I can’t say for definite, but I am pretty sure that every column I’ve written in the past 12 months will have started with a reference to the coronavirus pandemic in one form or another. It has dominated every aspect of industry life since the UK was ordered to lock down on March 23 last year.
So for this one I’m going to deliberately park that subject and focus on a topic that has understandably slipped down the industry agenda but which I have no doubt will return with some force.
Amidst all the gloom the industry has had to contend with, it is refreshing to see that some of the largest players have still found time and motivation to scrutinise the issues that will affect them once normality does return, particularly around sustainability.
Almost 20 of the UK’s largest pub and restaurant chains recently pledged to become greener by setting up an industry group aimed at cutting carbon emissions across the sector.
The Zero Carbon Forum, which has been endorsed by the government, includes the likes of Nando’s, Pizza Hut, The Restaurant Group, PizzaExpress, Fuller’s, Boparan Restaurant Group, Marston’s, Azzurri, Greene King, KFC and Mitchells & Butlers.
Members will aim to share best practice as they face the challenge of reducing emissions and tackling climate change.
The group is already working on a series of initiatives that will support their objectives, including collaboratively buying renewable energy, price benchmarking and carbon offsetting.
They believe they will be able to achieve their net zero carbon targets faster, and more efficiently and cost effectively by acting collectively. Assuming it is not a closed shop, other operators with meaningful restaurant estates will surely want to get in on the act too.
This focus on cutting carbon emissions and reducing business costs comes as the other end of the supply chain puts plans in motion to achieve net zero carbon for the foodservice equipment industry.
The Foodservice Equipment Association’s ‘Five Point Plan’ for doing this proposes a series of measures that make perfect sense, including tax breaks and incentives to encourage energy efficient equipment sales, a clearer mechanism for helping operators access greener equipment and support with replacing old appliances.
It is clear that from the endeavours of both of these groups that the industry is shooting for the same target — and that operators and suppliers ultimately want the same thing.
Hopefully once the market recovery is allowed to take hold, and companies start getting cash back into their businesses again, we’ll start seeing a return to conversations underpinned by the long-term business picture.
A collaborative effort to create a greener and more efficient industry stands to benefit everyone.