You’ll have heard a lot about how taking action to make your restaurant business more sustainable will help save the planet. But have you heard about how much it will save you? A report by the UK’s Waste Resources Action Plan (WRAP) in association with the World Resources Institute (WIR), found that every £1 spent on food waste reduction delivered a saving of £7¹. And that is just food waste.
There is a huge range of other sustainability measures you can take that will also improve your margins. At a time when food, energy and delivery costs are all on the rise, we thought it would be a good opportunity to take you through some ideas to help make your business more sustainable both environmentally and financially.
Why food waste is such a weighty issue
Food production is responsible for around 37% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions² and yet research reveals that around one third of what we produce ends up in the bin.
There will always be a certain amount of food waste that cannot be avoided, however, it is important to remember organic waste will give off methane if it makes its way into landfill. This is why it is so important that it is collected for separate processing and one of the key reasons the Government charge nearly £100 a tonne for anything going to landfill. Food waste generally weighs more than other waste streams so, if yours is ending up in your general waste, you will be getting charged for it.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) views a separate food waste collection as one of the most important factors in assessing your sustainability rating.
While you may not have a use for it, food waste is a hugely valuable resource. Our food waste recovery teams take food waste to anaerobic digestion plants where it is used to make renewable energy in the form of electricity and biogas, and organic fertiliser. By having your food waste collected separately, you can be safe in the knowledge that your food waste is contributing to the energy and food you consume as well as reducing the volume and weight of your general waste.
The first step to avoidable food waste reduction is an audit
To reduce food waste, you need to understand where it comes from. A recent survey carried out for the SRA revealed that 80% of restaurants didn’t know where their food waste comes from³. To address this, they have teamed up with WRAP to devise Food Waste: Bad Taste. It’s a six week online programme to help restaurant businesses tackle the issues of food waste head on.
WRAP’s research indicates that food waste breaks down into three main categories: preparation, customer leftovers and spoilage⁴. All three can be addressed by a range of strategies.
Training kitchen employees will encourage them to adopt less wasteful preparation techniques, make better use of trimmings and find ways to repurpose excess foods.
WRAP’s study found that over a quarter of diners left food on their plates and analysing that plate waste will help you find out why. Solutions might result in reducing portion sizes, replacing salad garnishes with microherbs and offering more flexibility in what goes onto diners’ plates.
Zero Waste Scotland research found that offering doggy bags up-front, helped diners’ overcome their reluctance to ask for one and reduced plate waste considerably.
The problem of spoilage is somewhat easier to resolve and it can be completely avoided by taking a smarter approach to food with improved inventory - revising ordering, labelling, planning and storage strategies. Once again, employee engagement and training lie at the heart of getting your strategies implemented effectively.
All of these will help reduce the volume of food waste and they will reduce the amount of food you need to buy in the first place.
Carbon miles are now also cash miles
Sourcing seasonal ingredients locally reduces the burden of transportation costs. Reconfiguring menus to take advantage of sustainable local produce will help reduce those costs (as well as being appreciated by your climate-conscious customers). Shortening your supply chain will reduce the need for protective packaging and allow your suppliers to collect reusable packaging when they deliver your next order.
This is called “reverse logistics” and reduces both the carbon miles and the cost of delivery. It is something we have been doing at Olleco for many years - using the same vehicles to deliver fresh cooking oils and collect used cooking oil. We also operate a network of local depots right across the UK which helps us to keep carbon miles to a minimum.
Could better packaging save a packet?
In virtually every sustainability survey, packaging comes high on people’s lists of concerns. UK restaurants produce 1.3 million tonnes of packaging waste every year and nearly 40% of it cannot be recycled⁵. Working with suppliers to use reusable packaging will not only improve your sustainability but will reduce your waste collection and disposal costs. At Olleco, we encourage customers to reuse the containers they get their fresh oil in to return used oil. We’ve even designed bespoke funnels to enable customers to decant their used oil quickly and safely. It saves our customers the expense of getting their used containers collected and reduces the need for additional containers.
Sustainability won’t just save you money, it’ll help you make it
Sustainability can be a major driver for consumers and getting it right and marketing it well will win you customers willing to pay a premium for your efforts. It will also inspire them to talk about you to friends and colleagues.
Research in 2021 revealed that 67% of both Generation X and Millennials now prefer to buy from sustainable brands with Generation Z not far behind at 55%⁶.
In the hospitality industry, that trend is even more marked. Research company, CGA’s Future Shock Report
produced in association with UK Hospitality to reveals that 83% of respondents expect hospitality brands to be more sustainable. They found that 41% of the 5,000 consumers surveyed would be prepared to pay more to know that their dining experience was a sustainable one.
When asked about their priorities, two thirds said they expected to see ethical sourcing of food and drink, while 50% wanted to see evidence of reduced carbon footprint through menu engineering and improved resource usage. And if you offer a take away service, you’ll want to note that over half want to see environmentally-friendly packaging.
We’ve covered only some of the things you can do to improve the environment and your bottom line and there are more available. Commercial kitchens use up to ten times⁷ the energy of standard business premises so energy efficiencies here can deliver big savings. Energy and water efficiency measures such as installing LED lights, renewable technologies and aerating taps will all have beneficial impacts on your utilities bills as well as the environment. Going paper-free with digital menus and receipts will also save money and trees. To find out more about how we can help you enhance the sustainability of your cooking oil and unavoidable food waste, please get in touch. The quote builder tool on our website is the simplest way to start a conversation and let us know how we can help.