AUTHOR: TOM TANNER
Executive Head Chef Jeremy Bloor and Andrea Zick, Personal Assistant to the General Manager at OXO Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie reveal why they participated in Food Taste Bad Taste and the major impact it’s had on the way they operate front and back of house as well as on their bins.
Why did you sign up to participate in Food Waste Bad Taste?
AZ: Food waste isn’t spoken about nearly enough in our industry and while we didn’t feel like we had a bad problem we felt we could change the mindset and behaviour of our staff. In a business like ours at OXO, food costs are always closely monitored in terms of recipe costing but looking at the bigger picture of food waste then it’s easy to overlook it as a problem. But we felt we had a responsibility to do it.
Before doing Food Waste Bad Taste what measures, if any, did you have in place to separate/measure/reduce your food waste?
JB: Previously we weren’t separating our food waste specifically. All our food waste was going into one food waste bin and send to anaerobic digestion. Having the separate bins for prep, spoilage and plate waste during the measurement period for Food Waste Bad Taste was one of the most impactful ways of educating staff as they could see exactly what was being wasted and in what context. They could see their time and effort as well the food itself going in the bin. Now we have a general waste bin, a bin for plate waste and a bin for prep waste.
What reduction target did you set and how are you progressing towards that target?
AZ: Setting targets felt very difficult for us. It felt like a real commitment. We didn’t want to set what could be perceived as an easy target, but we also didn’t want the team to be put off by targets that felt unachievable. We set a 7% reduction target but, just as we would with budgeting, we will constantly review that.
What changes have you made and what have you learned as a result of completing the programme?
JB: Separating waste has been a really good learning experience for everyone involved. We’ve helped 200 people think differently about food waste. Now everyone can see what we’re wasting and the kitchen team, in particular, now values food even more than before.
Six-course menu of changes
- Reduced portion size of sides by about 20% against portion sizes before the assessment
- Introduced a charge for bread which means less bread waste and less butter waste too
- Turned milk past its use by date but drinkable, into cheese for staff meals
- Use broccoli stalk for couscous dish
- Yesterday’s bread for bread pudding
- Only serve dessert for staff meals two days a week
- Created a Zero Waste Not Afternoon Tea which has been submitted as a One Planet Plate to share our ideas with the wider public
JB: To make the meat sauces we buy in bones to make stock, and that leaves us with about 700kg of waste every week.
For our teas, our customers prefer the crusts off their sandwiches. That means we have huge amounts of bread wasted every day, although we have reduced that recently by preparing teas better in line with the number of bookings.
We are now hoping to separate our coffee grounds and have them collected.
Proof of waste reduction in the measuring
Six months after the initial measuring, OXO completed a re-measuring exercise and have just received the results. Andrea and Jeremy are studying the data in detail but the initial findings are very promising. The kitchen team has achieved a cut in prep waste of more than 40%.
***Replicated across the foodservice industry this reduction could save 198,000 tonnes of food waste and more than 800,000 tonnes of Co2e***
AZ: For us the programme was just the start. The more frequently we measure the more confident we will be in the data and the greater impact we will achieve. This is about the long term.
What advice you would give to a fellow foodservice business looking to reduce its food waste?
- Get everyone on board and engage them in the process. We conducted a staff survey in advance of the programme and it really helped to get everyone thinking about food waste and preparing for action.
- Credit people for doing well. We had a new sous chef join the team and gave him the responsibility of running the programme. He did an amazing job and was a real food waste champion so we made sure to praise him and the KPs who did all the measuring and really upped their skills.
- Set a target that’s ambitious but achievable