OVER 80% of restaurants would describe their business as green. But let's not get carried away.
Back in 2008, 59% of restaurants felt that their businesses were green. In 2014 81% believe that’s the case. It’s an impressive jump. The fact that the restaurant sector has seen the biggest drop in how difficult staff find it to be green at work – down from 38% to 14% – is also a positive sign.
But let’s not get carried away. The results of the latest “Gram Green Paper”, published at Hotelympia recently, also showed that the restaurant sector is the least likely to want to be more green – 34% said they didn’t want to be greener, compared with just 17% in hotels. The gap was even wider when compared with contract caterers (just 10% of those working in healthcare catering didn’t want to be greener). Restaurants also had the highest number of respondents who said they had no green initiatives to follow – 41% against a 25% average across all caterers and foodservice businesses.
The question is: do restaurants feel they’ve done the green thing?
Given that many of the most popular initiatives involved recycling (packaging was deemed to be the easiest) and managing energy use (thought to have the greatest impact), there is clearly a very long way to go. A panel session at Hotelympia focused on how restaurants, as well as the rest of the foodservice sector, can go beyond the easy fixes to make a real difference.
This will require a change in mindset, not least when considering costs. Much has been made of the millions of pounds food businesses throw away with their food waste each year, but there are many other areas where some investment in time and money can produce significant results.
As Dominic Burbridge, an associate director at the Carbon Trust, explained: “Over the 10-year lifespan of your kitchen equipment, more than 80% of money is spent on energy consumed and less than 20% on the equipment itself. Energy prices continue to go up year after year so investing a bit more upfront in energy efficient equipment is a no-brainer for any business no matter your size.”
Still, 22% of restaurants are not willing to pay even a small increase in costs in order to be greener. As Gram concluded: “It’s encouraging that more restaurants consider themselves greener than before, but they could be feeling the squeeze on the bottom line, which is in turn affecting their outlook and confidence in being able to continue to strive for more environmentally sustainable actions.
“Having slipped down the rankings to become the sector least keen to be greener, it’s important to make sure complacency doesn’t set in, or that the barriers don’t become too hard to overcome.”
In other words, the journey is far from over.