How are pubs reducing food waste?

By Emily Hawkins

- Last updated on GMT

Be eco-friendly: pubcos share their waste reduction policies on Stop Food Waste Day (24 April)
Be eco-friendly: pubcos share their waste reduction policies on Stop Food Waste Day (24 April)

Related tags Food waste

Pubs have been urged to consider how to stop wasting surplus food on Stop Food Waste Day (24 April).

Now in its third year, Stop Food Waste Day is being organised by catering company Compass and will see millions of consumers around the world encouraged to think about their individual household habits.

How much food is wasted?

For every meal served in a UK restaurant or pub, almost 0.5kg of food is wasted through spoilage (21%), prep (45%) or plate waste (34%), according to Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) research.

It said that the food wasted by pubs equals a fleet of 13,675 double-decker buses per year.

With research from the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) showing that pubs waste 173,000 tonnes of food every year, businesses can also examine their policies. 

Not only is this waste bad for the environment – it emits the same quantity of CO2 as more than 600,000 cars – but it comes with a hefty price tag for operators.

The annual costs total about £20,000 per site and the equivalent of one in every six meals, according to the SRA.

The average cost of avoidable food waste to a pub business is £0.41 per meal, according to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP).

However, pub companies are responding to concerns from consumers with proactive policies to cut waste and help out in their communities.

Menu changes

Potatoes, bread and salad are the most wasted items, as they are often served in large quantities and without customers actively ordering them.

Some pubs have opted for the daring choice to stop serving Sunday roasts, such as the Wheatsheaf at Chilton Foliat, Wiltshire, whose decision paid off in being recognised for its sustainability by the SRA and pub chain JD Wetherspoon.

Pubco Greene King was the first pub company to partner with the Too Good To Go app, which offers customers any leftover carveries at a discounted price each evening​. 

Solutions range from smaller changes, such as re-using fruit used in cocktail garnishes, to larger ones like installing sustainable waste processors.

Money saving

Publican Christo Tafelli said it was a no-brainer to install a Power Knot LFC-70 biodigester as part of a more sustainable waste system at the historic St Albans site Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in Hertfordshire.

Tafelli said: “The maths made sense. In the first week, I eliminated three food waste collections.”

Pub Ye Olde Fighting Cocks installed a biodigester
Pub Ye Olde Fighting Cocks installed a biodigester

About £26,000 was spent on overall waste removal by the site in 2018, with around 20% of that total on food waste alone. The pub estimates the move to install a biodigester will create a saving of around £5,000 a year.

He added: “We’re in an old part of the city where there’s little room for bin lorries and we’ve stopped receiving two or three lorries a week. It’s great being able to manage our own waste disposal, rather than having to rely on someone else.”

Iain Milnes, president of Power Knot, a company that develops and markets food waste processing solutions for the hospitality sector, explained: “Waste food that ends up in a landfill is one of the top contributors to greenhouse gas.

“So pubs that are focused on saving money on waste food disposal while at the same time reducing their carbon footprint are considering diverting food from the waste stream and processing it on-site.”

Sustainable Restaurant Association top tips

  • Reduce/review portion control
  • Increase staff awareness about food waste
  • Maximise use of ingredients 
  • Better inventory management
  • Adapt menu planning

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