Summary Author: Tom Tanner
Host: Louisa Dodd, Project Manager, SRA
Chantelle Nicholson, Chef/Owner Tredwells
Edwina Hughes, Head of Engagement, Cool Food Pledge
Louisa kicked off by explaining the aim of the webinar – to help all operators re-open for business with a menu designed to make the most sustainable dish(es) the bestsellers.
By creating a menu that’s adapted to prevent waste, contains fewer dishes business can increase cashflow and retain jobs. Plans for creating that menu should also take into account a potentially smaller workforce and an ongoing reliance on delivery to boost the bottom line.
All the indications from current consumer research shows an increased public interest in provenance and traceability etc, so creating a menu that champions these things will help restaurants stand out and attract new customers.
So, what is a sustainable menu?
Reducing meat consumption is the biggest thing we can do to reduce emissions – 1kg of beef creates 60 times more greenhouse gases than 1kg of veg.
Doesn’t mean you have to remove all meat from the menu – but reduce and when you do use meat be sure it’s UK and higher welfare.
The range and diversity of plants is enormous and provides so much creative opportunity – the Knorr Future 50 Foods is a great source of inspiration.
How to do it:
- Consider taking meat off the starter menu
- Reducing meat portion size
- Offer meat as an optional addition to a veg dish
Foodservice waste 1m tonnes of food and it costs the industry billions every year
Be conscious of potential unpredictable demand and design dishes that use the whole ingredients and remove generally uneaten garnish are a great place to start.
Be flexible and responsive to what suppliers can offer an abundance of to reduce waste and costs.
Adopting a nose to tail, root to fruit, gill to fin approach will help you create dishes that are original, with cheaper food costs, and produce very little waste
To help customers understand and buy into this approach, be sure to engage all staff including front of house so they can communicate what you’re doing.
Food and drink production is responsible for 20%+ of the UK’s carbon emissions
The procurement choices you make are critical to reducing your impact on the environment as well as on their long-term health of UK agriculture.
Along with the increased consumer interest in transparency and traceability, there’s never been a better time to source from small scale UK suppliers and build your menu around their fabulous produce – using the SRA’s supplier directory as a starting point.
Respected reports like EAT-Lancet Commission emphasise that food that’s good for our health is good for the planet and with a quarter of deaths in the UK being diet related and a fifth of all meal now eaten out of home it’s time to build nutritious dishes into the menu – keeping within the recommended quotas for sugar, fat and salt.
Getting creative with the UK’s three best selling dishes is a great place to start.
That could mean taking a cheeseburger and flipping it buy reducing the portion of meat, using dairy free cheese and only offering plant-based sides.
Pimp up a pizza by using heritage grains for the dough and wonky veg/offcuts for the topping
And for Friday’s fish and chips – try and skip the Big 5 and offer an ever so slightly smaller portion of chips – healthier, less waste and save money.
So how has an awarding winning London chef put some of these principles into action…
Chantelle Nicholson Chef/Owner of Tredwells shared her secrets with Louisa:
How do you inspire chefs to be innovative with plants?
Too often in the past, chefs have felt they have had to include vegan or vegetarian dishes instead of looking at those dishes as an opportunity to showcase their skills. Taking pride in them and ensuring they stand up alongside the meat and fish dishes does take more time and effort but the produce costs are lower and with the right communication customers will get it.
In the same way as you would never steam a steak as it would be disgusting, use the same techniques to create flavour in meat with your veg – like roasting or grilling.
How do you go about creating a sustainable menu?
Chantelle adopts a 360 approach. As a small business it’s easy to be nimble, she says. They have policies in place at Tredwells – like only using UK, higher welfare meat and sustainable seafood as well as UK-only strawberries and asparagus.
Last year they also hooked up with UK pulse and grain produce Hodmedods. Chantelle says they are ‘ridiculously’ cheap and good as well as a great way of helping customers feel satisfied at the end of the meal.
It’s important to be brave enough to try things. If they don’t work for your business, then try something else.
Is reducing waste second nature for chefs?
NO! Most chefs do need to be trained from scratch on waste.
Chantelle’s motto is everything we can eat doesn’t go in the bin.
Menu development is a great a tool to drill this no waste ethos into chefs.
Creating dishes with lesser used cuts of meat like lamb belly and pork collar is a good way to use all of the carcass, take pressure off farmers and reduce costs.
Chantelle says restaurants need to ween themselves off their reliance on 24/7 supplier deliveries and be transparent with customers that some dishes and ingredients will run out.
What will the Tredwells menu look like post-Covid?
Shorter – to adapt to unpredictable customer demands and potential pre-order regime. Make this into a virtue, focusing on a few quality dishes, creative menu language that allows flexibility (say ‘veal’ rather than a specific cut, or seasonal veg rather than a particular variety).
How do you price plant-based dishes?
Chantelle says some customers baulk at paying the same for a cauliflower dish as they would for a meat or a fish one and this does require education and engagement from staff on the real cost of food which has to include overheads and labour costs – not just the price of the ingredients.
Top Tips for creating a sustainable menu post-Covid:
- Use more grains
- Create your menu around what will be in season when you open
- Seek out new suppliers and be sure to specify your sustainability requirements
Edwina Hughes, Head of Engagement, Cool Food Pledge
Edwina and her colleagues at the global think-tank, World Resources Institute (WRI), have been working for two years on sustainable diets and helping foodservice to get their customers to choose more plant-based options.
The Cool Food Pledge playbook contains 57 pledges all under five key principles – the Five Ps.
Your workforce can be the best salesforce for your menu IF you engage them in the process and provide them with the skills to describe the dishes in an appealing way – ensuring they’re not the perennial bridesmaids.
- The ingredients are critical to making a sustainable menu that customers want.
- Plant-rich menus don’t have to be meat free – just feature smaller portions of meat and a great example would be a blended burger – part meat, part plant.
- Adding dishes isn’t the solution – you have to change the composition of dishes and menus and learn to let go of some stuff
- A Dutch operator reduced meat by an eighth and increased plants by half. Guests said they felt equally satisfied with the menu – before and after the change.
- How food is laid out, especially in buffets and other food display areas can make a big difference.
- Research shows that by placing the salad options at the start and increasing their share of the display area increase sales significantly.
- The language you use and how you position plant-rich dishes has a big impact on customers’ choices.
- For example, meat eaters will see a separate vegetarian section of the menu and immediately think it’s not for them.
- Make these dishes the norm – not the exception and place them at the top or at least in the middle of the options. PLACEMENT DICTATES DEMAND.
- Using adjectives to describe the provenance or cooking method to describe a plant-rich dish is far more effective than blunt words like ‘vegetarian’.
- Celebrate the sustainable dishes you offer
- Consider giving customers a free taste of something they’ve never tried before as some people are risk averse and need to be encouraged to try new flavours.
Edwina concluded by urging people not only to use the Playbook to create a more sustainable menu that sells, but to set themselves targets and measure the impact of their menu, using the tools of the Cool Food Pledge.
- What is most challenging element to integrate into your menu? (53 responses)
a. Plant-based dishes (12 / 23%)
b. Low waste ingredients (10 / 19%)
c. Sustainable sourcing (local, seasonal, organic) (21 / 40%)
d. Health – e.g. lower in sugar, fat + salt (9 / 17%)
- What is the main barrier to engaging with local suppliers? (52 responses)
a. Don’t know where to find them (9 / 17%)
b. Existing contracts with suppliers (15 / 29%)
c. Expense (19 / 37%)
d. None of these (9 / 17%)
- Are you planning to reopen next month/as soon as you can? (52 responses)
a. Yes (29 / 56%)
b. No (6 / 12%)
c. Undecided (17 / 33%)