THE RESTAURANT GROUP
ARE YOU GONNA EAT THAT?
When your biggest problem is the one you already sold
After conducting a spoilage, preparation and plate waste audit with The Sustainable Restaurant Association (The SRA), The Restaurant Group (TRG) identified plate waste as the source of around 80% of their total food waste. This in turn highlighted a much bigger opportunity.
Plate waste is an industry-wide problem
Huge proportions of plate waste are quite common across hospitality and a very difficult issue to resolve. Simply put, many businesses feel as though they have already made their money at this stage, and that if diners choose not to eat what they have bought and paid for, that’s not really up to the business to question. Apart from offering a doggy bag, many feel their responsibility ends here.
The other major concern for many businesses is the 'value for money' perception. It is fair to say not everyone can or wants to finish a standard portion, but what they do want is to feel as though they were given enough for what they paid. Needless to say, working specifically on plate waste is challenging task.
The problem is bigger than our eyes can see
Globally, it is estimated that over one-third of all food produced for human consumption is wasted or lost. Considering that over 800 million people go hungry each day, over 650 million are considered obese, and the global food production contributes nearly 10% of all GHG emissions – the way we consume really is everyone’s problem, and we all have a role to play in working towards a more just food system.
Taking a deeper look can provide some valuable insights and opportunities
To support The Restaurant Group on their journey toward more sustainable operations with regards to food waste, we first helped them understand what was being wasted and in what quantities.
Using a survey for Front of House teams across TRG’s various brands: wagamama, Brunning & Price, Firejacks, Frankie & Benny’s and Chiquito, staff observed which elements from various dishes were the highest contributors to waste, per shift, over a week - identifying the ‘common offenders’ that were causing plate waste per brand. Kitchen porters were also tasked with weighing segregated plate waste after each service, for one week, to understand how plate waste was being created in total. Finally, general managers and assistants were trained on the audit process, enabling them to cascade these learnings to sites across the estates. As part of the final evaluation, they were interviewed to provide more detailed insights. The main conclusions were:
- Carbohydrate based foods were the biggest cause of TRG’s plate waste: rice, noodles and chips specifically.
- Recipe cards were based on accurate portions, but non-adherence to these outlined portions was a major contributor to the plate waste volumes.
- The more teams were trained and engaged in reduction initiatives, the greater the impact.
Knowing is half the battle
The SRA helped the Group by facilitating a reduction initiative designed per brand, to tackle the most wasted dishes. A pilot was launched across a few sites to reveal the effectiveness of scaling up the initiative and the potential impact.
Let the numbers do the talking
- Front of house staff are key informants for identifying what is driving plate waste.
- Impact metrics are key: identify a problem, make a change, measure the impact and scale!
- Restaurants can shift the dial on plate waste. It isn’t just the customer’s decision; brands can influence portion size, remove regularly wasted ingredients and consider plate architecture and dish design to influence consumption and value for money perceptions.
This insightful and collaborative project between The Sustainable Restaurant Association and The Restaurant Group has helped inform a wider food waste reduction strategy of which plate waste is a main feature. The Restaurant Group should be applauded for taking these steps and leaning into a problem from which many businesses simply shy away.
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