Sanderson Weatherall restaurant specialist James Woodard examines how the industry’s on a crusade against food waste, and how this could be the start of an operational trend that impacts the whole sector.
Chef Jamie Oliver has been among the many voices championing the reduction of food waste here in the UK for some years now. But the French are already one step ahead of us.
In May 2015, Councillor Arash Derambarsh managed to persuade the French government to pass a law barring shops from destroying food as it approaches its sell-by date, instead donating them to charity. He is now taking his crusade against food waste further by trying to persuade the European Parliament to include an amendment in a new directive that will encourage member states to follow France’s suit.
Whilst we wait with bated breath to see if this new directive is enforced, it’s an appropriate time to reflect on the issue of sustainable food here in the UK.
Earlier this year, The Independent reported that sustainability was going to be a top food trend for 2015. It highlighted a restaurant in Devon called The Belfry which is cutting down on food waste by asking diners to order 24 hours in advance. But will the concept of sustainable food help to breed a new kind of restaurant offering, or is this just a flash in the pan trend?
New restaurants and cafes do seem to be opening on a regular basis whose business models centre around cutting food waste. One example is Silo in Brighton which claims to be the UK’s first zero-waste restaurant. On its website, it says it is designed ‘from back to front, always with the bin in mind’. Any waste production has been eliminated at the restaurant simply by trading directly with farmers, choosing local ingredients and ensuring the products are delivered in re-usable vessels.
Here in Bristol too, sustainable food is high on the agenda – very fitting considering the fact that the city is the European Green Capital for 2015.
In October 2014, the Real Junk Food Project opened a café in Bristol selling food past its sell-by date taken from supermarket skips and restaurants. The Bristol Skipchen is being run as a not-for-profit café by campaigners highlighting the amount of edible food that is being thrown away.
Based at The Crofters Rights Bar, Skpichen made a deal with the restaurant chain Nando’s to take surplus chicken from its Bristol branches. The café is also connected with the Gleaning Network where volunteers can harvest unwanted produce and it sources fruit and vegetables from farms in the region.
One of the aspects of Skipchen’s business model that I find interesting is the fact it takes products from operators that are typically seen as mainstream and not necessarily ethical but then uses them in a sustainable way. I wonder whether Skipchen’s environmentally-conscious customers still have issues with eating meat or vegetables from these not so ethical sources?
Whether or not this is the case, cafes and restaurants such as Skipchen should be applauded for helping to take the UK on the right path towards a more sustainable way of eating. Only time will tell whether supermarkets will soon be forced to follow suit…