So, what has spurred this change? The answer, it seems, boils down to simple mathematics. Today’s population (around 7 billion) is projected to rise to more than . With a growing number of people to feed, and with annual , the need to find a better way to grow, manage and consume food is not just important, it’s paramount.
Thankfully there are some reasons to be positive, at least here in the UK. Here we have a handful of organisations, such as the Sustainable Restaurant Association, WRAP and Red Tractor, who are pushing for better nationwide restaurant practices. We’ve even seen the upper echelons of fine-dining, such as Raymond Blanc, join the debate by suggesting that should be ranked above Michelin stars.
Does this signal the start of a sustainable restaurant revolution in the UK? Let’s dig down a little deeper.
Simplifying food production
Whilst going organic is increasingly becoming the healthy and ethical choice, there is significant evidence to suggest that it is the most environmentally sound decision, too. For instance, the risk of water and soil contamination is greatly reduced when organic produce is made, thus boosting the chance of regrowth in the area.
One UK company making sustainable produce a priority is Pret A Manger. Their bestselling item, coffee, is , and so too is their milk – which is only sourced from local farms. In turn, it means transportation is reduced, local economies benefit from the financial weight of a multinational company, and Pret’s carbon footprint is reduced.
And it’s not just Pret. Food companies around the UK are already seeing the benefits of putting communities first. For instance, Marks & Spencer has established a Farming for the Future programme, which is designed to give local growers precedence over international growers.
One of these suppliers, the , has reduced their use of fungicides by 24 per cent and insecticides by 33 per cent since joining the programme. This has contributed towards M&S earning a spot in Forbes’ coveted 'World's Most Sustainable Companies' list.
Sustainable meat and fish
Did you know a staggering 80% of all life on Earth is found in our oceans? Unfortunately, this means that when their eco-systems are disrupted through irresponsible fishing methods, such as overfishing and , sea life struggles to survive.
To promote sustainable fish farming practices, some restaurants are implementing strict supplier selection policies. in London, for instance, has built a reputation for responsible farming, using only Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) approved fish in its dishes. They also refuse to use any fish which is low in stock, in order to keep local overfishing to a minimum. You can find more eco-friendly restaurants by visiting the .
Likewise, many restaurants are choosing to only work with suppliers who breed ‘organic’ cattle. One example is Gourmet Burger Kitchen, who, according to their website, only use beef which is " on independent farms across the South West counties”.
This change in approach means that Gourmet Burger Kitchen and many other restaurants are now contributing to less soil pollution and introducing more permeable grassland to surrounding areas. This is a huge step in the right direction, as concrete caging facilities often increase flood risks, as there is no soil for the rain to seep into.
One organisation which is making fantastic strides in this space is , an app which gives restaurateurs a platform to sell food waste directly to its customers. The innovative app is currently working with more than 100 food companies across the UK, which includes franchises such as Yo! Sushi and AccorHotels. Since its launch in June 2016, Too Good to Go and its partners have saved in the UK alone.
Packaging waste is another key consideration for restaurants. However, while there is still much to be done, WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Plan) notes that as much as is recycled in restaurants, with returnable and reusable packaging two of the most effective methods. One company at the forefront of recycled packaging is Just Eat, who, , have stopped the sale of plastic packaging to restaurants from its partner shop. This has led to more than 29,000 restaurants operating largely plastic-free.
The catering industry consumes around and research suggests that commercial kitchens can use up to ten times the amount of an average commercial building. In order to keep costs down, whilst reducing carbon footprints in tandem, restaurants are looking for more sustainable ways to run their kitchens.
One of these is Nando’s, who has started to change the way they design their restaurants. Today, of Nando’s across the country use LED lights. Variable extractor fans are also used to only consume energy when chefs are cooking; this alone has seen electrical energy savings of 37 per cent since their inception in 2016.
Investing in sustainability
If you work in the , have you considered making sustainable practices a part of your business’s long-term plan? If you are investing in new stock, equipment or fixtures to assist in making your business more sustainable it’s important to check your investment is fully insured.