If 2020 is the year foodservice says goodbye to plastic straws and drinks stirrers, you’d think the catering industry would take the opportunity to embrace and tackle its growing reputational pressures — to quickly replace all non-food items with their recyclable alternatives. Indeed, after two decades of attention hovering over their use of fair trade coffee, arguably no sector has again drawn as much interest in the green space as the food-to-go operators. With a visible reminder on every street corner, consumers have become increasingly frustrated with the stream of bottled water, salad boxes, and coffee cups lined with leak-proof plastic.
“Boston Tea Party: Café chain set to lose £1m in sales by banning disposable coffee cups” (The Caterer April 2018)A year later, it had ‘only lost’ £250K
The efforts are, however, visible at scale. Pushing past the ‘bring your own cup’ discounts, Waitrose & Partners in 2018 begun the phasing-out of 52 million takeaway cups from their stores. The same year, the UK’s largest chain Costa Coffee worked with Barclays to launch the contactless-payment enabled Clever Cup – although this raises the question of eventually creating fresh electrical waste.
The buying power of small businesses
Small operators (both independent chains and single-site organisations with many trading locations, such as a university) with may feel they lack the purchasing influence for a kinder environmental footprint. This, however, need not be the case. Whilst they may not control the amount of water that flows into production processes, they may already choose to cut energy use (pre-heat your ovens an hour later every morning and turn off your display refrigerators overnight!).
The cost of property and employing excellent staff continues to rise. Dedicating resource to a ‘green team’ is unlikely outside of the national brands. That’s where the power of a paperless supply chain can become integral in assisting your efforts. Software such as recipe management and easy report writing can become a powerful tool in devising long-term environmental benefits.
We’ve used Caternet to imagine a small coffee company and model five quick wins.
1. Source compostable coffee cups
Sustainable, industrially-compostable cups are made from 100% plant-based materials and are at the core of dozens of recyclable takeaway products. For this example, we set our organisation to include supplier deals with three of the UK’s largest foodservice suppliers.
“Vegware Compostable Coffee Cups Double Wall 340ml / 12oz (x500)”
Using Caternet’s live price traffic light guide, we found the following prices, and with our agreed budgets, know we can order for the best price;
Prices checked 19/02/20.
2. Reduce your number of deliveries
Fewer lorries on the road can only be a good thing – reducing your business’ carbon footprint, traffic, and employee time spent dealing with booking in.
For our example coffee company, Caternet would onboard the suppliers and work with them to understand their trading and delivery days so that selecting streamlined delivery options and condensed rounds is easy. To save even more time, orders can be placed with multiple suppliers on a single order process.
3. Cut food waste
As an operator, you can only make a success in tackling food waste when you examine both parts – input (what are you buying) and output (what is selling). Instances of input control include budget capping and stock management. Plus, you can learn the most about customer patterns through your EPoS data – including sales slots.
Organisations that cut waste successfully know it’s what happens on the journey between input and output that changes their business and makes a serious contribution to helping the environment.
“250,000 tonnes of the food that goes to waste each year is still edible. That’s enough for 650 million meals”.WRAP: Surplus food redistribution in the UK; 2015 to 2017
Counting and controlling ingredients and portion sizes with a centralised recipe management system means marrying the creativity of chefs with the facts and figures a business truly needs.
For our coffee company example, they may not produce any food on site – it may all be pre-packaged/defrosted. All of that food has a use-by date. How do you account for stock included in a meal deal? How many cartons of oat milk have we sold through our a fair trade vegan coffee line?
4. Offer less meat
“How much water does it take to grow a hamburger?” Whilst this question has become a pub quiz favourite, there is a serious message behind it. According to a USGS/Department of the Interior report, it can be as much as 1,750 litres per 113 grams, but even that ‘depends on how far back in the supply chain you go’.
If our coffee company wants to find a sandwich or panini supplier with more vegetarian options, we can turn to Caternet’s customer service team for a steer. There are over 2,500 suppliers already on board, so reaching out is fairly simple.
Did you know that 2019 saw a +130% rise in searches for beeswax wraps?
5. Stop printing everything!
We didn’t invent the paperless office, but it’s at the heart of everything we do. The list of negative environmental impacts can change depending on who you speak to, but we recognise;
- Ink and toner cartridge production means plastic waste
- Waste from unspent chemicals
- Energy requirements
Caternet saves time and money across all catering sectors, as food operators buy supplies, budget and report overheads in one system, so there’s no need to print anything ever again.
Commit to your environmental practices
On a recent site visit we spotted coffee grounds available to take away for home composting (for free!);
This likely saves some spend too, with fewer trash collections. Yet the same store sells coffee in pods for domestic machines. Whilst the pods themselves are recyclable, the manufacturer admits only around 21% stay out of landfill.
The benefit of being a small food-to-go chain or cafe operator comes in the ability to affect change quickly – with minimal expenditure. Consider employee incentives if your plans are slipping.
As we collectively put an end to the 4.7 billion plastic straws sold annually in England alone, let us know if you’ve employed any one of these quick wins. Click here to learn more about how procurement software offers choice whilst modernising your supply chain.
James Waldron is Marketing Manager at Zupa
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