Charles Reilly, director of refrigeration equipment supplier, Fridgesmart, argues that other suppliers, manufacturers and dealers can play their part in reducing the problem of food waste in commercial kitchens:
The problem of food waste is slowly gaining more attention in popular media, but there’s still a long way to go towards a solution. In order to change the landscape of food waste, we have to take practical strides to deal with it. But those strides don’t have to come at a cost to business – by coming up with new ways to deal with waste, catering equipment suppliers and manufacturers can offer their customers efficient, new products that those customers will want to buy.
The problem is impossible to ignore in the UK. In 2015 we wasted just under 15m tonnes of food, with around 2m tonnes coming from the manufacturing and grocery sectors and another 1m from the hospitality sector (according to the latest available figures from 2013), which costs firms around £2.5bn a year.
This is a problem at every stage of the food chain, but those of us providing equipment and design services to different catering and hospitality businesses can be an important part of the solution. While much food waste is undoubtedly down to business reasons separate from the equipment, there is a lot of benefit to those in the equipment industry doing what we can to create kitchens and foodservice environments that are as efficient and waste-free as possible.
There are good environmental and even ethical reasons to want to help catering companies reduce their food waste, but making more efficient kitchens has to make business sense for you. We won’t be doing any good if caterers aren’t buying our products and services.
The key thing to understand is that food waste costs the catering and hospitality industry money. At any stage of the food chain, food that is wasted is food that can’t be sold to the customer for a profit. In a sense, throwing away food is throwing away money. Therefore, the equipment supplier that can reduce the caterer’s food waste is saving them money, and making their product much more attractive.
For example, in the refrigeration industry (where I have gained my experience), a fridge that customers can see is more reliable, storing their food at the right temperature for as long as possible, is going to be more attractive to buyers than a different fridge that is going to break down in a year’s time or have other problems that lead to food going off and being wasted.
The principle applies throughout the catering supply industry. Equipment designed to keep food hot will sell better if it does the job better than its competitor and stops caterers having to throw cold food out at the end of an event.
In reality, we should all be innovating and trying to supply our customers with the best possible products, regardless of our concern for food waste. However, if you are designing reliable, efficient equipment, your customers need to know the benefit. If you can help customers understand why food waste is a problem, and then show them why your products or services are a solution, they will be more likely to buy from you.
If you’re working hard to help caterers reduce food waste, then shout about it. If your products are going to save caterers money, then tell them. Food waste is a problem across the industry, and working to prevent it can make business sense for all involved.