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The Hospitality & Events (H&E) team at the University of Manchester operates cafés, restaurants and hospitality services across the campus for 40,000 students and 12,000 staff.
H&E sets its targets within a sustainable resources plan and is committed to offering healthy and sustainable catering that is produced, processed and traded in ways that contribute to the local economies and sustainable livelihoods. It also pledges to avoid damaging the planet, to enhance animal welfare and provide social benefits. H&E has a target to achieve three stars from the Sustainable Restaurant Association, and to date it has three stars for its catered halls and Greenhouse café and two stars for its on-campus bistro.
The judges unanimously chose the university as their winner for its wide range of sustainable initiatives, such as the introduction of Meat Free Mondays, its use of organic milk, the fact that 54% of the beef on its menus is organic, and its partnership with a Manchester vegetable box scheme to distribute organic vegetables to students.
It has introduced tray-free dining, where students help themselves to the portions they want to eat and scrape their own plates, making them more aware of food waste. All waste in the dining areas is recycled, and the university has also opened a vegetarian café. A Land Army student volunteer scheme works with organic farmers on local farms.
Students can buy fruit and vegetables from a stall, and unwanted food is redistributed through Humanity Giving Back, a charity that distributes surplus food to Manchester-based organisations who support vulnerable people.
Students and staff support H&E in its sustainability quest, in that they prefer to use internal catering outlets as they know they are environmentally responsible.
Some of the initiatives have supported the bottom line. Annual sales in the vegetarian café have increased from the first year of operation in 2014 from £90,000 to this year’s forecast of £190,000, and the waste strategy has had a positive impact on margins.
H&E has been recycling cardboard, paper, aluminium, oil, plastics and glass since 2007, and Manchester was the first university in 2006 to stock One Water, which supports water projects in Africa. Since 2011, 9,000 students every year have been given a reusable eco bottle to encourage water fountain usage.
The university operates a diverse set of businesses: a 72-bed hotel, an all-year conference centre, nine catered halls, 23 cafés, six restaurants, a convenience store and a hospitality department delivering events across campus. H&E is seen as an exemplar department at the university and as a business model that could be replicated in the sector.
What the judges said
“You get a great sense of passion and pride from this entry.”
“This is an excellent, well-rounded approach.”
“H&E excelled at pushing forward sustainable actions, particularly in product sourcing.”
“The breadth and depth of this entry is fantastic and stands out as a beacon for others.”
Fairmont St Andrews
The University of Manchester
Tim Bouget Chef, owner and director, ODE True Food
Dominic Burbridge Associate director – business advice, the Carbon Trust
Clephane Compton Director, Sustainable Consulting
Mike Hanson Head of sustainable business, BaxterStorey
Rebecca Hawkins Managing director, Responsible Hospitality Partnership
Simon Numphud Managing director, the AA
David Nuttall Catering manager, Harper Adams University
Jon Proctor Chief executive, Green Tourism
Andrew Stephen Chief executive, Sustainable Restaurant Association