One of the great things about working with so many fantastic and diverse hospitality businesses, is that we keep learning new incredible things about the benefits of operating sustainably every single day.

This week’s breakfast seminar Food Sustainability for FMs: Act, Collaborate, Communicate, that we organised with Three Star Member Vacherin at their client, property company CBRE, threw up just such a gem.

The four panellists, Neelum Mohammad, CBRE’s Associate Director, Sustainable Engineering,  Anthony Kingsley, Sustainability and CSR Lead at Vacherin, Richard Swannell, Director of Sustainable Food Systems at WRAP and Daniel Crockett, Head of Communications, at bio-bean outlined the financial, environmental and societal imperatives for putting sustainability at the heart of catering operations.

Chaired by our MD Mark Linehan, the session saw a lively debate across a huge range of topics, but one nugget of information really stood out.

Serve sustainable food to attract the workforce you want

Neelum Mohammad of CBRE told the audience of hospitality professionals and facilities managers that food and nourishment is central to productivity, and a recent survey of CBRE employees in the US found that more than 80% thought that nutritious, healthy, sustainable food made them more productive. Now there’s a business case for providing staff with sustainable food.

She added: “We see sustainability and the circular economy as a game changer. Major organisations are paying it more attention and those that are engaged now will have a competitive edge. Those that don’t will be left behind and will find it increasingly hard to attract the workforce they want.”

Anthony Kingsley built on this point, saying that employers and caterers really have to think about the health and wellbeing of their workforce and customers. “The focus should be on more fruit and veg – as it’s healthier, cheaper and is better for the environment,” he added.

“We have the ability to make a positive impact, working in collaboration with our suppliers and clients who share our values. Our customers don’t want to feel guilty about their food and it’s the responsibility of FMs to take care of sustainability back of house.”

Richard Swannell of WRAP said that operators should start simple and consider two straightforward reasons for operating sustainably – because it’ll save them money and be the right thing to do.

Ensuring that customers are getting the food offering they want is one sure way of reducing food waste, he said. “Food waste costs hospitality £2.5 billion a year. That means you’re throwing away your money and your client’s money. But there are huge potential savings if you measure food waste, understand the causes and then plan to tackle it.”

Tips for reducing waste at events

Reducing by 15% the amount of food prepared for events was one way an SRA Member caterer had tackled food waste and saved money, said our MD Mark Linehan. While Anthony Kingsley, who was presented with Vacherin’s Three Star Food Made Good rating at the event, said the company had built a positive working relationship with charity partners like City Harvest who collect surplus food. Increasing the value placed on food was the best way to ensure people didn’t waste food in the first place. Putting it on the agenda of the board of directors each month, was an excellent way of pushing the issue up the list of priorities.

For operators looking to sustainability initiatives to provide a narrative, bio-bean certainly offers one potential solution. The company turns waste coffee into biofuel – every tonne of waste coffee provides 200 litres of biodiesel and 800 biomass pellets. “We recognise the value of the story that this gives businesses to tell their customers. And open-minded companies are recognising that narrative that they can tell and can see the commercial savings.”

So, the lessons learned:

  • People work more effectively when they eat healthy, sustainable food and want to work for employers that cater for their taste
  • Reducing food waste provides businesses with a commercial and communications success story