THOUGHT PIECE the carling team

Sustainability – How Are We Doing So Far? Part 4

Part 4 – Challenges for the hospitality industry

The Morning Advertiser tells us that the hospitality industry is responsible for some 15% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. It is also creating some 1.1m tonnes of food waste worth around £3.2bn so the sector must play a major part in helping to ensure the world has a future by implementing environmentally sustainable procedures.

So food waste is a huge challenge. A further 6.6m tonnes is generated by households and 1.5m tonnes by food manufacturing. These figures are high but they are some 15% lower than a benchmark set back in 2007. WRAP reckons that 75% could have been eaten and it cites some impressive successes with the Crieff Hydro saving £50,000 on food purchases, Pizza Hut reducing food purchases by 50% along with Thwaites and Fullers managed houses. One London outlet saved 72%!

Waste is traditionally hidden in black bin bags so measurement remains a problem. There is often limited space in kitchens to segregate waste, staff will say they are too busy and may have to be bribed with an extra hour of work a day. All you need, says WRAP, are three transparent graduated 15L bins and perhaps a set of scales. There would be bins for spoilage (out of date and poorly stored), preparation (carrot tops, peelings, pepper middles, broccoli stalks and pastry clippings) and plate waste returned from the table. This latter could comprise two thirds of total waste say WRAP while prep is 21% and spoilage 13%. The waste is then recorded against the daily covers.

How much of this will the kitchen staff see again?

The plate returns bin is placed by the dishwasher and will comprise mainly bread, carbs, garnish and sauces. Lemon wedges often come back as does tartare sauce and coleslaw and not everyone likes mushy peas. So portion sizes need to be consistent using standard spoons, perhaps serve an average portion and offer a top up. Food could be presented creatively to cut the amount served rather than piling it high thinking that is what the customer wants. Some menu items can be offered in different sizes as well. All this makes the job of the serving and kitchen staff more difficult if onion is to be withheld from the salad.

The help yourself breakfast is virtually a thing of the past and Sunday carveries going the same way to reduce waste as eyes are often bigger than the belly. If you must have a buffet, put out less of it especially towards the end of service. There is always the doggy bag of course but that probably merely shifts the problem elsewhere!

The help yourself buffet is disappearing. These photos are from the USA

No one will want to visit a gloomy pub in the middle of winter and drink only unrefrigerated cask beer and not dare to take his coat off! Pubs must continue to be warm and welcoming. The low hanging fruit has probably been collected in the form of not turning the lights and ovens on as soon as the chef arrives and even installing LED lighting and fridge management timers.

Pubs do have a problem with modernising dispense equipment. We no longer see ultra cold draught products nor condensing fonts but there is still much energy to be saved. Unfortunately most installations are standard and provided by the big boy brand owners. They are seen as free of charge and there seems to be little impetus to uprate them to use less energy and generate less wastage at line cleaning time. We see these mysterious magnetic devices which do seem (somehow) to prevent biofilms from taking hold and increase the period between cleans. The dilemma is why should the brewer pay to make a system more efficient when the pub owner is going to see the benefit?

There is mounting evidence that customers will support pubs and restaurants which are demonstrating a commitment to reducing their environmental impact. Generation Z are a lot happier to work in such places as well and they will be the ambassadors to tell the customers. There are accolades from The Great British Pub Awards with a category for the most sustainable house. Last year it was won by the Riverside near Leominster in Herefordshire with judges impressed by locally sourced food and drink, growing its own vegetables in a two acre smallholding complete with a beehive, pigs and chickens as well as whole animal butchery and careful inspection of food waste which led to the invention of a carrot top pesto. The BII is organising its own sustainability award later this year too. Heineken has a Green Pub Guide of outlets using its Smart Dispense system. The achievements of each pub is listed so you can add hydroponic vegetable growing, greenhouses in general, motion detecting lighting, EV charging points, whisky casks made into water butts, compostable crisp packets and even door mats made from recycled fishing nets.

Organic beer maker and B Corp certified Stroud Brewery has produced a ten point guide to getting started; decide what you are going to do first, work with the staff, ask customers and offer free meals for good ideas, reduce waste perhaps with reusable crockery for outside events and bringing your own containers for takeaways. LED lighting, draught proofing and insulation are no brainers and of course buying your beer from a local sustainable brewer …like Stroud.

The Victoria Inn at Threemilestone near Truro has 45 solar panels on its roof

Customers are aware of food miles and will seek locally sourced foods and perhaps beers. Close does not necessarily mean good but if a suitably good supplier is found you know exactly where the produce comes from and what it has been fed on. Something a wholesaler will not be able to tell you. Pub chains are doing their bit. Punch has a promise called ‘doing well by doing right’, the reps drive electric cars and Greene King has 247 charging points in its pub car parks and the Too Good To Go app was used to save 180,000 meals going to the waste bin last year.

Solar panels are appearing although there is no longer a feedback tariff for new systems and planning rules can be a bit limiting especially if you want to site them in the car park. They are much lighter than they were and a lot cheaper. Wind turbines in the carpark seem to generate a lot of adverse comment from neighbours. Ovens are moving from gas, HVAC systems are being updated and any extensions must be to the highest insulation standards.

Perhaps the pub garden can be planted with some wild flowers and use the outside space with whole animal roasting (does not sound very green but rather appealing!), pizza ovens and homemade ice creams attract customers if the weather is nice. If we work from home why not work from the pub? Why do pubs not open earlier on Sundays for brunch and keep the kitchen open for afternoon teas? All these companies espouse collaboration and setting targets without affecting hospitality.

The Brits wanted beef and beer in the past. That is changing with an increase in people who do not drink alcohol at all, now 5.5% of us and are happy with the latest generation of no alcohol beers. Your blogger particularly recommends the Guinness version! There can be less meat in your burger, more veggy options are appearing on menus but pubs are left with the problem of how to steer diners towards them. Publisher William Reid has its Lumina Intelligence arm with an eating panel of 1500. It reports a 5% drop in meat eaters, 1% fewer choosing chicken and 2% fish. This must be being replaced by vegetables and it also reports that branded meat free options like Beyond Meat and Quorn when described on the menu see increased orders and a premium price can be charged!

An article in Nature Food used a survey for cancer and nutrition to track the dietary habits of 55,000 people who recorded what they ate for twelve months. It then calculated the aggregate effect of all that food on greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, water pollution and biodiversity loss. It found that vegans have just 30% of the dietary environmental impact of high-meat eaters. These findings are crucial as the food system is estimated to be responsible for around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, 70% of the world’s freshwater use and 78% of freshwater pollution.

Margins remain very tight. Customers do not expect extra gravy or a dollop of ice cream to appear on the bill. They expect a glass of wine knocked over to be replaced free of charge and will appear late or even not at all. All are largely hidden costs to hospitality.

When Brewdog offered an amnesty and a free glass of beer for the recovery of stolen Hazy Jane glasses, the Morning Advertiser did a survey and found 77% of pubs suffered from stolen glasses. 37m Brits have stolen glassware at home; at two per household that equates to £186m. Apparently three million Brits admit to all the crockery, cutlery and glassware in their homes being procured illicitly!

Remember that every little step counts and the cumulative impact of multiple small changes can be significant. By adopting sustainable practices and encouraging a culture of environmental responsibility, pubs can play a meaningful role in minimising their carbon footprint.

People are going out less due to cost pressures on family income. When they do they want treats and something they cannot easily make at home. Pubs which cannot meet today’s customer requirements will not survive irrespective of post Covid shortages and global warming.

There is one bit of good news for the world’s 18 million tonnes of spent coffee grounds which usually go to landfill and give off methane which has 28 times the greenhouse effect as CO2. Researchers in Australia have discovered that by pyrolysing it at 350oC, the resulting char can replace sand in concrete by up to 15%. where the porous structure allows the cement to bind better and make the concrete stronger.

Politicians were gathering at COP 28 in Dubai this week but the scientific consensus remains unchanged we must reduce our carbon emissions.