An open discussion on legacy, sustainability and food waste
EP was delighted to be part of a relevant and engaging discussion this morning on the issues of legacy, sustainability and food waste. It is a campaign which needs to escalate across the hospitality industry and a dialogue is needed on a consistent basis in order to address the problems. The forum was hosted by Winnow Solutions and held at Gordon Dadds LLP
Marc Zornes, co-founder of Winnow, started the discussion with how he read a report five years ago which explained the shocking amounts of food which is thrown away – anywhere between a third and 40 per cent, or 1.5 percent of global GDP. This brought the scale of the problem home to Marc and inspired him to help find a solution.
Why is the focus on food waste so varied?
- It is only in the last five or six years that food waste has really been highlighted as such an important issue. There is more being done with sustainable goals bring rolled out by the UN and the hope is that in the future the dots will all connect. It is argued the industry is lacking solutions -the question asked is who should be at the forefront?
- WRAP’s Hospitality and Food Service Agreement is due in autumn and there has been more awareness of the issues, but not enough. Research indicates that more than 1.3 billion meals are wasted annually in UK’s hospitality and food service sector.
- The UK is a little bit more advanced in the conversation than other countries. There is more awareness but the questions being asked are on the education of the issues – are the tools good enough? Can they be made more accessible? The industry is so diverse, so how can this happen?
How does the industry currently support food waste reduction?
- Some foodservice companies want evidence and immediate results in the kitchen. The client is asking for it and they feel they have a duty to assist their clients in reducing waste. The ones that have adopted food waste technology such as the Winnow system, have argued that it really is a silver bullet once a real awareness of what’s being thrown away is taken on board by the chefs.
- For those who do not currently have these systems, are they providing their clients with the right proposition?
Does action to reduce food waste impact the customer?
- Some sites offer buffets which last for long periods, by shortening these times or reducing the amount available, will the customer become unsatisfied? Some customers take large amounts of food and don’t eat it all, how can we change this?
- The issue of abundant sales was also raised – if there are only a handful of items left does the customer presume there is something wrong?
Firstly changing the idea that reducing waste hurts the offering and using the buffet example above, a beautiful display can be achieved and by prioritising when cooking in the kitchen, by downsizing or changing the display an offer can still look right.
The cost of food waste amounts to around $1 trillion per year
What is the impact on the chefs?
- There are labour costs involved, as well as the financial savings, in terms of energy used by the human work force and equipment in the kitchens. This is a positive but how the situation is approached must be handled with care.
- There are currently no training programs to helps chefs through this process – does the training have to start in the catering schools?
- Do chefs and other team members need incentives to ensure they appreciate the importance of reducing food waste? Do head offices communicate effectivity and ensure chefs are involved from the very beginning of these discussions?
- If the kitchen does start to reduce food and runs out of something during service the chef doesn’t want to be the one who upsets the customer by making them wait – this is something that needs to be balanced against wastage.
Will strong advocates work from big companies?
- Companies are willing to share and tackle the issues but is there a fear that by tackling the issue it may impact in other ways?
- They should be proud of the competitive advantage they gain from being involved with reducing food waste.
- Does a ground level buy-in need to happen at the same time to drive the message?
Accor Hotels announced that globally they are cutting food waste by a third by 2020. An aggressive commitment from early adopters by monitoring and measuring food waste, and a good example to the rest of the industry.
Key action points taken from the discussion:
- Training programmes are required for chefs to ensure they fully understand the issues and feel involved.
- The importance of legacy is essential and how companies deal with sustainability is important for now and the future.
Senior level strong support from ambassadors on the issue could make real advances and are essential to grow the conversation.