Without doubt the hospitality industry is currently facing one of its biggest challenges to date, and I’m not talking about Brexit! A pressing and remarkably complex issue that operators know all too well, and one that weighs the equivalent to The Shard, forty-eight times over. The issue in question is food waste and the challenge we face is how to reduce it.
Almost immediately after stepping foot inside 10 Downing Street, Boris Johnson was urged to prioritise his Government’s strategy on waste. At the end of July, in one of the first moves from the Boris-led government, Michael Gove and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) released a flurry of documents aimed at strengthening the Government environmental regulations.
Whilst taking a strong stance on tackling food waste may be low hanging political fruit, such approaches have faced criticism from leading industry body UKHospitality. Kate Nicholls has rebuked the proposed measures for their lack of foresight and for not taking into consideration the ‘significant costs for businesses’ that stricter Government deadlines and increased time pressures to meet new food waste standards would incur.
Tackling food waste is not just an issue of meeting Governmental standards but also brings into focus what modern day diners look for in restaurants. Recent years have seen a rise in consumer awareness of the growing food waste and sustainability issues, with customers now more discerning about restaurants’ policies on waste, necessitating change from operators. Lowering food waste also makes commercial and environmental sense.
The industry is well aware of the complexity of the food waste challenge and will be the first to decry any ‘one size fits all’ approach to tackling the problem. The root of the issue stems from not always knowing the true scale of the problem nor having a true and accurate picture of what is actually being wasted. However, operators need the true and accurate picture in order to set a true benchmark figure and set achievable and measurable targets to reduce all food waste.
To reduce food waste, we must first define it – not a simple task. Distinguishing between recorded and unrecorded waste highlights this. Recorded waste can be classified as food that has been spoiled in the cooking process, ingredients spilled and dropped, or produce delivered that is unusable or unreturnable for some reason. Unrecorded waste is unexplained shortfalls in inventory reconciliations and often the food that the customer leaves on the plate. Ironically this is rarely considered ‘waste’, as the GP has been factored in and the diner has paid for it.
Yes, it’s a complex issue, but what can be done? Measures can be put in place to help limit what’s thrown away. Taking more care not to spoil food during cooking or menu engineering processes to use cut-offs in other dishes can help drive down the waste. However, to effect real change we need to look at changing behaviours.
On a practical level, what is the cost of human error in food waste? These include bad stock rotation and poor procurement or simply not declaring waste. On a broader level, how do you get your entire kitchen brigade and FOH team doing all they can in their various jobs to ‘do their bit’ on reducing food waste? Collectively caring about where waste can be reduced will reap great rewards, small changes do count.
It’s easy to adopt the mentality that one’s own restaurant waste won’t affect the issue much more – particularly when supermarkets and homes bear the brunt, but real change will come only when our industry works transparently and collectively to encourage and reward behavioural change.
In recent years, the industry has welcomed technological advances that have helped in the food waste fight, apps such as Too Good To Go and Winnow, whose Waste Monitor helps kitchen track what and how food is being wasted. Our own recipe & menu engineering solution goes a long way to showing chefs where food waste is avoidable. But whilst this tech is helpful, it can’t solve the issue on its own.
As long-standing supporters and advocates of the industry we serve, we are now seeking ten restaurant operators to take part in Sustainable Restaurant Association’s six-week Food Waste Bad Taste (FWBT) scheme.
The cohort of Fourth-sponsored operators will nominate one or a handful of sites depending on the size of the estate, to spend six-weeks on the scheme. The pilot will offer operators step-by-step guidance on how to significantly reduce waste by delivering a practical, hands-on programme that’s been designed by foodservice professionals for foodservice professionals.
Previous participants include Farmacy Kitchen, Hawksmoor, OXO and Bread & Honey. There are no restrictions on operator size or type that can apply, or whether they are a Fourth customer.
As a company, we’re passionate about doing our bit, bringing our expertise to the table to support and drive forward the food waste agenda across the industry. Technology can only do so much in bringing about change when it comes to tackling the issues around food waste, it’s by working collaboratively and learning together as an industry to instigate behavioural changes that we can make tangible progress to combating the issue ahead of us.
Attributed to Carol Evans, Solution Director, Fourth