How realistic is a 'zero waste' restaurant? In Part 1 of our journey we looked at the steps F&B business owners, management and chefs are taking to reduce, recycle and eliminate food waste in their restaurant kitchens.
Find out more about some of their food waste management techniques and initiatives in Part 1 here.
In Ireland, around 40%* of food waste is generated through the hotel, restaurant and bars sectors. According to WRAP** customer plates create 34% of the food wasted in restaurants.
So let's now take a look at the techniques that can help to reduce or totally remove the food waste which occurs through the dining experience and diners themselves.
Journey to a Zero Food Waste Restaurant
1. Team Zero
The understanding and adoption of your ‘zero waste’ mission among your culinary and service teams is critical to its success across the operation.
The reasons for managing food waste are naturally more obvious to your kitchen staff, but with food wasted at various points within the dining experience, front of house and service teams are key to reducing unnecessary waste and influencing your customers behaviours too.
Build your sustainability focused culture with a team of Zero Heroes.
- Select the staff who share your passion and will own your commitment to achieving zero food waste.
- Encourage them to suggest new ways or changes to existing service processes that will help to reduce waste.
- Build their confidence to help your customers make better choices.
- Create achievable milestones together and reward successes.
2. The Beverage Station
Waste produced through the serving and self-service of hot and cold drinks can be reduced with the implementation of low waste policies.
a. Coffee Grounds to Grow
i. Recycling used coffee grounds has become a staple waste reduction technique for many businesses, as fresh unwashed coffee grounds are recognised to provide many benefits in composting and planting.
ii. Using the Nexus® Shuttle Food Waste Recycling Bin (pictured right) McDonalds began collecting their used coffee grounds in restaurants across the UK. The grounds were then sold as fertilizer to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House Charities. Read more about how McDonald’s implemented their scheme here.
b. Milk with your tea Sir?
i. Asking your customers simple questions and also talking to each other can help to reduce waste. Is that extra pot of coffee needed at this time of day? Does the customer take milk? How much? Can milk and cream be poured as needed or quantities in self-service containers be kept to a minimum?
3. The Great Big Plate Debate
The source of a large percentage of the restaurant's food waste is your customers plates.
An interesting piece of research carried out by Wrap*** in the UK, looked more closely into the eating habits of diners to better understand when and why food was more likely to be left on plates.
In summary diners fell into two categories, dining for social experience and dining as necessity ‘to re-fuel’. Those dining for the social experience were more likely to order more courses and leave food on plates, linking the ‘treat’ of dining out to indulgence and not wanting to be as mindful about waste. Portion size, along with food quality and personal taste were the main reasons these diners gave for leaving food.
With evidence like this, how can restaurants tackle this Great Big Plate Debate?
a. Your Zero Heroes
i. If diners are in your restaurant for the social experience, then your waiting staff are surely expected to play an important role here, providing a personalised service that’s second to none.
Influence customer ordering habits by building confidence among your service and waiting staff through regular briefings about the menu, the ingredients, flavours and tasting and portion size information.
Encourage them to ask the diner questions, provide recommendations and tips during ordering enabling them to provide the best service possible.
b. Menus for More Thought
i. Help customers match their appetite and expectations by providing more detail about each dish in menus. This provides guidance and helps the diner understand what to expect on their plate without any unwelcome surprises that will undoubtedly be left.
ii. Would different portion options help or perhaps direct diners through set menus of complimentary courses which have all been designed to avoid unnecessary waste with a close eye on portion sizes.
iii. Allowing diners to order more flexibly with the opportunity to remove or swap elements of a dish or a side could also be built into the menu offer and would help to prevent food being left over.
Find out more about these and other techniques via the Sustainable Food Trust.
4. The Leftover Doggy Bag
Of course, you can also encourage diners to take any leftovers home with them?
The doggy bag is an accepted practice in many restaurants now, although for many different reasons not all are fond of it.
However, if your goal is to reduce the food waste on your premises, promoting a doggy bag service for customers to take your fine fayre home to enjoy later will certainly help you achieve it.
For more tips and ideas to help you on your journey to a ‘zero-waste’ commercial kitchen read Part 1 of this series.