The UK manager of food waste app Too Good To Go and founder of Cut + Grind speaks to Caroline Baldwin about fighting food waste in the hospitality industry to meet sustainability goals, protect margins and enhance the quality of kitchen output.
When did you first become passionate about food waste?
In the EU, 12% of all food waste happens at a foodservice level. Having worked in the hospitality and leisure industry the majority of my career, I've witnessed all the waste that can come out of commercial kitchens. But, when launching my own restaurant brand Cut + Grind, I really noticed the impact that food waste can have from an operations level. In fact, the cost of food waste from the UK hospitality and foodservice sector is estimated at £3.2b per year.
Food waste has been a hot topic in recent years, but what is preventing the hospitality industry from becoming more sustainable?
The unpredictable nature of demand – we can't control the weather, after all. Sometimes all it takes is for a sudden rain shower to decimate that day's demand with no warning. It is this inherent fluctuation that can lead to unavoidable food waste.
What are the benefits to fighting food waste in professional kitchens?
There's a win for the customer, who gets the chance to try fresh, tasty food from businesses that care, a win for the environment, from all the food and CO2 that is saved, and a win for the business in improved food costs.
What are your top three tips for hospitality businesses who want to become more sustainable?
First, highlight food waste in your business and create an open dialogue about it with the team. Only by understanding where and why waste is occurring can you act on it and ensure that tools and processes are adopted to prevent it.
Only by understanding where and why waste is occurring can you act on it and ensure that tools and processes are adopted to prevent it
Next, work with seasonal menus. Seasonality isn't just something for high-end restaurants – consumers are becoming much more aware of where their food comes from and with it comes a greater understanding of seasonal availability.
And finally, use technology. The data and insights we get from technology let us tackle the issue with a level of nuance – and on a scale – that was unprecedented until now.
How has Covid-19 impacted hospitality's journey to reducing its food waste?
There has been an impact for sure – with more peaks and troughs comes more surplus risk. But the industry has been resourceful and found ways, like working with Too Good To Go, to manage this impact. Overall I'd say the lockdowns have taught the industry to value every gram of food.
How are you distributing surplus food in a Covid-safe way?
Our app is designed to be contact-free. Users order through the app ahead of time and collect their magic bag [of surplus food] in the collection window set by the business. The customer just needs to show the receipt on their phone to a member of staff and self-swipe the confirmation.
Outside food waste, what else can the industry do to become more sustainable?
Our industry is energy-heavy. Looking at who supplies your energy and choosing green tariffs is a huge way of boosting sustainability across the board.
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