Waste Not, Want Not
Food waste is a global problem. In the UK alone, it costs the pub sector £357 million a year, the restaurant sector £682 million and the education sector £250 million. And, with 1.3 billion meals wasted annually in the hospitality and foodservice sector, it is time for everyone in the industry to take note.
Steps have been taken. Courtauld 2025 is a voluntary agreement that brings together organisations across the food industry – from producer to consumer – to make food and drink production and consumption more sustainable. Their aim is to cut the resource needed to provide food and drink by one-fifth in 10 years. And the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement has put measures in place to help support the sector in an attempt to reduce waste and increase recycling.
From prepping food to recycling, it doesn’t matter if you are a high-street deli, a country pub or an inner city school, if you buy less, you won’t waste as much food and this will save you money as well as reducing the strain we’re putting on our resources.
Here are some measures that could help you and your staff to reduce food waste.
• Buy what you need! – if something on the menu isn’t selling well or on a particular day you sell less of one item, then order less of it when you next buy your stock – you can always top the order up again if it changes.
• Buy seasonal – creating a seasonal menu will reduce spoilage and food miles.
• Freeze food immediately – this way, you can take products and ingredients out as you need them.
• Store fresh produce in the right way to avoid food spoiling.
• Use preparation waste – meat off-cuts and bone for stock, salmon trim makes great canapés.
• ‘Best before’ and ‘use by’ dates on products should be checked daily by a member of staff. Perhaps appoint a ‘waste champion’ whose job at the end of the day is to check these products and flag up anything nearing its date. You could then create a specials dish for the next day’s menu – this works really well with fish, for example, as you can create a menu around pre-cooked fish dishes. You could also use the ingredient to develop a unique dish, like soup, or donate to a local food bank or charity.
• Use leftovers creatively – mashed potato makes great hot potato soup, celery leaves can be made into celery salt or if you have a tonne of chips why not put them on the bar as a free of charge snack? Saves you wasting them and makes for good PR!
• Leave the skin on chips and roast potatoes, and use herbs efficiently – don’t discard stalks, use them too.
Plate it up
• Offer customers another portion size other than a children’s one – if an elderly customer chooses a dish you know is large ask if they’d prefer a smaller portion. Equally, a healthy eater may want a ‘light bite’ instead of a main.
• Go easy on the garnish – depending what it is and who it is for, it often gets left on the plate.
• Make it clear what is on the plate – if a main comes with a side salad and chips, confirm the customer wants both or either of them. Chips are the most commonly left food.
• Offer a doggy bag – if you spot a customer with a less than empty plate, ask if they’d like to take it away. Most of the time they want to but are too embarrassed to ask! 41% of customers surveyed blamed oversized portions for leaving food.
• Make a note of food returns and waste – is there a common thread? If so, stop putting it on the plate.
End of service
• Offer food to staff at the end of the day – if there are any products you know can’t be used the next day why not ask staff at the end of service if there is anything they want to take home? It’s better than it going in the bin!
• Offer leftovers to a school – many schools have breakfast clubs so if you have plenty of ambient products like bread rolls to be used by the next day, why not offer them to a local school for the following morning? It is important to make it clear that it has to be used that day.
• Offer unused food to a food bank, homeless shelter, hospice or children’s football league – any surplus packaged food, bags of salad, fruit and veg, or ambient food like bread and cakes that
need to be eaten by the end of the next day you could drop off that night or first thing. Again, just reiterate the ‘use by’ date.
• Ensure bins are clearly labelled and everything is going in the right one.
• Vegetable oil – collections should be carried out by a registered waste carrier.
• Check that the waste service provider you use is giving you the best deal.
• Look into working with other local businesses to combine waste and share costs.
• Appoint a dedicated person – or depending on size of business create a rota so that the recycling is always managed properly.
Measure and monitor binned food
• Measure and monitor binned food as a one-week trial and repeat at least twice a year – it’ll enable you to identify the cost of waste to be identified.
• Collect waste in three bins: preparation, spoilage and plate waste.
• Weigh waste daily to find out where the most food waste is being generated.
Waste regulations in Scotland
In 2014, a ban on food waste being disposed of to landfill and to sewer was imposed, and a requirement was introduced to separate food waste and certain packaging wastes for recycling. But since January this year, food businesses in nonrural areas who generate more than 5kg of food waste per week are legally required to have it collected for recycling – it was previously 50kg.
You can take your own measures at home too to reduce waste.
• Plan your weekly shop and only buy what you need and know you will eat.
• Stick to your list while shopping – don’t be tempted to add additional items to your basket or trolley.
• Freeze what you can immediately – that way, if your daily food plan changes, those particular products won’t go to waste.
• Stick to portion sizes – weigh and measure ingredients pre cooking so you know you aren’t making too much. And if you do, freeze it for another day!
Why do we need to act?
• More than 2 billion extra people to feed by 2050
• Food supply in 2050 could contribute 2 degrees to global warming
• For every two tonnes we eat, another tonne is wasted
• 8 of the top 10 countries we import food from are drought prone
For more information