the region of €500-750 every month. By investing in a more sustainable heat source, we’ll see the pay off in the long run.

It’s important that the whole kitchen crew must be aware of the value of what is being used or wasted in the kitchen. I think that in order to implement these changes effectively your chefs must buy into it. For example, switching over to induction meant that the kitchen was more comfortable for chefs to work in, therefore making them more aware of the overall benefits of sustainability. It is vital that you empower your chefs. All staff at our restaurant have access to an app that can calculate the cost of every all food used throughout the day, this helps educate the team on the value of everything they use.

Food Waste

Reducing food waste is an old-school concept, that may need to be re-introduced to the kitchen, when cooking. I always endeavour to teach the young chefs how to get the most out of every product and ingredient that’s brought into the kitchen, for example, using bones to make stock. Think about every piece of the ingredient you’re using and look at new ways to incorporate them into your menu. Think about it, if something like egg whites go into the bin, that is pure profit coming right off your bottom line. Plus this incentivises employees to think more creatively with these ‘off cuts’ and seek inspiration in often forgotten ingredients.

Overall Waste


To reduce overall waste in the restaurant we have introduced clear binbags, so that everything that goes into the bin can be seen. By investing in a metal detector for the kitchen it also ensures no metal utensils get dumped out with the refuse waste. By removing bins from the kitchen, itself and replacing them with buckets for food waste, staff are less encouraged to throw items out and create excess waste. Out of sight, out of mind.

Unnecessary Expenses

Common sense is a huge part of my philosophy when it comes to sustainability. Identifying what’s unnecessary expenditure in your business and cutting it out. Take for example, when I noticed that the push taps in his bathrooms ran for a full 30-seconds, I decided in order to preserve water and avoid unnecessary water bills, it would cut the time it spent running. By removing the spring from all the taps, we found that the taps would run for only 15-seconds, literally preventing money from going down the drain.

My primary piece of advice is to look at the unnecessary expenses throughout your business, even if it’s inconvenient.

Recycling & Upcycling

I am also a firm believer in recycling and upcycling where possible. When the restaurant was getting a new fit-out for the bar, we decided to keep the marble from the old bar and looked at ways it could be used for the new renovation.



Most recently we have worked with a gardener who was keen to establish a walled garden, we worked with him on planting plans, garden rotation and it was a great experience both for him and for us as a kitchen. I would love to set up my own walled garden as we have worked with a series of local gardeners to develop a long term plan. Due to the nature of gardening and the work required the programme of activities has stalled, which is a shame as it is a great investment of time and money for all kitchens, but hard to make it work.


Perhaps the cost-cutting measure that I’m most proud of is the ‘last man standing’ switch. This one switch is connected to all the electronics in the restaurant and turns everything, except the freezers off when they leave at the end of a shift. It even turns off the fridges in the bar at night, which is turned back on during the day, allowing enough time for all the bottles to become cold enough for service the following evening.

I really recommend that chefs and restauranteurs review and constantly monitor their numbers and outgoings on electric, gas and water to examine what is costing them the most and what they can cut down on.

Final Words

Being sustainable is good for business.

Niall has outlined the many ways he has cut costs and introduced more sustainable practices in his restaurant. His approach is all about full crew awareness and implementation of these waste reduction measures. Squeezing every bit of value out of every resource. His approach involves careful monitoring to execute but if every chef that reads this takes just one piece of advice from Niall, kitchens all over the country would be far more sustainable.


Supported by Bunzl McLaughlin:
Bunzl McLaughlin - Chef NetworkBunzl McLaughlin is the leading supplier of non-food catering supplies to businesses across Ireland, specializing in providing a reliable service and delivering value, quality and innovation to their customers. With over 5,000 items in stock available for next-day delivery, plus access to over 50,000 additional products, Bunzl McLaughlin has everything necessary to equip restaurants, pubs, cafes, hotels, and more.


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