If not quite at home, then the kitchen of every catering and hospitality business is definitely the place to start when it comes to implementing good sustainability practice. There’s very little point in working with suppliers to responsibly source food and drink if it ultimately ends up in the bin.
This issue remains a challenge for the sector. The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and WRAP, the government backed waste prevention charity, estimate that one million tonnes of food is wasted across the foodservice sector each year, the equivalent of one in six of the eight billion meals served annually.
The research also estimates that 75% of this waste is avoidable, and it costs the sector £2.5bn a year or almost £20,000 for every site. On those figures, the cost of avoidable food waste is an average of 14p on every plate.
WRAP and the SRA also estimate that for every £1 an operator invests in reducing food waste, an average of £7 is saved over time. It all starts with the basics; when you plan menus and buy with tackling food waste in mind, it can help to eliminate many problems before they have a chance to occur:
- Update menus seasonally to feature fresh meat, seafood, fruit and veg when they are at their highest quality and best value;
- Make the most of food items that you can use right across the menu. For example, tomatoes can be served grilled alongside a steak, roasted, and used in soup, salads and sandwiches;
- Use flexible menu descriptions, such as ‘fish & chips made with freshly-battered catch of the day’; ‘Sunday roast with this week’s chef-selected cut’ and ‘served with fresh, seasonal vegetables’ to make the most of deals from suppliers;
- Offer a smaller option for main courses, as well as dishes that can double as starters or a main course.
- Customisation is an important trend. Allowing customers to pick their own sauces, garnish and side dishes from a list of choices, not only reduces waste from unwanted accompaniments, but can upsell by encouraging groups to share a few side orders;
- Ensure key kitchen staff have a good grasp of margins and GPs when planning menus and specials. If this is a challenge, encourage staff to download the FREE Lynx Purchasing GP Calculator App, https://www.lynxpurchasing.co.uk/purchasing-expertise/gp-calculator-app/ ;
- Offer take-home options for unfinished food and wine.
- Talk to your meat and fish supplier frequently and make the most of daily specials boards to feature the best-available produce;
- Buy cleverly and make best use of your suppliers’ skills; for example a catering butcher can not only cut steaks to size, but can use the beef trim to make burgers and pies, or make fishcakes with fish not needed for a fillet. The extra cost of asking a supplier to do this should be balanced against both kitchen time saved and increased yield from fresh meat and fish;
- Reduce packaging waste by bulk-buying larger catering packs, where storage allows. To keep waste down, focus bulk-buying on non-perishable items;
- Ask suppliers about the packaging they use, especially the bags, papers, plastic and boxes used for fresh produce – are they recyclable, compostable etc.? Will the supplier collect the packaging to recycle when they make their next delivery?
- As food deliveries arrive, rotate stock properly in cupboards and fridges so the shortest date products are always used first.
WRAP figures also show that food waste has ‘hidden’ costs such as the additional energy needed to transport, refrigerate and cook food that ends up being thrown away. When looking at potential cost savings, operators should also consider other aspects such as:
- Lights left on in cellars and storerooms;
- Kitchen equipment working too hard due to lack of maintenance or cleaning;
- Inefficient use of cleaning and hygiene products; an audit of most cupboards and storerooms will usually turn up plenty of half-used bottles and packs of floor cleaner, washing up liquid and dishwasher tablets etc. Use these up before buying more supplies;
- High energy bills; look at the deals available from energy suppliers and consider locking in a better deal.
It may not be the most exciting topic, but the savings accumulated by tackling waste and inefficiency can add up. Supporting our customers to get these basics right is just part of Lynx Purchasing’s commitment. Though our sustainability programme, we want to help our customers see how a more ethical and sustainable approach to purchasing can reduce their costs, while still keeping quality levels high.
As just one example, Lynx Purchasing has now joined the Sustainable Seafood Coalition (SSC) which is working to ensure that all fish and seafood sold in the UK comes from sustainable sources. We’re the first purchasing group to join, and our membership is part of a wider commitment to sustainability across our business.
You can find out more about our Sustainability Programme here: https://www.lynxpurchasing.co.uk/how-we-work/sustainability-policy/