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As costs soar is the hospitality sector keeping up with its sustainability agenda?

  • Asset Type: Blog Post
  • Author: Ollie Brand | CEO
  • Publication Date: 29 Nov 2022

With the UN Climate Change Conferences COP27 having recently drawn to a close, it is perhaps a clear reminder that the hospitality industry along with others, has a significant role to play in ensuring a greener planet. However, commitment to sustainability in terms of embracing a more environmentally friendly future requires focus, stamina, and a long-term mindset – all big asks in the current climate.

In truth, it hasn’t been easy for restaurants and contract caterers over these last few years, and with many businesses struggling to survive amidst ongoing price hikes, staff shortages, energy costs and supply chain disruption, the focus on sustainability may well have dropped a few notches down the pecking order of priorities for many.

A recent independent study of UK restaurants commissioned by Zupa in September 2022 and published this month, seems to support this. It reveals that 100% of the 250 restaurant managers and head chefs surveyed said that stock and food wastage is a consistent challenge for their business.

Yet, what is perhaps more worrying is the number of businesses that admit they are potentially failing at even the most basic level. Our survey also found that 99% of hospitality and catering professionals admitted that a number of key tasks are being side-lined day to day, due to time being consumed by manual processes. One of the key areas identified as being neglected was effective stock management (30% of restaurants cited this as an issue), and also the focus on sustainability and climate change (34% cited this). On top of this, the study also revealed 24% of restaurants are overlooking food wastage, and a further 24% are struggling with over ordering.

Food production is already responsible for nearly a third of carbon emissions as well as 90% of deforestation around the world, according to The United Nations. With wastage a challenge for 100% of the restaurants we surveyed; and, while 31% said they would like to use technology to help them to improve their inventory management and stock control, only 22% said the same about managing their carbon emissions – perhaps hinting at where the perceived priorities currently lie.

Given the focus right now being all around rising costs, food shortages and lack of staff, perhaps the decline in focus around climate change isn’t all that surprising?

Considering the growing numbers of vacancies in hospitality, the focus on climate change and rising inflation (not to mention a looming recession), it is perhaps more concerning that so many of these aspects currently being side-lined not only impact sustainability but also carry cost implications for the business.

A focus on improving stock management and reducing food wastage can meet both objectives of improving sustainability and the bottom line. Accurate and real-time stock management processes ensure complete visibility of cost control. This enables chefs and managers to have reliable stock rotation and inventory management, helping reduce the likelihood of wastage. This cannot be done effectively, nor quickly, manually.

Ironically, what is also potentially being overlooked (and I know I have raised this in previous blogs), is the impact that innovation around sustainability has on the consumer in terms of where they choose to spend their money. Becoming more sustainable can feel daunting in a sector already pushed to its limits, but the ambition to create an impact on the planet not only has the potential to strengthen reputation, but it can also open doors to other new revenue streams and cost savings via improving the efficiency of a business in order to lower operating costs and reduce food waste in the process.

Right now, restaurants understandably need to focus on bottom-line revenue, but this doesn’t need to be to the detriment of operating more sustainably. As we wrote in our blog on sustainable procurement, businesses also need to enhance their customer experience and boost their green credentials, if they are to attract more eco-savvy customers and survive long term.

Three in five of the respondents polled in our latest survey agreed that introducing new technology would help to make the running of their business more efficient, not to mention reduce admin burdens. Recognition that the right technology - like Zupa’s catering management platform Caternet - can not only help to reduce pressure on short-staffed teams, and free up more hours in the day to focus on initiatives like sustainability, but can also help businesses to become more eco-efficient, innovative and cost-efficient by better recipe management and regaining control of their stock inventory.