How to cut carbon, food waste and packaging

The Sustainable Restaurant Association explains how its Food Made Good award winners can inspire innovation.

15 November 2019
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The Roebuck's house burger replaces 35% of the beef with mushrooms and lentils
image credit: The Roebuck

“Everything needs to change, and it has to start today.” So said teenage climate campaigner Great Thunberg, named Raymond Blanc Sustainability Hero at the Food Made Good Awards, the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s annual accolades recognising those businesses serving up solutions to the climate crisis.

The 24 winners, representing some of the UK’s best-known restaurant and cafe brands, as well as independent operators, caterers and suppliers, all demonstrated innovative and impactful ways of reducing their environmental impact and increasing their positive impact on society.

What marks out the Food Made Good Awards from many other industry gongs is the emphasis not just on rewarding the trailblazers, but also championing their winning ideas to inspire adoption as widely as possible across the sector to achieve maximum impact.

Here, the SRA highlights how some of this year’s award winners are making a difference.

Nice buns

The actions of a small South London pub might appear relatively insignificant. Share its recipe for sustainable success with other operators, show them how it works, and suddenly the scale of change grows markedly.

Since replacing 35% of the beef in its ever-popular house burger with mushrooms and lentils, The Roebuck in Borough has reduced its carbon footprint by the equivalent of driving a car halfway round the world. If you wanted to supersize the impact of this burger, which incidentally has retained its popularity, the impact takes on staggering proportions.

If every one of the 650m burgers sold in a British restaurant was made using The Roebuck’s third-less beef recipe, we’d bank enough carbon for 600 people to fly to New York and back on their birthday for the next 10 years.

This better burger has won over the taste buds of The Roebuck’s customers and secured it the One Planet Plate Award.

The Willy Wonka of wonky fruit and veg

Feeding busy office workers two meals a day, five days a week, presents caterer Vacherin with a potentially very wasteful business. Through a top to bottom, creative and structured campaign, it’s shown how possible it is to reduce food waste substantially – by a quarter. According to the UN, if global food waste was reduced by 25%, there would be enough food to feed all malnourished people in the world.

Vacherin’s winning recipe? A top to bottom, business wide war on waste. In the process it’s become the Willy Wonka of wonky fruit and veg – turning nine million tonnes of cosmetically imperfect produce into delicious dishes. It’s also a master of transforming today’s leftover porridge into tomorrow’s protein bars and fruit pulp into burgers.

Anyone wanting to reduce food waste, save money and the planet should follow the lead of the winners of the Waste No Food accolade.

Energetic savings

The winner of the Value Natural Resources category, The Restaurant Group operates on a much bigger scale – 650 sites around the UK – so any positive steps it takes will automatically have a greater impact. The company, which includes Wagamama and Frankie and Benny’s, has been running a near decade-long campaign to drive down energy use. Keen to step it up to another level and involve staff in the process, the company worked on a new user-friendly reporting system.

Now, Operations Managers can easily access and analyse live energy data. Armed with this they are able to find areas where savings can be made, appoint energy champions to support the campaign and install motion sensors and other energy-saving technology.

The group has reduced electricity and gas by an impressive combined 4.8m kilowatt hours in 2018, and since 2010 has saved the equivalent of 12,000 tonnes of carbon.

Those are already some pretty big and impressive numbers, but if all foodservice businesses dialled down their energy similarly, we’d have enough energy to drive an electric car chasing the earth’s orbit of the sun for almost seven years. If that’s too much to comprehend, it’s also equivalent to the average UK citizen’s annual energy usage for 18,000 years.


Other notable winners

  • The Wheatsheaf Chilton Foliat was named Business of the Year for achieving the highest score in the industry leading Food Made Good Sustainability Rating. The organic Wiltshire pub has stopped serving traditional Sunday roasts and replaced bagged crisps with homemade as part of its war on waste.
  • The Celebrate Local and Seasonal award went to EN_Food, a civic centre restaurant that’s cut through the red tape to champion 15 suppliers from nearby, on a menu that screams local and seasonal – as well as affordable, nutritious and delicious.
  • BuJo, the Dublin burger joint, removed thousands of cups, bottles and cans by serving soft drinks with no packaging and all beer and wine on tap, earning it the Reduce Reuse Recycle award.
  • Hinckley takeaway Chris’s Fish ‘n’ Chips won the Good to Go award by swapping over all its packaging to sustainable materials and creating a community park in which customers can enjoy their takeaway.
  • Yeo Valley Canteen was voted People’s Favourite Restaurant by the readers of delicious. magazine, who were wowed by the former staff canteen’s emphasis on uber local and organic ingredients for its affordable and veg-heavy menus.
  • Using its influence as the world’s largest importer of African bird’s eye chillies to support 1,500 farmers through above-market value pricing and training helped Nando’s win the Support Global Farmers award, while café giant Costa Coffee won the Support the Community category for helping thousands of vulnerable people out of social isolation with its Chatty Café scheme.
  • Family cooking classes, fruit and veg growing programmes and visits from nutritionists in its school division were just some of the ingredients for success that helped earn caterer CH&CO the Feed People Well award.

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