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T


he mantra for cutting waste is simple – reduce, recycle, reuse – and it is as appropriate to the food that commercial kitchens throw away as it is to any material used in any industry. Rising food prices for restaurants are focusing chefs and owners on costs as pressure on margins grows; the need to carve out efficiency wherever possible has never been greater. And the area of food waste is ripe for this kind of efficiency drive. According to the Waste & Resources Action Programme the UK wastes 15 million tonnes of food every year, of which nearly four million tonnes come from the hospitality and food production business. These kinds of figures are replicated in many other countries, which is why regulators are starting to act. In May this year, for instance, the French government passed a law forcing supermarkets either to donate food approaching its sell-by date to charity or use it as animal feed. “It is a great time to talk about


waste,” says Aaron J Barker, senior associate of FCSI and chef consultant and managing partner at US consultancy Concept Kitchen + Bar. “Developments around the world in society and business are pushing waste to the forefront of people’s minds. In the 1990s, food was cheap, so people went wild to make an impression. Now, it is about doing things as precisely as possible. “When I started out, the idea of a zero footprint food and beverage establishment was science fiction; now we are working on real zero-waste communities. It is the monitoring of data that really pushes a change. Before, waste reduction would be just one more cumbersome thing, and it would fall down the list of priorities. Now, it is uncool to be wasteful. Composting, for example, was a nutty concept only for hippies ten years ago, but now it is commonplace. We are also seeing branding change, with higher-level thinking about the footprint of businesses in the community,” Barker adds. Great strides have been made in


70


MILLION TONNES


15 4 MILLION TONNES


Of the total amount of food waste in the UK, just over a quarter is from the foodservice industry.


diverting waste. Turning oil into biodiesel or compost (see the Oil’s well that ends well panel, opposite) is one example, but Barker believes the pinnacle of waste management strategy is ensuring that there is as little waste as possible – a view widely shared in the industry. “The higher price food environment of the past five years has increased pressure to be efficient,” says Andrew Shakman, president and CEO of US food waste management solution provider LeanPath. “Many organisations have already optimised their purchasing agreements. Supply chain costs have been squeezed, so everyone has to look at using products more efficiently.


“People are also looking at climate change impact. According to the National Resources Defense Council, if food waste were a country, it would be the third largest source of greenhouse gases after the US and China.


“Empowered and informed customers expect more transparency about where food comes from and what kind of business they are buying from. Waste minimisation is the first priority before diversion strategies like composting. Minimising waste is the best way to save money. We have to change behaviour and we’ve found the way to do that is to measure waste,” he adds. In the UK, waste monitoring is rising up the list of priorities for restaurant owners and chefs. As part of the European Development Fund’s Grants for Eco Innovation programme, KitchenCUT has been awarded a grant to help cut


waste in kitchens through the use of its restaurant management software system. It helps restaurants to monitor waste and the data it provides helps operators to cut their impact on the environment and improve the bottom line.


KitchenCUT was developed by executive chef and consultant John Wood, who has worked at Cliveden in Berkshire and at the Burj-al-Arab in Dubai. In his 35-year career he has been awarded four AA Rosettes as well as a Michelin Star, and has worked at The Savoy and The Dorchester as well as in the US, Europe and the Middle East. He speaks from experience when he says KitchenCUT can reduce kitchen waste by as much as a half and cut costs at the same time.


W


ood says: “As a chef, and a food and beverage director, waste has long been


an obsession of mine. From a financial and moral perspective, you have to ask: why would you throw away something edible that you can make money from? I’ve been a consultant for ten years, and there is usually a lack of interest in food waste – until people see the figures. People know it is a problem, but they often bury their heads in the sand because they don’t know how to manage waste. “Costs are going up all the time. Lamb prices were up by 40% last year, and salmon prices by 50%. The restaurant industry is competitive, and engaged in a price war, so everyone is squeezed between rising costs and lower prices for dishes being served,” he adds. KitchenCUT’s online tool has a wastage tracker that enables kitchen teams to log the date when something is thrown away, the type of food discarded and the reason for its disposal. The system calculates the impact on the business, and the data used to create automatic reports that can be easily read, shared and acted upon. The regular monitoring of data not only highlights trends that shape a kitchen’s output of waste, but also allows


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