Many operators are highlighting waste reduction as part of this week’s Earth Week initiatives. Some are reinvigorating programs already in place with expansion plans and tech advancements. Others are wasting no time getting zero-waste initiatives off the ground.
The White House is furthering these efforts by acknowledging April as Winning on Reducing Food Waste Month, supported by an interagency agreement between the FDA, USDA and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Here’s a roundup of sustainability programs happening in the foodservice arena.
1. A day to stop food waste
April 24 is officially Stop Food Waste Day, an international day of action to reduce waste and build awareness. Compass Group is joining in that action by enlisting its chefs to prepare and serve meals without creating any food waste. Globally, about 3 million zero-food-waste meals will be served throughout Compass cafes in hospitals, schools, arenas, corporations, museums and senior living communities. To build awareness and mobilize the public, the foodservice company has partnered with celebrity chefs such as Jose Andres and Tom Colicchio, who will lead live cooking demos, host zero-waste dinners and educate consumers on food waste reduction.
2. New menu items for No Waste April
The chefs of Chicago’s DineAmic Group, which includes Siena Tavern, Prime & Provisions and Barrio, are each creating a no-waste dish to showcase throughout the month of April. At Prime & Provisions, for example, the kitchen repurposes any remaining steak from the menu’s porterhouse for two, three or four into chef Joseph Rizza’s No Waste Steak Sandwich. The sandwich is wrapped to go for a day-after meal. Bar Siena is offering Smoked Mozzarella Croquettes, a recipe created by chef Fabio Viviani using potato skins left over from making gnocchi. The potato cooking water is also recycled as a base for Smoked Potato Soup. The menu items are marked with the hashtag #wastenot.
3. A deeper shade of green
On Monday, April 22, fast casual Modern Market launched a new online content hub to act as a one-stop resource for consumers and staff to “think green.” Tying into waste reduction are details about the chain’s eco-friendly packaging—a new compostable sugar cane fiber bowl—plus creative ways to reuse the to-go packaging at home. Broader topics around sustainability will also be addressed, such as information on sourcing and supply chain and Modern Market’s healthy eating and social responsibility goals. Each week, Modern Market is sharing DIY tutorials, blogs and more through its social media channels to drive customers back into the site and keep them thinking about sustainability.
4. Trash talking
Recycling trash into edible treasures is nothing new for restaurants, but Ryan Moore, executive chef at Sababa in Washington, D.C., designed his whole menu around that practice. The only items he throws away are the empty cartons from produce deliveries. Moore was forced to rethink food waste at his previous restaurant, which was situated on an alley and had spotty garbage removal. The result: a number of dishes based on broccoli stems, vegetable peels and coffee grounds. Fast forward to Sababa, where one of the signatures is Marmalade with Charred Lemon Charcoal served over roasted haloumi cheese. It’s made from juiced lemon shells left over from the 400 or more lemons Moore uses every day at his modern Israeli restaurant.
5. Composting 2.0
With a more limited menu and staff, it’s a challenge for fast casual Dos Toros to repurpose food waste into menu items. And carting garbage away every day from urban locations is costly. So founder Leo Kremer decided to go the composting route, using technology to adapt to the restaurants’ smaller footprints and city stores. Each of the 19 locations is equipped with a 50-pound compost bin, which is filled to the brim by the end of the day with avocado skins, meat trim, tomatillo peels and more. As soon as it’s full, a team member can signal the composting company to pick up the bin through an app. The setup gives Dos Toros a dividend—locations can get the composted material back to use for soil to grow herbs and other plants, says Kremer.
6. Celebrating year-round initiatives
Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., is capitalizing on the hoopla around Earth Week to tout its efforts to make every day Stop Food Waste Day. This April, it’s promoting its yearlong Green Cup/Plate Waste Challenge, a campuswide competition to see which of the residences with dining halls could have the greatest reduction in plate waste. And in partnership with its foodservice provider, Compass Group, Northwestern Dining is working with Campus Kitchens, a national organization of students collecting donatable food from dining halls to divert food waste through redistribution in the Evanston community. Campus Kitchens has been able to expand from two to six pickup locations on campus in just one year.