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Does the catering industry function entirely without waste?

Sustainability is a topic that is increasingly gaining traction in the restaurant industry. However, the attempt by restaurateurs to make their own operations sustainable and environmentally friendly also brings with it numerous difficulties.

For example, many restaurateurs want to introduce a zero waste strategy. Here, consistently eliminating environmentally harmful packaging in the delivery to the end customer is not enough.

Much earlier in the supply chain, packaging plays a major role and thus becomes a problem. But why exactly?

Before the food is prepared and delivered by the caterer, most of the ingredients have already been packaged once: organic vegetables come wrapped in plastic, fish and meat are vacuum-packed, and recycled napkins are stored in non-recycled boxes. All this packaging then becomes waste, which was once produced with a high energy input and now also has to be destroyed again.

So how can restaurateurs achieve a drastic reduction in waste in their supply chain as well? We have had many conversations with local restaurateurs regarding this question and some clear trends seem to be emerging:

The top priority for many is that their products come from their own region, or at least from European producers. This reduces the logistical effort, which is of great importance, since enormous packaging efforts are made, especially with air freight and intercontinental shipping.

The importance of weekly markets, as well as organic and farm stores, has also been increasing for years. Here, the gastronome can buy with the certainty that his ingredients have been transported without much packaging effort. It also offers him the opportunity to inspect the goods in detail before purchasing. This regular contact between suppliers and restaurateurs often results in close and personal trading relationships. An increasingly conscious clientele also has a high regard for when their food in the restaurant is made from regional products.

We have also observed that many restaurants and cafés are increasingly furnished with vintage furniture and furniture made from recycled materials. While this is not directly related to the supply chain, it is an excellent way to communicate one’s awareness of sustainability indirectly with the clientele. This trend is also very positively received by customers, as many of these pieces of furniture, properly designed and combined, create a great atmosphere and invite them to linger.

There are countless other measures that are being taken to rid one’s business of environmentally harmful waste. At this point, unfortunately, the restaurant industry is not yet where it would like to be in this regard. This is due to the fact that both the supply chain and large producers do not yet have a strategy on how to avoid unnecessary waste and packaging.

The good news, however, is that a change in thinking is gradually taking place here as well. A large number of consulting agencies are currently emerging for the implementation of zero waste strategies alone. This makes it possible for companies, even without their own know-how, to cut down on a large part or even the entire consumption of non-recyclable disposable packaging in a professional and, above all, efficient way. For many companies, this may seem daunting at first, as the costs of implementing such a strategy are expected to be high. Initially, this may even be true – but in the long run, recycled packaging can save a lot of money.

As you can see, some measures are being taken in the context of Zero Waste, but there is still a lot of room for improvement in the future. One day, for example, it`ll be possible to do without environmentally harmful packaging altogether.

Then the food will taste even better!

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