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Catering industry must 'get wise on waste'

09 | 07 | 13

With such a tough economic climate, catering and food service companies need to do everything in their power to reduce costs while maintaining a high-quality level of service. 

One way of achieving this is by cutting waste. Not only does this help profit margins, it gives the environment a much needed boost as well. Thankfully, the catering industry is becoming increasingly aware of the importance of this issue and a number of schemes have been launched to help businesses reduce the amount of produce they throw away unnecessarily.

Unilever launches app

Earlier this year, Unilever - the company behind a host of household names like Magnum, Marmite and Flora - launched its 'Get Wise to Waste' app, which challenges chefs to cut their waste generation by five per cent over the next three years.

The firm's managing director Tracey Rogers believes the industry has already made progress, but stressed there is still much more to do. Speaking to Eat Out Magazine, she claimed two billion tonnes of food is being thrown away each year.

Ms Rogers added that not only does this present an environmental and ethical dilemma, it also has a damaging effect on companies' profits. She pointed to research by the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), which found the UK squanders £720 million each year by throwing produce away unnecessarily as proof of this. 

However, there are signs that Unilever's campaign is having an impact. More than 800 firms have downloaded the organisation's free Wise up on Waste toolkit since it was launched in 2011 and over 150 have joined WRAP's Hospitality and Food Service Agreement. 

Are smaller portions the answer? 

One way in which the industry may be able to cut down on waste is by serving smaller portions. In June, WRAP released details of a study which found nearly half (44 per cent) of UK consumers are actually put off by larger meals and much of the food served in restaurants ends up going to waste. 

Side dishes like chips and salads tend to be the worst culprit and businesses could make savings by asking customers if they want these extras rather than serving them as standard. Indeed, consumers may well appreciate this, as the majority of the people surveyed said they should not have to worry about leaving food and it is up to restaurants to serve meals of the right size.

Richard Swannell, WRAP director, welcomed these findings. He commented: "By highlighting consumer attitudes there is an opportunity for industry to create practical solutions to the problem."

Don't forget energy efficiency

When thinking of ways to cut waste and increase efficiency, companies should not overlook energy. At the end of June, the Carbon Trust released a report that revealed around £250 million could be saved in the industry each year by taking a more efficient approach in this area. 

Replacing outdated catering equipment, using appliances more effectively and altering menus are just some of the ways firms can do this. 

Dominic Burbridge, associate director for business advice at the Carbon Trust, commented: "[Energy efficiency] presents a significant opportunity for industry leaders who take a proactive approach to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of their businesses."ADNFCR-16001031-ID-801610139-ADNFCR


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