Blue Planet II, which aired in 2017, highlighted how our use of plastics was causing irreparable damage to our eco systems and polluting the seas. The public outcry created what has now been dubbed the “Blue Planet effect”. But apart from having a catastrophic impact on the environment and wildlife, studies from the University of Ghent now show that the average person who eats seafood swallows up to 11,000 pieces of microplastic every year.
The Blue Planet effect has resulted in the Government announcing its plans to ban the distribution and sale of plastic straws, drinks stirrers, cotton buds and microbeads whilst also introducing a 5p charge on all single-use plastic bags. The hospitality and food industries have already risen to the challenge of reducing the use of plastics and brainstorming ways to reduce our impact on the environment. UKHospitality ran an industry event in May 2018 titled, ‘Unpack the Future of Hospitality’ to discuss ways that the Hospitality industry can contribute to the reduction of waste and single use plastic bags. Waitrose recently unveiled its vision of environmentally conscious shopping, offering customers the chance to buy food and drink that is completely free of packaging as part of their pledge to the UK Plastics Pact.
There is now an expectation that companies in the food or hospitality industry are more sustainable and there is a real consumer appetite for these companies to be able to demonstrate what they are doing to reduce their impact on the environment. But this also creates an opportunity for companies to stand out from the competition and develop their unique selling point whilst also making a positive impact on the environment. So what are companies already doing to reduce waste, their use of single-plastics and rise to the challenge of being sustainable?
- Some coffee shops no longer sell takeaway coffee, because they won’t sell disposable cups. Where this isn’t possible, many coffee shops, including high-street brands such as Prêt a Manger, Starbucks and Costa, now offer discounts (as much as 50p off) for those using reusable cups.
- Some restaurants are regularly changing their menus to make the most of seasonal produce and enabling the chef to curate exciting new menus that produce minimal waste.
- Consumers want to know more about the origin of the ingredients used, particularly if the restaurant uses local British ingredients. This can be an excellent way of differentiating your menu from the competition.
- Chefs are now demonstrating that vegetarian and vegan options are now more exciting and experimental than ever before. The rise in middle-eastern cuisine and fusion cuisine has shown that vegetables can be as complex and delicious as any meat alternative. Combined with the rise in popularity of sharing plates and mezze, it is no longer so much of a challenge to eat plant-based food outside the comfort of your own kitchen.
What more could companies in the hospitality industry be doing?
- Measure and monitor food that goes in the bin to better understand where and why this waste arises.
- The average cost of avoidable food waste to business is £0.97 per meal, so there are financial savings to be made in carefully reviewing how much food is ordered and the eating habits of the clients. One solution to reducing food waste may be offering the customers a choice of side dishes so that the customer can order what they prefer rather than leaving food on their plate.
- Develop an action plan with targets, timescales and responsibilities. Keep staff engaged by helping them understand which waste goes in which bin or try and use suppliers that have reduced packaging. Make sure staff members are aware of the restaurant’s recycling policy and how they can each individually contribute to reducing food waste.
- Use seasonal and locally produced produce where possible. For example, chefs could change the menu according to what produce is available nearby or use different cuts of meat from the same animal throughout the week to ensure that nothing is wasted.
The leisure and hospitality industry is driven by customer reviews. The recent closure of popular high street brands, such as Jamie Oliver’s, is a stark reminder of how important it is to remain relevant in this competitive industry and respond quickly to changing consumer trends. Hopefully, this new movement towards sustainability and being more environmentally and socially conscious is here to stay.
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