In Australia, 2.2 billion tonnes of food waste from the commercial sector goes into landfill each year. That’s money being thrown straight down the drain, not to mention unsustainable from an environmental perspective.
Plus, as customers become more ethically minded, many are now choosing to spend at venues that are operating in a more sustainable way. This is leading some restaurants to look at how to not just reduce their foodprint but eliminate it with a zero-waste kitchen. Does it sound too hard to attempt? Here are some ways that you can have a more sustainable kitchen and reduce your costs with a few easy changes.
The farm to table trend is about sourcing your ingredients closer to reduce your carbon footprint. This concept can extend far beyond your raw ingredients. Look to local suppliers rather than those located interstate or even internationally. By reducing travel costs you may bring the price of the product down as well.
If you have space, think about where you might be able to set up your own fruit or vegetable patch, or even just place herbs in pots around your venue as a form of useful decoration. This will help you to control costs while also ensuring you have the freshest fruit and vegetables when you need them.
The number of single-use containers used in our industry is astounding. From the bags that bring you coffee beans to the straws that your customers drink from, most of this packaging can be eliminated. One way that Restaurant Nolla in Finland has done this is by asking suppliers to provide product in reusable containers and most were happy to oblige. This not only reduces the cost to your suppliers (and to you) but is also more sustainable for everyone in the long run.
You can also reuse by bringing retro back with pre-loved crockery, glasses and even the furnishings in your restaurant. Offering discounts to customers who bring their own takeaway containers or coffee keep cups is another way that you can demonstrate your commitment to the environment and keep costs down.
Composting is another way to reuse and comes in particularly handy if you have your own herb or vegetable patch. If you don’t have a kitchen garden, you can give the compost to your produce suppliers or even offer it to customers. And local Melbourne heroes like Reground will even come and collect used coffee grounds to be reused by gardeners as a soil improver or mulch.
Waste not want not
The more waste you create the more you contribute to landfill. Nose to tail trends aim to eliminate waste by using the whole ingredient where possible. For example, rather than throwing out the leaves, roast a cauliflower whole or save them for stock. After you’ve rendered fat from your favourite cut use it to flavour another dish or put offal back on the menu. Even stale bread makes great breadcrumbs.
If this isn’t possible, you can reduce waste by producing some ingredients onsite — churn your own butter, make almond milk or mill your own grain. This not only reduces your foodprint but can also be a unique selling point for your restaurant or cafe.
This ethos can also apply to the drinks that you serve. For example, Nine Lives bar in London makes ‘loops’. These are drinks that use ingredients leftover from other beverages, like orange rinds.
Clean your plates
Reducing waste doesn’t need to be limited to what you produce. Looking at what your customers leave on their plate can give you valuable ideas about how you can alter your dishes to better suit their taste and save money at the same time. If most people leave a your coriander garnish on the side of the plate then they won’t miss it if it’s gone.
While you may not be ready for a kitchen without a rubbish bin, it’s possible to significantly reduce the amount of waste your restaurant produces, run a more efficient operation and delight your customers at the same time.