12 August 2016 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal
Food waste costs the UK food service sector £2.5 billion+ a year. How can FM combat this? Herpreet Kaur Grewal reports.
Recently the owner of a restaurant in India had the idea of placing a fridge outside its premises, laden with uneaten food. The idea was so that any homeless people could periodically take any leftover food that was placed in it.
This is undoubtedly a simple and kind idea and one that has the added benefit of saving the restaurant throwing out food as waste. On a bigger scale, many companies are committing to the idea of reducing food waste much more widely.
Recent figures published by WRAP (The Waste and Resources Action Programme) showed the true cost of food waste to the UK hospitality and food service sector is more than £2.5 billion a year - that's one in every six meals served. In some areas the percentage can be a lot higher.
Julian Fris, founder and director of facilities management consultancy Neller Davies, said the organisation conducted some research and found that in places like universities the figure rises to over 25 per cent; in hospitals food wastage sits at the 30 per cent mark (astonishing given the levels of malnutrition in some patients leaving hospital); and in the business and industry sector or workplace catering environment the figure can also reach as high as 40 per cent - especially when you include hospitality and client fine dining.
Stephanie Hamilton, managing director of ISS Food & Hospitality, told FM World: "Our ethos is to use food wisely and produce great food experiences. Wasting surplus food is wrong on many levels from the ethical to the business point of view. We need to connect with people to encourage them think about how much they truly need, through to working with our clients to ensure they understand the bottom line impact of their KPIs."
ISS also points out the necessity of good kitchen management to minimise food waste. Lloyd Mann, food services director, ISS Food & Hospitality, says: "Good kitchen husbandry is key to success in any catering business and understanding ways to utilise ingredients or products that are deemed as waste will ultimately save money."
Carl Morris, director of marketing and corporate communications at catering company Elior, says the firm has more than 650 sites in the UK, so managing food waste "is an important issue".
For example, the company says it has made a significant reduction in its carbon footprint by recycling its cooking oil through Bidvest Foodservice's zero recycling scheme.
Morris says: "By giving it to Bidvest to turn into biofuel, we've saved 343.14 tonnes of CO2 across the business."
He also said: "At one of our defence sites coffee grounds were identified as accounting for almost two-thirds of food waste. These coffee grounds are now available to team members as garden compost. Uptake has been excellent and general waste at this location has reduced by almost 45 per cent."
What is good kitchen husbandry?
Less is more - cooking in small batches helps add control to managing waste, so replenish more regularly and condense the food offer if possible.
Plate waste - regularly monitor what's coming back from customers' plates to see if menus are being over-produced. If you are doing this, plan this into your menu design and adjust portions.
Ordering - don't just order what you have always ordered. Monitor what sold last time and if you had portions left over and amend production and ordering accordingly.
What's sold? - a key area that is often overlooked. Just checking production numbers against sales will help you identify any future over production leading to a reduction of waste.
Kitchen waste - know what you are throwing away. Measure it and task yourself to reduce how many bags of waste come from the kitchen.