Fighting Food Waste
by Trevor Frances
A study carried out by WRAP in 2013 highlighted a difference in eating patterns when dining out to that of eating at home, revealing that a quarter of diners will leave food on their plate when dining out in a restaurant, even though this wouldn’t necessarily be the case at home.
Have you ever ordered a side portion of chips knowing you wouldn’t finish them, or left some of your main meal to allow room for that sweet treat of a dessert? I know I have! It also appears that most of us have eyes bigger than our bellies whilst eating out.
Recently there have been changes to restaurant culture and the dining out experience, with some restaurants and street food vendors offering I wider variety of portion sizes to suit the different appetites. Along with this, restaurants are encouraged to offer ‘doggy bags’ as standard, allowing the consumer to take home their leftovers without the need to feel embarrassed.
Another important point to note on the subject, though, it isn’t just leftovers and uneaten food left on the diner’s plates that contributes to waste in the restaurant industry, there are other major contributors such as wasteful preparation methods, spoilage and peelings and trimmings.
Luckily though there are some proactive chefs and restaurant owners that have decided to take sustainability seriously.
Below are a couple of UK restaurants championing a more economical and thoughtful approach to their production process.
Poco, Bristol and London
Poco has evolved from festival food stall to award-winning tapas bar and was named Sustainable Restaurant of the Year in the SRA’s 2016 Food Made Good Awards. Through its sustainable business model and food waste strategy – which sees 95–100% of its food waste composted and recycled – Poco is demonstrating a new way for modern restaurants to operate.
Staff at Poco ‘weigh the waste’ every day to monitor how much is produced and determine how this can be reduced, with the ultimate aim of eliminating all waste. They record any plate waste that is returned to the kitchen, and relay to chefs when specific elements of dishes are being frequently left by customers. Chefs can then amend dishes to counteract this, if they find that many people aren’t finishing their food.
Arbor Restaurant, Bournemouth
Arbor Restaurant, based at the eco-friendly Green House Hotel in Bournemouth, was named by the SRA as the UK’s most environmentally friendly restaurant two years in a row. ‘Local’ and ‘sustainably sourced’ are more than just buzzwords at Arbor, which is fastidious about verifying the quality and eco-credentials of the suppliers it works with. It even produces its own honey from beehives on the hotel’s roof.
In order to minimise food waste, the kitchen at Arbor closely monitors portion sizes, and ensures that core elements can be customised to diners’ liking with a number of different side dishes. Staff are briefed before each service on which sides are appropriate for each dish. Menus are incredibly detailed, so that diners know exactly what to expect on their plates and chefs will prepare dishes according to customer preferences so that there’s no danger of diners being served something they don’t like or are unable to eat.
A small kitchen with limited storage means that the restaurant receives small, regular deliveries from local suppliers, ensuring waste from spoilage is kept to an absolute minimum. Arbor also sends used cooking oil to be converted to biofuel, and what little food waste the restaurant does generate is made into compost and sent to local farms.