Green education a challenge for foodservice industry

Gram webinar

The industry can do more to reinforce the values and importance of sustainability at an earlier stage in the education of chefs and catering professionals.

That was the view of leading industry experts who took part in The Go Green Debate this week, as they called on industry, government and education providers to promote the practical advantages of a green approach to kitchen management.

The webinar, one of three being hosted by refrigeration manufacturer Gram this year, explored the education and training of sustainability in the foodservice industry today.

Celebrity chef Cyrus Todiwala, CESA chair Simon Frost, managing director of RHP Limited and Research & Consultancy Fellow at Oxford Brookes, and managing director of Gram UK, Glenn Roberts took part in a lively discussion covering a range of pressing topics.

With regards to students being taught about the importance of sustainability, the panellists spoke about how and when sustainability should be addressed.

Rebecca Hawkins said “Sustainability within the curriculum has made it onto the agenda universally, which is a very positive move. We are good at talking about the big issues such as climate change and food shortages, but what we are not so good at is talking about the practical actions that fit around functional roles within the workplace.

“Sometimes we need to educate the teaching staff as well. Looking at the technologies that are commonly used in the kitchens now, there is a job to be done with trainers and helping them to understand what the sustainable agenda means for their business.”

Another interesting topic that arose during the conversation was the effect that equipment functionality has on operating a sustainable kitchen.

Simon Frost said “Manufacturers have been striving to improve the sustainability of their kitchen equipment over the years. Multifunctional equipment can help to make a kitchen more sustainable, but manufacturers have to accept the responsibility to train people in how to use the equipment.”

Cyrus Todiwala added: “Operators often invest too much in the front of house operations, focussing on creating a beautiful restaurant, and ignore investment in the kitchen, where the vital pieces of equipment that make or break a restaurant are.”

One recurring theme throughout the whole webinar was the necessity for the foodservice industry to understand the importance of the lifecycle cost of ownership.

Rebecca Hawkins noted that a return of investment of over a year isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and highlighted that people should think about and understand the long-term implications of investing now, in order to save money in the future.

Cyrus Todiwala also commented that small operators can fall into the trap of finding a quick and easy fix as they cannot afford better equipment, however they end up paying more over the lifespan of the product.

However, it was noted by Glenn Roberts that there is legislation from the EU which is expected to come into place in the next couple of years, which will establish better benchmarks for kitchen equipment, in terms of energy efficiency and longevity of usage.

One of the solutions given to help operators address the issue of sustainability was to appoint a “sustainability manager” or “green officer” among the kitchen staff. By doing so, kitchens will have someone who is responsible for educating other staff members in green practices and encouraging more efficient operation. This empowerment of kitchen staff would go a long way to help the industry become greener as a whole.

Ultimately, Simon Frost highlighted the government as a crucial factor in aiding the foodservice industry in its efforts to become sustainable. Without incentives for businesses, it will be more difficult to improve enthusiasm towards green issues throughout the industry and for businesses to get on board.

The next webinar will be held on 25 June, which will focus on how businesses can achieve a sustainable bottom line, taking into account whether operational efficiencies are key to being successful.

To sign up for the webinar, go to www.thegogreendebate.co.uk

To watch the webinar back, go to http://www.fsmevents.com/gram/webinar01

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