Why a little investment goes a long way in the cellar

Splashing out on new technology may seem risky in the current climate but, says business consultant Robert Morrall, some modest changes in key areas can make all the difference

Investment in new beer dispense technology can quickly pay dividends, according to Route.

A RECENT report suggested one in five Scottish publicans had thought about closing due to rising costs and falling custom.

Amid continuing economic uncertainty, it is easy to see why investment in new technology is the last thing on landlords’ minds.
But such thinking could be a big mistake, particularly when it comes to cellar management. Take, for example, the issue of cellar cooling.
For beer to be served at the optimum quality, a cellar should be kept at a constant temperature of between 11.5°C and 13.5°C. Simply achieving this can account for around 50% of total energy required for drink chilling, which in itself accounts for 10% of an average pub’s total energy expenditure.
The upshot is that if cellar cooling is inefficient, money is wasted.
Most traditional cooling systems produce 1KW of energy from 1KW of electricity. That might seem fair enough, until you consider modern systems can more than triple the cooling energy from the same level of electricity. That can lead to significant savings.
Buying a new system may mean an initial outlay, but in the long-run it will pay for itself in a relatively short space of time and from then on, can dramatically reduce overall operating costs. On this front, it’s also worth keeping in mind that financial support is often available, including Energy Saving Scotland Small Business Loans, of between £1000 and £100,000.
Of course, just because a cellar cooling system is more efficient does not necessarily mean it is being used efficiently. The warmer a cellar environment is the harder the cooler system has to work and subsequently, the more energy it will ‘eat up’. Here, it’s worth considering small-scale technologies that can have a big impact. Simple temperature sensors to keep tabs on ambient temperature are a must, while ‘low heat’ light bulbs can help keep things cool.
There is just as much scope for cost savings when it comes to line cleaning.
On average, most managers clean their lines at least once a week to avoid the build-up of deposits that affect beer quality. The problem is that line cleaning is often wasteful. As well as taking up time, up to two and a half hours a week, any stock that remains in the lines is flushed through and wasted every time a line is cleaned. The amount will vary according to the size and number of bars in an outlet, however, a typical figure can be around 240 pints worth of drink per month.
But once again modern technology is coming to the rescue. There are innovations on the market that automate the process to reduce waste and save time compared to a manual process. They also often allow one line to be cleaned at a time, ensuring that remaining taps are fully operational.
Of course, saving money on stock is not limited to efficient line cleaning: how cellar stock control is managed can make or break a pub.
Detailed records of orders placed and stock received is a must and this is where online e-procurement systems can help. Route Online, for example, enables users to place orders 24/7, track all supplier contracts and ensure the price agreed is the price paid. The system also flags up price changes and shows immediately how they affect the bottom line – allowing quick decisions and swift supplier changes.
I come from a cost-saving background. My passion is looking at where hospitality businesses can maximise assets, keep costs down and make the most profit.
Some people may think this is in direct conflict with me advising on investing in new technology. It isn’t, for the simple reason that investment is not the same as spending.
• Robert Morrall is managing director of Route Organisation, which specialises in providing business advice to the hospitality sector.

Image – Investment in new beer dispense technology can quickly pay dividends, according to Route