Socially conscious restaurant operators consider the cost of responsible business, ahead of GRIF 2019.
The F&B industry has long discussed the importance of operating a sustainable and responsible business. Today, being sustainable, or, to coin the latest buzzword, ‘socially conscious’, is about far more than paying lip service to eco-friendly initiatives. Businesses are expected to have a social and environmental conscience. They should be businesses people are proud to support, whether as an investor, partner, employee or customer.
However, most socially conscious efforts require investment, at least at the outset. For restaurant businesses working with small teams under tight budgets, this can be an obstacle. It’s this dilemma that will be under the spotlight at GRIF 2019, being held from 25-27 February at the NH Collection Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky, Amsterdam.
Raymond Blanc OBE, Chef Patron at Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons and Founder of The Raymond Blanc Consultancy, will set the agenda with a keynote address in his capacity as President of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. Various speakers throughout GRIF will touch on the sustainable issue, while sponsors Winnow will share their analysis of more than 450 kitchens, revealing that more than 70% of food wasted happens before it gets to the customer.
Ahead of the Forum, which will bring together more than 300 key players from the international restaurant investment community, Hospitality News ME asked some of GRIF Society’s key players in the regional F&B market for their views on the ‘socially conscious’ debate.
Emma Banks, Managing Director, JRG Dubai, says the appetite for conscientious consumption means operators are being forced to rethink their business models.
“In the main people are looking for more than just a great plate of food. It is more important than ever that brands take responsibility for their part in creating a better world. Restaurants are about far more than just food – they are community spaces and depend on nature for their very sustenance so have a moral obligation to respect their surroundings,” says Banks.
JRG Dubai began phasing out plastic from all its FOH operations in March this year, starting with straws, cutlery, swizzle sticks and stirrers, and is soon to announce a vegetable-based packaging range for The Noodle House.
“I once read ‘‘it is only one straw’ said 7 billion people” and it really hit home,” says Banks. “We all have a moral obligation to safeguard the future of our planet and this is very much a case of the more the merrier. That said operators tend to have a bigger sphere of influence to effect mass behavioral change, so it starts with us.”
She adds: “There is a cost implication of taking a more responsible approach to business however, which we hope will change in time as more brands realize how important it is”.
Ryan Hattingh Partner, Atelier EPJ, says the company is also “eliminating plastic where possible and working on a program to give back to the forests using a bit-coin type system”. However, he too acknowledges that being socially conscious can be a costly exercise.
“Most investors are aware and want to make the changes, but the challenge is to protect the margins,” says Hattingh. “The operators need to want to do it and the consumers need to want to pay.”
Gates Hospitality has also gone “straw-less in an effort to reduce plastic”; only collaborates with brands that share the same values; and has plans to tie up with different charity foundations.
“We believe consumers today are equally socially conscious and the little things do matter a lot in the long run,” says Naim Maddad, Chief Executive, Gates Hospitality. “We are of course not able to make drastic changes over night but we do get appreciation from our customers when we bring in small changes which is very encouraging.”
David Singleton, Area Vice President, Franchise Operations & Development EMEA/South Asia – Hard Rock Cafe International, believes that: “If we choose to open a restaurant, bar or hotel in someone else’s community then we are responsible for ‘doing it right’ for that community”.
He adds: “It’s a given now to consider the environment, the ‘straw campaign’ is now well established and we are now resigned to investing that little bit more into sustainable packaging and anything disposable. Resigned to it because it’s ‘right’.”
For Ignacio Ramirez, Managing Director MENA at Winnow, the biggest potential for change lies in cutting down on food waste, which also brings significant cost benefits.
“What gets measured gets managed, and by using data intelligently kitchens can be made more efficient,” says Ramirez. “Digital tools like Winnow can tell you exactly what is going into your bin, tracking the weight and financial value of those products. Consolidated reporting can identify easy wins like overproduction, as well as further long-term waste reductions available through fine-tuning processes, people and purchasing. Re-use of food that would otherwise have been wasted has become the standard, and it’s now possible to track exactly how much it’s adding to your bottom line.”
With 70 units using Winnow in the UAE alone, Ramirez says they are currently preventing 750,000 meals per year from being wasted,
“These kitchens typically halve their food waste in six to 12 months, saving each kitchen AED100,000 annually,” he reveals.
Ramirez believes much more can be done, however, and companies across the globe have set some ambitious targets.
“IKEA announced that it plans to cut food waste by 50% by 2020 as part of its #FoodIsPrecious campaign. Accor Hotels announced that it would reduce food waste by 30% by 2020. Costa Cruises has also teamed up with us to halve food waste by 2020 in industry first,” he reveals.
“Tackling food waste is a huge opportunity for the hospitality and foodservice industry as a whole. It can really be a transformational step change. It makes economic, environmental, and moral sense. By setting such a bold target, these companies are setting an example for the rest of the industry,” concludes Ramirez.