Turning the tables on food waste in our Halls
As part of the University’s activities around sustainable food, from sustainable sourcing to waste management, the University’s catering team at Churchill Hall joined a three-month food waste reduction trial with Bristol Food Network and Chefs Eye Tech, which started on the 15th of January 2019. As part of Bristol's ambition to become the first Gold Award Sustainable Food City in the UK, the University is representing the university food waste sector in Bristol, building upon Bristol gaining the Sustainable Food Cities Silver Award in 2016.
The Chefs Eye Tech system was installed at the kitchen of Churchill Hall in North Residential Village. An average of 420 meals are served over breakfast and dinner service at Churchill Hall, and the kitchen is also used to prepare food for various events.
The aims of the pilot were to:
- Reduce food waste and produce cost savings within 3 months
- Work with Bristol Chefs on a blueprint for food waste reduction
- Share best practice within the city
The Catering Team, including Catering Manager Kate Butler and Head Chef Rob Smith, were looking into tackle their own set of challenges:
- Uncertainty on the number of students dining at the Hall every day (eg. in the event of late lectures, students change their minds and don’t turn up).
- Lack of supporting data on the different waste streams and trends, e.g. type of food waste, which service is generating it.
- Ability to monitor chefs’ preparation patterns in the morning and evening service.
- Manage wastage to improve budget, getting a better insight into how to be more cost efficient.
- Data on students’ plate waste to improve plate waste segregation.
Chefs Eye Tech is a food waste reduction software which enables hospitality sites to monitor and take control of their food waste. Registering food waste with the system provides real-time actionable data on wastage which helps identify key areas to make informed decisions to minimise wastage, cut purchasing and reduce overall food costs.
The Chefs Eye system was installed in the main kitchen area. A full day of training was provided for the Management, FOH and Kitchen Team, which started with the customisation of the Chefs Eye Dashboard and app to provide accurate reporting.
Food waste was separated beforehand, and the chefs regularly went through bins to identify ways to improve their cooking techniques to reduce food waste.
A Food Waste Awareness day was organised with the help of the WRAP Consultancy Team (MSc Students) and Livvy Drake, Project Manager of the Program. Food waste surveys were filled out by the diners prior to and during the event. To get a better insight into what food items are returned, the diners had to segregate their plate waste into 3 streams. At the end of the dinner service 15kg of plate waste was weighed, broken down to: 42% (6.25kg) Starch; 38% (5.72kg) Mains & Proteins and 19% (2.86kg) Vegetables and Trimmings (trimmings contributed to about 8% of the total plate waste).
According to the surveys filled out on the day, 82% of the students would prefer to serve food for themselves. Half of the students thought that the served portion sizes were the correct size, but 31% of them thought the portion size is too large.
At the end of the trial period over 6 tonnes of food waste was weighed, of which avoidable food waste (spoilage, overproduction, expiry) made up nearly 2.4 tonnes, with a value of £4,875. With the help of the Chefs Eye food waste reports and transaction images, the highest food waste streams have been identified, food production has been changed and wastage has been reduced. During the three-month project period, the overproduced (still edible unserved food items) food items’ volume has been reduced by 22% -150kg (£250) a month, compared to the first month of using the system.
Biggest reductions have been achieved on salads, where a 42% (26kg/week) reduction was achieved, and desserts which were cut by 70%. Starch and Meat wastage has also dropped by putting less food on display and by filtering out unpopular menu items.
By weighing every type of wastage, the chefs became more conscious about food waste. They now pay closer attention to how they prepare food, and to any food items that can be used/repurposed into other dishes. They also identified that trim waste could be further reduced by sending the scraps to compost on site around the North Residential Village.
The data helped the Head Chefs to monitor and manage production on site, and it also improved the communication between the morning and evening teams.
Cover numbers were added to the Food Waste Dashboard, where the weekly food waste data can be compared to covers to identify trends. The collected food waste data can also support the Catering Team to justify any changes they are planning to make in the way food is displayed and served.
From next term, a separate food waste bin will be placed in the Dining Hall to segregate fruit peelings from general plate waste during breakfast and dinner service.