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'Substantial meal' rule sees restaurants and bars struggle with rise in food waste

09 December 2020 by
'Substantial meal' rule sees restaurants and bars struggle with rise in food waste

Hospitality operators in Tier 2 areas say they are struggling to deal with a rise in food waste which could see thousands of pounds worth of uneaten dishes thrown away.

Under Tier 2 rules restaurants, pubs and bars can only serve alcohol if it is alongside a ‘substantial meal'.

This has led to an increase in leftovers, which are difficult to donate to food waste charities due to safety rules.

"People just want to have a business meeting or a drink with their families so the amount of wasted food is astronomical," said Stuart Procter, chief operating officer of the Stafford Collection which includes the Stafford London hotel in St James', home to the American Bar.

"They are ordering oysters and leaving them, scotch eggs too. It's incredible. Over the period of time we're going to be in Tier 2 it will add up to thousands of pounds of waste.

"It's really sad when there are homeless people in London and we're just throwing food away. There are many restaurants, hotels and pubs doing the same."

George Purnell, founder of Koop + Kraft restaurant in Cowplain (pictured), estimates that on average customers are wasting £5-£10 of food a head.

He said it was impossible to cut portion sizes as meals legally had to be a ‘substantial' size.

"Everyone in the industry saw this problem coming," Purnell added. "It will be like the 10pm curfew, which didn't make sense. The government are on the wrong side of history on this.

"We've also noticed a lot of people are drinking more than normal. We were expecting our alcohol sales to go down but they haven't changed. I don't think that's what the government was intending."

He said it was more difficult to find food waste charities to work with being based in a village in Hampshire. "We're not having much luck and are having to chuck a lot of away," he said.

The Yummy Pub Co, which runs four sites in London and the south east, has adapted its menus to reduce waste. At the Somers Town Coffee House pub in Euston dishes now have a greater crossover of ingredients and a reduced number of garnishes.

Co-founder Tim Foster said this has cut the number of prep items in the kitchens by 50%. "It's been a lot of work, but also great to really review the seasonality of the dishes," he said.

A spokesperson for London food waste charity the Felix Project said it has been offered a ‘substantial' amount of surplus food under Tier 2 but was unable to accept hot meals that have sat out on tables due to safety reasons.

The group is now trying to connect restaurants and bars with nearby food banks who may be able to collect and distribute meals safely in a short window of time.

Richard Smith, head of supply at the Felix Project, said: "The Felix Project will always take surplus food when it's safe. Unfortunately we haven't been able to take recent offers from bars where food has been ordered and not eaten. Traditionally there is a lot of waste at Christmas time and we ask all food producers to get in touch if they have any surplus."

Jamie Crummie, co-founder of the Too Good To Go app, which lets people buy excess food from hospitality and retail venues, added that pubs should encourage customers to take leftover food home with them.

Brewdog has started offering 'doggie bags' with all its sit-in meals for guests to take leftovers home or "give to someone in need" to reduce food waste.

The government is due to review the current tier system on 16 December.

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