Major barriers need to be overcome before sustainability practices are seen on a greater level in the restaurant sector, according to a panel of experts invited by distributor Space Equipment to take part in a debate on the subject.
The Gloucester-based outfit, which is due to officially publish its guide to sustainable kitchens on behalf of The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) later this year, recently organised a roundtable to discuss how much progress the industry has made when it comes to green foodservice.
Panelists, including dishwasher manufacturer Winterhalter, explored a range of topics during the debate including the widespread issue of ‘green washing’, the scope for specialist training modules within catering college courses and the need for clearer communication from restaurateurs in order to drive up standards.
Mike Mellor, owner of Space Catering, said that as kitchens remain the “engine rooms” of establishments, there is a need to take responsibility for supply chains and make sure the right questions are being asked.
“If it is delivering the right performance people will come back,” he said. “People often don’t know however what they are actually spending in their kitchens on energy — it’s the evidence that seems to be missing.”
Cost and ‘short termism’ were cited as significant barriers to the implementation of sustainable practices, which were generally perceived as having more ‘long term’ payback.
Panelists agreed that many start-up restaurateurs were concerned that they wouldn’t be around in five years time, so long-term cost savings and efficiencies were simply not high on their agendas.
The ongoing challenge of waste management, especially in cities, also cropped up. The SRA’sMark Linehan said there were “massive” savings to be made when it came to waste.
“When you talk to chefs and managers about how much food they throw away they nearly always underestimate,” he said. “In a restaurant, almost 60% of waste is product wasted in the kitchen — two thirds of that is avoidable — if you look at the figures in monetary terms it’s tangible and businesses will want to make changes.”