AUTHOR: TOM TANNER

What’s the best way to kick off a hands-on, practical programme designed to help foodservice businesses really get to grips with their food waste? Yep – that’s right, gather together some of the finest food waste fighters in the land to share their biggest battles and greatest victories with those looking for inspiration and yet to take up arms.

The Montague on the Gardens Hotel was packed to the rafters and abuzz with ideas, as chefs and procurement managers and representatives of suppliers, waste management businesses, and even the government’s own food waste champion, Ben Elliot took to the stage to issue a collective call to action. This was most eloquently espoused by Steve Packer, Director of Supply Chain at Pizza Hut Restaurants, who when asked to advise a food waste newbie said: “Don’t be daunted. There’s a moral, environmental and financial imperative. Just do it. Get stuck in. It’s really not that difficult.”

It’s that can-do approach that the Food Waste: Bad Taste impact programme aims to bottle and share. A short introductory video presented by Community Manager Hannah spelled out the simple steps participants will take on the six-week programme and the repository of resources that will be at their disposal to help reach their potential. Chief among these will be the bespoke section of the Food Made Good Online Community where everyone engaged in Food Waste: Bad Taste can share with the fellow food waste fighters every bump they encounter along the way as well as those special Eureka moments.

Whether it was our trio of chefs, Conor Spacey of Irish caterer Foodspace, Simon of Darwin & Wallace and Kae Shibata of The Ritz, or the operations experts, Emmy van Beek from Hawksmoor, Pizza Hut Restaurants’ Steve Packer, Yeshna Mistry of caterer Vacherin or James Cooksey of The Crown Estate, the overwhelming message was that to have the same impact on food waste as we have had in the last couple of years on plastic, we need to change mindsets if we are to change behaviour. That’s as much on a micro-level as it is at scale – and there are examples of success.

“We have to make it as unacceptable to waste food as it is drink drive or smoke.”

Emmy of Hawksmoor, which is one of the first group of businesses to go through the SRA’s programme, was optimistic. “If you can fold and count napkins you can weigh a bin and write it down and consolidate that info and then inform the chef so we can make meaningful change. Our Front of House are really passionate about this. They know it’s the right thing to do.” Meanwhile in their kitchen, weekly training sessions remind chefs of the value of the ingredients particularly their core product – steak. Chefs are also constantly encouraged to review dishes, to see if they could be made even better with fewer ingredients.

The audience was reminded that foodservice is exactly that, a service industry in which the customer is king. But does that mean that the restaurant can and should do nothing to affect ordering decisions? The challenges of an upscale steak restaurant and the all you can eat salad buffet on the high street are different. We were told that eager diners in danger of massively over-ordering at Hawksmoor, are politely reminded that they can order more during their meal. Steve Packer said he feared that customers at Pizza Hut Restaurants would continue to pile their plates high at the buffet until they were persuaded to care as much about food waste as they do about plastic straws. “We have to make it as unacceptable to waste food as it is drink drive or smoke.”

Back of house, Pizza Hut has taken giant strides, halving the volume of cheese waste and, through intensive training upping segregation from 20 to 80%.  Steve advised everyone to check out what’s actually going in their bins and to question their waste contractor on the data provided – too many identical figures means they’re only providing estimates on the weight of waste.

This week’s launch event and the Food Waste Bad Taste programme itself follow the food waste hierarchy: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. The redistributors in the room, from Olio, FareShare and Karma, reminded us that once you’ve taken steps to reduce – there are ways, beyond feeding your staff, to ensure food reaches a human stomach. Samantha Lai, of Fareshare urged everyone to think differently- to thinking about it as a valuable resource with which to feed people, rather than a problem; picture meals and not tonnage. This foursome of food waste fighters also reminded us that redistribution is a not to be missed opportunity to turn a bad news story – photos of bins overflowing with food waste – into some great PR with a dining public hungry to eat their way to a solution. It can also, if you opt for the app management route, help you develop a new income stream, selling on food that historically went in the bin. For those keen to find out more about the various redistribution options – check out the resources section of the Food Made Good online community.

Our keynote speaker Ben Elliot, the government’s food waste champion, urged businesses to take this opportunity. “I know it comes with challenges but there is always more you can do. Together we can do this, and the UK can become a leader, making our children and grandchildren proud.”

 

 

Before the government resorts to its regulatory stick, grab the SRA’s carrot of this practical, free impact programme and devour it root to fruit – a stepping-stone for you and the whole industry on the road to meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goal 12.3, to halve food waste by 2030.

For more information about how you and your business can benefit from Food Waste: Bad Taste click here.