Sustainable catering options might be more expensive but customers can be convinced that it’s the right choice to make, says Robert Millar.
Historically, for contract caterers the sustainable option has usually been decided on a cost basis. These days clients don’t need much convincing to implement responsible, sustainable choices.
Many initiatives are being driven by clients and their staff from within, which makes the task of implementation and uptake even more seamless.
But if your clients need a push in the sustainable direction, consider these following two arguments.
1 It will engage millennials
Many employees from the millennial generation want to work for a company that cares about the environment. When their employer takes their ideas on board, they are more satisfied employees.
Additionally, a company focusing on the three Ps of sustainability – people, planet and profits – can use this to attract and retain talent.
2 Sustainable catering ties into their CSR
In addition to inspiring your employees, making your own operations as sustainable as possible feeds directly into corporate social responsibility efforts. This can give you the edge with potential customers looking to do business with companies with an eye on sustainability.
There are several examples within our own estate where making subtle changes has had a big impact.
Reusable coffee mugs
Increasingly clients are moving to provide merchandised, reusable travel mugs for coffee, for instance, with a fine on the tariff for those not using them, and for one client we were tasked with reducing use of disposables by 50 per cent.
After we took a client on a research trip to a recycling plant to show the sheer volume of waste and the time and resource it takes to separate waste, the company decided to issue each of its employees (more than 700) with a coffee KeepCup, a reusable soup cup and a jute-style bag. Although this was a large initial investment, 14 months later the company had covered its investment with the disposable cost saving alone.
Replacing single-use plastic bottled water with glass or cans is becoming more popular. They are recyclable with close to zero loss of properties, which keeps the material within the circular economy and out of general waste streams if recycled correctly.
There are costs associated with missing stainless steel cutlery but businesses should factor this into operational costs. Stainless steel or bamboo alternatives are quick wins to improve sustainable offerings.
Removing single-use pots for salad, fruit pieces and protein items and replace with Kilner-style jars, which need to be returned. Make this known to end users through highly visible countertop messaging.
Choose sustainability and communicate your choice
Once clients have been persuaded of the value of sustainable catering choices, make sure to communicate this choice to end users. It is critical as part of a broader educational strategy.
We recently engaged with Dr Lily Da Gama, founder of The Food Waste Doctor and an expert in how organisations can better manage the environmental balance between food and packaging waste levels. Her advice on engaging with consumers is particularly noteworthy.
“I would advise utilising every form of contact you have. Depending on the type of business you run you can use your website, your menus, your posters, your serving staff,” says Da Gama. “The key is to start a dialogue. Explain why you’re making this a priority and not only does it help educate your customers and hopefully helps the planet, but it also showcases your environmental credentials!”
How you address areas that can be affected, as we have seen in the case of catering operations, can influence how your staff view your business, their levels of satisfaction, how your own CSR initiatives develop and how your customers view you as a viable business partner. Act now, and the benefits you will experience will be good for people, planet and profits alike.
Robert Millar is operations director at Blue Apple Catering