Around 3,415,000 tonnes of waste is disposed in the foodservice sector every year, according to resource efficiency experts WRAP. We hear from international and national restaurants on how they are contributing to reducing the vast amount of food wasted globally.

David Moore, owner of Michelin star restaurant Pied à Terre

“It’s no secret that over the last few years people have become much more conscious about how the food they consume harms the environment and just how much of the food we all waste can be redistributed.

“We’re consistently working up new ways to ensure our food preparation and rejuvenation methods are efficient. One of the initiatives we’ve been using for a few years now is the complete recycling of food waste to grow vegetables, herbs and garnishes which then come back to the restaurant and on diners plates again. Whatever’s not eaten by our customers from a carcass to bones to the fat is composted – we have also been recycling our used coffee ground now, which gets made into biodiesel!”

Simon Redfern, head of communications at Starbucks Europe

Starbucks recently introduced an initiative whereby any food nearing its expiry date and usually thrown out will be sold at half price. Any proceeds from the sale then goes to Action Against Hunger to help malnourished children globally. The programme was initially trialled in 16 Starbucks stores in Manchester.

“Tackling a challenge like food waste is not an easy one, but we’re proud to have developed a programme which will deliver for the long term. Off the back of the success of our Manchester trial, we’re pleased to roll out this programme to the rest of our company owned British stores, and will be working with our franchise partners to see where else this programme could work as well. Action Against Hunger is a respected international charity, and we’re looking forward to working with them on this initiative to support projects alleviating the impact of food poverty.”

Adam Banks, head chef at Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall

Banks broke down the ways in which Fifteen Cornwall tries to reduce food waste. 

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“Potatoes – when we peel the potatoes for the our sandy potatoes dish, we then roast off the peelings and create the sauce by blending with pecorino and whey. We also make sure that we use curds and whey from goats milk, with curds used in dishes such as salads and the whey used in sauces. We try to find ways to use as much of every ingredient as we can.”

The ‘anti-food waste process’ wasn’t easy either. “At first it was a challenge, not because the team didn’t care, but just because they weren’t in the habit and maybe weren’t knowledgeable enough about the possibilities. Now the team look to use everything. The vegetables we use to make the vegetable stock we used to just throw out, which means in effect you’re just throwing out a cooked vegetable. Now we use the vegetables in the tomato sauce we make for children’s pasta.”

Benn Hodges, culinary director at gourmet ready-meal EatFirst

“From the procurement of our fresh ingredients to the containers we deliver our meals in, we are always trying to make our carbon footprint as small as possible. By using 95% biodegradable packaging for our meals, we are reducing the use of plastic and any that we do use is 100% recyclable. We also always try to come up with imaginative ways to not only use excess ingredients but the actual produce itself that many would throw away.

“Such as using the pulp from your juicer to make compost, fermenting and pickling kale stalks and broccoli stems, using vegetable trimmings to create a delicious and natural vegetable stock, turning tomato trimmings into tomato and chilli jams, and dehydrating prawn shells to add to salts.

“We make sure to control every aspect of our kitchen to the best of our ability which is why every one of our suppliers is hand-picked. One of our newest additions, Rubies in the Rubble, take fruit and veg that appears to have gone a bit pear-shaped and transforms them into delicious sauces and chutneys.”

Janet Cox, Head of Risk & Compliance at KFC UKI

“We can’t stand food waste and always want to do our part in minimising it as much as possible. Since 2014, we’ve been actively running our award-winning Food Donation Scheme, which is now carried out by over 550 of our restaurants. Under the scheme, we regularly donate any of our unsold chicken to local charities, which not only cuts our waste but also makes a huge difference to the local community. We’re working flat out to build and expand the scheme as much as possible, by continuing to build strong relationships with our local charity partners.”

Chipotle’s ambitious food waste target

Other big chains have been making commitments to help lower food waste too, including US-based Chipotle.

The Mexican-inspired chain has made plans to reduce the amount of food and packaging waste heading to landfills, with a diversion rate of 50% by 2020. In 2017, its target had reached 40%.

Caitlin Liebert, Chipotle sustainability lead said: “Landfills can often contain materials that could have been recycled or composted for greater environmental benefits, but instead emit greenhouse gases that may contribute significantly to global climate change. By diverting materials that would otherwise be sent to a landfill, Chipotle is doing its part to help lower emissions.

“A few of the best practices we have implemented include programmes such as Chipotle’s Mindful Prep initiative, which trains restaurant staff to minimise food waste during the preparation process. We adjust services and food preparation to its sales per restaurant so less food is going to waste at the end of day.

“By 2020, we pledge that 80% of our restaurants will participate in the Harvest Programme, which donates leftover food to local community organisations. We are also committed to increasing the availability of composting in restaurants to 20% by 2020.

“We are happy with the results so far. A fifty percent diversion rate is a tough goal but we’re passionate about meeting it.”

Internet of Things (IoT) experts have their say

IMS Evolve believes that IoT can help restaurants tackle their food waste issues. CCO Jason Kay said: “The world today has a vast problem with food, we grow enough food to feed 12 billion – far in excess of the seven billion population – yet more than one billion people are under fed. The UN estimates that, on our current path of food consumption and waste, by 2050 we will reach a tipping point and the world will be in a food crisis.

“This research proves it’s imperative for food retailers and foodservice providers to recognise, and work to change, both their internal processes and the consumer mindset to reduce food wastage. The current model is clearly unsustainable and there must be a systematic change from the top down in order to have an impact. For foodservice businesses, there is an opportunity to transform the internal food supply chain by utilising intelligent technological initiatives, such as IoT, to leverage measurable benefits.

“Forward-thinking organisations are already using digital and automation strategies to reduce the avoidable loss of food, and if foodservice providers followed suit it will help drive forward a business technology revolution that encourages key players to adopt digitisation to benefit their customer base, themselves and the planet.”