Diners are more conscious than ever before of where their food comes from. With this increase in awareness comes an increase in responsibility for caterers to be more mindful in sourcing produce and more responsible in how they operate and train their staff.
It is fashionable to be put the environment first and to be seen to be doing so. The latest environmentally friendly eateries and food products are popular with the trend conscious and they get the most shares on social media. The health industry is huge at the moment with home-grown and organic being seen as the healthiest options and praised by celebrity health gurus.
Customers will choose you to cater for them because you are eco-friendly and at the same time as boosting your company’s reputation, you can save money along the way.
Go vegetarian where possible
Going vegetarian is topical at the moment, with a report released by the World Health Organization warning that processed meats rank alongside cigarettes as a major cause of cancer. Not only can meat eating be unhealthy, but meat production to supply the demand is a leading cause of climate change, water depletion, soil erosion and most other environmental problems, according to United Nations scientists
More than half the world’s crops are used to feed farmed animals, not people. A hugely inefficient way to feed the world’s inhabitants (more than 1 billion of whom currently go hungry). So, people are choosing to eat the crops directly, rather than eat the animals – it’s much more sustainable. World Meat Free Day encourages the globe to go meat-free for just one day a year, and the stats for just one day meat-free are absolutely staggering such as to reduce CO2 emissions enough in just one day to drive around the world 2,438 times.
Big name food suppliers are catching on. The M&S Christmas 2017 range contains more vegetarian dishes than meat. Pret a Manger is also getting in on the veggie trend, opening a chain of 100% vegetarian Pret a Manger cafes. There are sure to be many more big foodie names to follow.
Along with keeping vegetarian customers happy, this trend makes the public know that these companies are eco-friendly and forward-thinking. Animal farming uses more water, releases more greenhouse gasses into the environment and takes up more land than vegetable farming. If your catering business serves vegetarian meals, then you’re not contributing to these problems and your environmentally conscious customers will be impressed. Not only that, but meat is expensive, so cutting down will save you money.
Choose seasonal menus
Making sure that you use food that is in season cuts down on the resources needed to transport the food to the table. Why use expensive strawberries in the winter flown in from Spain, Morocco, Egypt and Israel, when you could use sweeter British strawberries in summer and plentiful British apples and blackberries in the colder months.
It helps to plan menus ahead and there are many different resources out there to tell you what is in season in the UK. Not only is using seasonal produce better for the environment, but it will make your menus more inventive and with more variation.
Recycling at catering venues often needs few easy additional steps. If you’re serving at a venue where servers bring food and drinks directly to your guests, train your staff about recycling and be sure they know exactly what they should be setting aside to be recycled.
If your event is relaxed and guests clear their own tables, simply place clearly marked separate containers out for recyclables.
Aim to reduce waste in your kitchen by planning carefully and making sure you don’t over order on food quantities. If you do have left-overs, try to incorporate them back into the menu, or donate them to a local food bank.
The European Week for Waste Reduction (EWWR) 2017 will take place from 18th to 26th November, with awareness-creating actions about sustainable resource and waste management taking place all over Europe. There are plenty of initiatives out there to help you and train your staff.
Swap disposable for reusable
While biodegradable disposables are great for when you need them, ideally you should be using reusable tableware.
If you have the space to wash dishes and linens, steer clear of disposables as reusing is the most sustainable option. Replace plastic straws, which take thousands of years to biodegrade, with paper straws and glasses that have been made from recycled beer and wine bottles. Pret a Manger are even trialling ditching the use of plastic bottles altogether.
Use eco-friendly equipment
Energy-efficient equipment can often be slightly more expensive than standard, but in the long term it is worth it. By following our eco-friendly steps you should be saving money as well as the environment and you may be able to make enough savings to help purchase eco-friendly equipment when you start your catering business.
Make sure that the supplier of the kitchen equipment you buy from is recognised as a leader for supplying environmentally-friendly equipment and shares your ethics.
Offer free tap water
Customers always appreciate drinks dispensers full of tap water to quench their thirst at an event. This prevents the need for bottled water, which creates an abundance of leftover plastic water bottles.
Grow your own
Growing your own food, which will then be served in your restaurant is something to shout about and instantly adds a gold star to attract impressed customers.
If you are inexperienced, hire a gardener to look after your plot. Your chef will have a better appreciation for the ingredients they are using and are sure to be inspired.
Choose suppliers carefully and buy locally
Choose your suppliers carefully and only buy from farmers who practice traditional, free-range farming methods without the use of unnecessary antibiotics.
Also, think about food miles when sourcing ingredients and try to buy as locally as possible. Make it a goal to find a new local supplier every month. This will push you forwards with your sustainability goals and give you fresh new ingredients and menu ideas all year round.
Lasting and sustainable change is often not a quick fix, but by starting to make changes now you will be part of a bigger movement to change the way we all think about food, our communities, health and the environment.
Initiatives such as Food for Life, a collaboration between Jeanette Orrey (Soil Association) and Jamie Oliver, encourage eco-friendly habits from a young age – the future of the catering industry!