No business likes waste. Throwing away produce and packaging costs money and the environment. Unfortunately, the restaurant industry has historically been one of the worst offenders. Envirowise estimate that the average UK restaurant disposes of 100 tonnes of waste per year, 75% of which is recyclable.
Slowly but surely restaurateurs are waking up to the realisation that cooking oil, bottles, cardboard and even vegetable peelings don't all have to be chucked in the same bin and sent off to landfill. WasteOnline estimates that UK businesses lose up to 4.5% of annual turnover through waste - that's throwing money away.
Until last year Lussmanns group of restaurants in Hertfordshire paid £25,000 a year to send all its waste to landfill. Now it's recycling 75% and paying almost half as much for the privilege. Meanwhile, by switching to recycling, The Alma in north London has reduced landfill by more than five tonnes of glass and two tonnes of cardboard.
Waste management and recycling schemes do vary greatly across the country. But, with a little research good schemes can generally be found.
Smarter back of house operating can also help restaurants greatly reduce food waste. A survey carried out by the Sustainable Restaurant Association in ten London restaurants last year found each one was wasting on average 21 tonnes of food a year - that's the weight of three London buses. A 20% reduction would save restaurants at least £2,000 a year. So, with a few simple steps you can reduce waste, save money, appeal more to customers and save the planet.
At the Modern Pantry Café and Deli head chef Anna Hansen combines a desire to excite the palate with a passion for reducing waste.
Hansen reviewed all aspects of the restaurant's waste, looking not just to reduce the amount of rubbish it was sending to landfill, but also because intelligent waste management saves money.
New smarter practices are saving the Modern Pantry close to £2,500 a year and don't come with a heavy workload. "We try wherever we can to reduce waste. It's the little things that make the difference and take no extra effort at all," says Hansen.
One key ingredient to Modern Pantry's waste success story has been close working relationships with suppliers. Gareth Balance now supplies its vegetables in reusable plastic crates and when H Forman and Sons delivers its salmon the driver waits until the fish is removed from the box, which is then returned, washed and reused for the next delivery.
Composting, smarter ordering and using off cuts and excess for staff meals are just some of the ways in which The Modern Pantry manages to cut food waste. A fridge de-humidifier is also used to improve shelf-life and optimise energy efficiency.
These measures combined with compacting cardboard onsite and bottling filtered water on site have helped the restaurant to savings of 35-40% on rubbish removal costs.
five ways to reduce waste
Identify and measure Audit your business to identify your main waste streams and address specific solutions for each type of waste. Those restaurants that have participated in the Sustainable Restaurant Association's food waste survey have made significant waste, and cost, savings.
Consult suppliers Most suppliers will be more than happy to work on solutions with you. They will be in a position to coordinate reusable boxes, pallets and packaging and reduce the amount of packaging coming into the restaurant in the first place. What's waste for you is usually waste for them, too.
Develop a strategy Develop a waste reduction policy and conduct staff training on waste reduction practices. If your team is engaged and encouraged they will be more likely to spot opportunities to reduce waste around the business.
Assess your stock Think of all the disposable catering items your business consumes, could it be replaced with reusable equipment? Supplies such as chopsticks, sauce pots, condiments and seasoning sachets can all be substituted with permanent apparatus.
Compact your waste Compacting your waste means you will be able to save money through the reduced amount of bins that need to have collected. It also means you will have less clutter and rubbish lying around.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association is a not-for-profit organisation helping restaurants become more sustainable