Burger King UK believes decarbonisation in the hospitality sector will have a profound effect on future menu development, but the industry is really only at the beginning of the “journey”.
Tim Doubleday, CFO at Burger King UK, said the chain’s own move towards increasing the number of vegan options on its menu was evidence of the change taking place.
Speaking at the launch of the Carbon Zero Forum, which Burger King UK is a founding member of, Mr Doubleday said: “We’re at the beginning of a journey and it will be a continuous journey, it’s not going to finish in 20 years’ time. When we’ve started looking at menus for us, we do what it says on the tin – the name’s over the door – but around 60% of our proteins are beef.
“If you go back 12 to 18 months, zero were plant-based and now we’re approaching 10% of our products being plant-based. We are looking to develop our menu so that around 50% of the products on the menu will not be meat-based.”
Mr Doubleday stressed that the brand doesn’t expect 50% of its sales to be non-meat-based, but said the firm has to appeal to a ‘flexitarian’ audience.
“We are very much looking at how we will manage our menu in that direction and basically bring our customer group with us, as well as staying relevant as a brand. I think that’s a continuing journey and you are seeing more of that generally across the sector as well, but for us as a burger-based business in particular.”
Burger King has taken a number of key steps to improve the environmental credentials of its business in recent years, from removing plastic toys from children’s meals to the introduction of energy-saving equipment.
Mr Doubleday said the challenge was how to reinvest savings made in some parts of the business into more difficult areas that are typically more expensive to deal with.
“That’s where I think some of the conversations with government about the research and development allowances, capital allowances and so on will help. Smaller businesses, particularly, look at those and say, ‘yes, I can get a return on this, it will pay back in a period of time’, which makes it a proper business decision as well.
“Ultimately, proteins are very expensive so as we look at moving towards plant-based products there’s an argument that you’re offsetting some of the inflation in some of the protein prices as well, but we’ll see where that develops.”
Mr Doubleday, who is also chair of the environment leadership team at Business in the Community – the business-led membership organisation founded by The Prince of Wales 40 years ago – said the company would need close engagement with its suppliers as it seeks to reduce its carbon footprint.
“Predominantly, supply chain is a big area for all of us but particularly in the QSR sector, so we’re now working very actively with our suppliers and looking at the products that we put through our restaurants. For example, plant-based is now becoming a core part of our menu which certainly wasn’t there three or four years ago so that sort of continued development is really important to what we do as a brand.”