What practices do the foodservice industry need to put in place to ensure a more sustainable future? It’s a question that refrigeration manufacturer Gram and a number of leading experts are seeking to answer at a special event in London, which is free for operators to attend. FEJ caught up with Gram’s UK managing director, Glenn Roberts, to find out more about the inaugural Go Green Summit.
How did the idea for the Go Green Debate come about?
Biennially we publish the Gram Green Paper, which reports upon the progress around sustainability across eight key foodservice sectors and channels. Since we started it in 2008 it has provided a great deal of insight into the market and we will be doing it again in 2016. What we then wanted to do was try and find a way of keeping the momentum going with these issues in the years that there isn’t a Gram Green Paper. The Go Green Debate seemed an obvious follow-up to that.
What can you tell us about the Go Green Summit in October?
It is a half-day summit to be held at the Charlotte Street Hotel in London on October 20. It will be for professional caterers and those within the specification and sale of catering equipment in the UK. What we want to do is explore what sustainability really means to operators and demonstrate how it works in practice and the sort of financial benefits that a more sustainable approach can bring to a business. We have got some great support from organisations such as Wrap, the Carbon Trust, CESA and the FCSI. And one of the reasons that we have chosen the Charlotte Street Hotel is that the Firmdale Group, which owns it, are very keen on this topic. Sustainability is fundamental to them and their operation, so we hope there is symbiosis within that approach as well.
How will the event pan out?
We want to have at least six sessions within the half day and the intention is to try and keep it case study-led, so highlighting how sustainability will work in practice. We plan to include a Q&A for delegate participation and there will be plenty of opportunity for networking, of course. The main thing is that we want to get experts from within the field to talk about what they are passionate about because it is about trying to create an arena where people have meaningful discussions and actually derive some real benefit from it. We want to offer some practical, beneficial help that people can learn from and there is nothing better than hearing from somebody who has already done it.
The summit follows three sustainability webinars that you have hosted…
Yes. The first webinar looked at how to develop a sustainable skill set with training; how it moves from the classroom into the kitchen, and where sustainability fits on the training agenda. The second one explored how to achieve a sustainable bottom line and the fundamental issue of operational efficiencies to the success of a business. The third seminar focused on how the industry is working towards a sustainable future. We had CESA, the FCSI and the Institute of Hospitality talking about what’s in store and what the market looks like. The summit is then a culmination of those three webinars and we will try to encapsulate and pull together the thoughts that people have had.
People have seen their utility costs go through the roof and they have had to do something about it”
How have you found the webinars?
I have thoroughly enjoyed doing them. We would always love to have that little bit more of a response in terms of people signing up to them but of course what it has done is given us collateral, which we can then utilise moving forward. And, of course, the whole point is to inform and educate — and that includes our own staff and the wider market place. What we are trying to be are business developers, so that we understand the holistic issues that operators fundamentally have to contend with and can give them the right advice.
We were very gratified to have people like Mark Linehan from the Sustainable Restaurant Association involved in the webinars, who within five years has gone from no members to more than 4,500, which utterly recognises this shift and recognises that a certain element of the market place is focused on this. I think the webinars have basically shone a light on things that we hoped we knew but we are actually seeing the reality of it. Quite frankly, we have been bleating to the market place for the last 12 or 13 years about this and it is only in the last five years when any real traction has occurred and there has been any really significant interest in it. That is partly because people have seen their utility costs go through the roof and they have had to do something about it. We are trying to wrap it all together and show people that it is about training, education and behavioural change.
What one issue from the webinars struck you more than any other?
One thing — and we have to probably point a finger here because it has shown up on the Gram Green Paper as well — is an utter lack of awareness within the market place about government incentives and the things that are available to help people find out about energy efficiency. That will change in our sector due to the Ecodesign Directive being introduced next summer. Energy labelling will take a lot of emotion out of the situation. It takes out the salesman in a shiny suit telling people what he thinks they want to hear, and it takes it out of the hands of less scrupulous manufacturers that will make claims that can’t be substantiated.
Grass roots sustainability
Attitudes towards sustainability in the kitchen will change once best practice is taught at the point when catering professionals are beginning their vocational training. That’s the view of Gram MD, Glenn Roberts, who believes that more progress will be made once the information that is taken for granted by the supply chain is incorporated into the training modules and curriculums of catering courses.
“If we do that then the guys that are going through their NVQ levels at catering college or university will gain an understanding of how products work or will gain the knowledge that something as simple as applying basic PPM will make products work more efficiently and save them lots of money,” he suggests.
Roberts believes that equipment sustainability is part of a wider green issue that is starting to hit home, pointing to the way in which operators are now addressing food waste.
“If you are saying that 30% of perishable foodstuff is wasted between farm and fork, then frankly to a caterer that is money and a loss of potential earnings. Sooner rather than later you are also going to be charged to take away the food waste that you create, as well as the fact that you are losing money off a plate or a prep table. And if you are not storing products at the right temperatures or not rotating your stock correctly, that is money going down the drain, too. The whole focus on this area will start to increase,” he comments.
The Go Green Summit: What you need to know
Date: Tuesday 20 October 2015
Time: Arrival from 08.45, finishing at 14.00
Venue: The Charlotte Street Hotel, London
Nearest tube: Goodge Street/Tottenham Court Road
Registration details: www.thegogreendebate.co.uk