How a chain fights food waste

“Being part of the SRA has raised our awareness in so many more areas where food is or has the potential to be wasted. We will continue to make small changes and amplify them throughout our estate with the support of the SRA, and do what we can to save unnecessary waste and re-direct surplus to those who really need it.” 
JD WETHERSPOON won the Waste no food award at the food made good Awards 2018

We wanted to highlight food waste within our business and explore what we could do to reduce avoidable waste, re-direct surplus and use unavoidable waste in a more sustainable way. We regularly set ourselves internal challenges to reduce food waste.

By establishing the avoidable waste we had at pub level we worked with suppliers to increase shelf life, offer more flexible deliveries, predict stock usage based on historical data and teach kitchen teams how to calculate how much stock will be required for a day’s service.

Differentiating damage v. spoilage

We established that damages in high speed, automated distribution centres were inevitable, but damages and spoilage are not the same thing. We wanted to avoid the “Its damaged, bin it” approach. A box of chips could look damaged from the outside but when we opened it up 3 out of the 4 bags of chips were perfectly fine and the inner packaging had not been compromised. Although this would be hard to handle from a pub perspective we could re-distribute it elsewhere.  Within a month of being introduced to Fareshare by the SRA, a trial started. Food products were identified and the aim was to send a cage of mixed products to one of the sites just before Fareshare’s busy Christmas period. We filled the cage with all sorts of things including chips, ready meals (maybe one in a box of 24 was damaged), rice, a cheesecake etc. We had worked out a route which our delivery trucks would normally take that bypassed a Fareshare depot and planned to put the cage on that route and briefed the driver. As a side note, this was relatively easy for us as we have sites across the UK, but we understand that not everyone has this luxury.

We had managed to get our first cage of frozen food to a Fareshare depot within a month of the SRA food waste meeting, our edible food was feeding hungry people!

Working with Fareshare

We decided to extend our trial and wanted to commit to weekly deliveries where possible to Fareshare sites across the UK, which is what we have been doing ever since. Since then we have delivered around 300 meals a week to Fareshare sites. These have been both mixed cages and cages of single products. We will continue to keep delivering our weekly donations and hope to expand across ambient products in the next few months.

After a really productive meeting with the SRA on waste we decided to investigate where we had opportunities to do more with food that didn’t make it to our pubs. We understood the ideal situation was to have no edible waste within the business but as it invariably is within the food industry the vision was not the reality. We are in a fortunate position where we operate from a central distribution hub which services our 800+ pubs and wanted to divert surplus food identified at this point to a good cause.

We launched weekly deliveries of food donations to Fareshare across the UK to multiple Farshare depots. The donations of surplus food included products that have come off the menu after a menu cycle and quality issues that we had raised internally.  All of the food was perfectly fine to eat and tended to have enough shelf life to be useful to someone else.

Plate auditing

We wanted to understand what was coming back to our kitchens left on plates and conducted a plate waste audit identifying key themes around what was regularly returned.  We sent middle and senior managers back to the floor for a shift to capture anecdotal feedback and see first-hand what was returned.

Smaller portions

Speaking to customers is a great way to engage, and the feedback we had was that those with smaller appetites still wanted to enjoy some of the classic Wetherspoon dishes but some of the portions sizes were too big. Our traditional breakfast is a great treat but often the size of it was overwhelming for some people who still wanted the same great products in a lighter breakfast. We summarised that food was being wasted.

We reduced the portion size of two desserts which again were considered too big for one person and in turn offered the customer better value.  We changed our children’s menu to include a 1-2-3 step approach where children decide which vegetable or side they wanted, this saw a great reduction in unwanted veggies being left on plates.  By offering smaller portions of bigger meals we saw fantastic growth in the small traditional breakfast and empty plates were returned to the kitchen with no waste. We listed a half size fish and chips, Ham and Egg and chips dish, and Scampi and chips – all providing customers with the option for a lighter meal resulting is less plate waste.

Anaerobic digestion & recycling

Following the successful trial across our Scottish pubs of splitting out all pub food waste the decision was made to launch across the whole estate in order to use food waste more sustainable through anaerobic digestion. Pub teams were trained on the importance of segregating food and plate waste into separate bins which is collected by our waste provider Veolia. We are committed to minimising waste and opting for recycling wherever possible. Our target is to recycle 95% of recyclable waste.  The pubs and head office segregate waste into at least five areas; glass, tin, cooking oil, mixed recycling (paper, cardboard & plastic) and general waste.  We have recently moved to in house food waste segregation, where possible pubs food waste is separated and sent for anaerobic digestion.  The company has a dedicated distribution and recycling centre for food, some bottled drinks and non-consumable products. At the same time as making deliveries, the lorries collect mixed recycling, and used cooking oil and tin for return to the recycling centre, creating a circular economy and reducing the company’s carbon footprint as a result of reduced road miles.



Overall food waste reduction had to be a company-wide objective as it crossed the path of so many different teams.  The main changes were for our pub teams but we needed innovation from our food developers and quality assurance teams. Our catering mangers and audit team’s monitored progress and our distribution network assisted in re-directing surplus. We realised that when small wins were amplified, we could make significant changes within a small period of time.


All 800+ pubs in the estate now segregate food waste which is collected and sent for anaerobic digestion. Wetherspoon currently send zero waste to landfill and will continue to work towards the target to recycle 95% of recyclable waste. We saw a total reduction in food stock losses of 10% across the whole pub company which includes over 800 pubs. Donations to Fareshare have been on-going from our distribution centre and they have received over 4000 meals from Wetherspoon during the trial period alone. It has been agreed that the trial will continue and on-going partnership between Wetherspoon and Farsheare will continue with plans in place to build on our current relationship.  Over 100 charities have benefited in donations from Wetherspoon. Meals for those with a smaller appetite are listed on the Wetherspoons menu across 800+ pubs and are available for customers wanting a smaller option to enjoy. Empty plates are being returned to kitchens in over 800 locations and nearly every town and city in the UK, where before larger portions were creating food waste.

Being part of the SRA has raised our awareness to so many more areas where food is or has the potential to be wasted. We will continue to make small changes and amplify them throughout our estate with the support of the SRA and do what we can to save unnecessary waste and re-direct surplus to those who really need it. 


Do you have a Waste No Food story to tell?

Enter the Awards


Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email