Going green is a no brainer. It’s not just good for the planet, it’s good for your business; customers will feel better about buying your product if they know it’s not damaging the earth. So how can you make your roadside catering business that little bit greener?
Firstly, minimising food waste should be a top priority. By carefully planning your menus and portion sizes, you can ensure that you're only preparing what is necessary.
Consider donating any surplus food to local charities or food banks to avoid unnecessary waste. Choosing sustainable packaging is another important step. Opt for biodegradable or compostable materials instead of single-use plastics.
This not only helps reduce waste but also shows your customers that you are committed to environmental sustainability. By implementing these and other sustainable practises, you can make a positive impact on the environment while running a successful mobile catering business in the UK.
Why caring for the environment makes business sense
Customers might not base their decision to use your services solely on green factors, but it can certainly influence choices and give you a competitive edge.
Being green can also help you to engage your workers and improve motivation. Younger people typically care deeply about the environment and are incentivised by doing good in the world, rather than just earning money. Knowing they are working for a principled, ethical catering business can improve retention, productivity and engagement.
The other factor is cost; there’s a common misconception that being green translates into higher costs and bumping up prices. When you have overheads such as staffing, catering insurance, equipment hire and so forth, anything that could increase costs is understandably unwelcome.
However, initiatives such as waste reduction and efficiency improvement can save you money as well as helping the environment. For example, selling used oil to be used as fuel saves you the cost of disposal and brings in new revenue.
Reduce food waste
To state the obvious, throwing away food that you have paid for is going to hit your bottom line. Thinking through every single process relating to food waste can help reduce this wastage.
Ensure you use a first in, first out food storage system to help avoid food going out of date, and where fresh produce is past its best, use it in stocks or soups rather than discarding it. Large portions are responsible for a great deal of waste. If customers are not clearing their plates, reduce portion size to cut out the waste.
Check out a few online food quantity calculators to give yourself a general guideline as to how much food you would likely need to prepare for an event. By using the ‘SaveTheFood’ website, you can even adjust how much food you’d like to make to include leftover meals for staff, and choose from a range of specific food items as well to get a more accurate estimate.
There are lots of schemes to avoid edible food being thrown away, for example donating it to homeless shelters or food banks. You could also opt to give workers a free meal at the end of their shift, so they help eat some of the surplus.
Instead of discarding unused ingredients or dishes, caterers can find creative ways to transform them into new and appealing menu items. For example, leftover vegetables can be used in soups or salads, while excess meats can be incorporated into sandwiches or wraps.
By repurposing leftovers, not only can caterers reduce food waste, but they can also offer customers a wider range of options and increase their overall satisfaction.
Mobile caterers can partner with local food banks or charities to donate any surplus food that cannot be repurposed or sold. Take a look at TrusselTrust.org to find local food banks in your area.
This not only helps reduce food waste but also contributes to addressing food insecurity in the community. By establishing relationships with these organisations, caterers can ensure that any leftover food is put to good use and benefits those in need.
Collaborating with food banks can also enhance the caterer's reputation as a socially responsible business, attracting more customers who value sustainability and community support.
Mobile catering in the UK can become more environmentally friendly by actively working to minimise food waste. This can be achieved through careful planning, repurposing leftovers, and partnering with local food banks or charities.
Instead of food going to landfill, it may be possible to divert it to a green energy scheme where it is used for biomass or composting. This form of disposal can even work out cheaper than traditional refuse collection. Some types of waste, such as used coffee grounds, can be packaged and offered to customers to take home to enrich their compost heaps!
Cut down energy usage
The energy you use will increase your carbon footprint, as well as pushing up costs. Although it will take some upfront investment, upgrading older appliances to more energy-efficient models can have a huge impact on your energy bills, as well as cutting the chances of the equipment malfunctioning. Having safer, more modern equipment could even cut your catering insurance premiums.
Appliances should be maintained and serviced regularly to ensure they are working as efficiently as possible. Hot and cold appliances such as freezers and cookers should be located far apart, and you may even wish to use super-efficient induction hobs to save energy and reduce the risk of injury to your workers.
A printed shut-down routine for the end of the day will ensure that all appliances are turned off overnight as appropriate. You could also switch to a renewable energy supplier.
Additionally, consider using low-energy lighting options such as LED bulbs, which use significantly less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs.
Another way to reduce energy consumption is by properly insulating your mobile catering unit. By insulating the walls and roof, you can prevent heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. This will help maintain a comfortable temperature inside the unit without relying heavily on heating or cooling systems, thus reducing energy usage.
Make sure to seal any gaps or cracks in the windows, doors, and vents to prevent air leakage, which can lead to energy waste.
Consider using renewable energy sources to power your mobile catering unit. Install solar panels on the roof to harness the power of the sun and convert it into electricity. This way, you can generate clean and sustainable energy to run your appliances and equipment. Although the initial cost of installing solar panels may be high, you'll benefit from reduced energy bills in the long term.
Some of these options may be out of your budget depending on what you’re willing to spend, so any small change in packaging or food utensils might be the best option for your business.
Remember to use energy-efficient appliances, properly insulate your unit, and consider using renewable energy sources to power your operations. Small changes can make a big difference in creating a more sustainable catering business.
Using energy-efficient cooking methods
By utilising energy-efficient cooking methods, you can significantly reduce the environmental impact of your mobile catering business in the UK. Cooking consumes a large amount of energy, so making simple changes in the way you cook can make a big difference.
Here are some ways you can incorporate energy-efficient cooking methods into your mobile catering business:
- Opt for induction cooktops: Induction cooktops are more energy-efficient compared to traditional gas or electric stoves. They use electromagnetic fields to heat the cookware directly, resulting in faster and more efficient cooking.
- Use pressure cookers: Pressure cookers are a great way to save time and energy. They cook food quickly by trapping steam and increasing the pressure inside the pot. This reduces cooking time and saves energy.
- Choose energy-efficient appliances: When purchasing cooking appliances for your mobile catering business, look for energy-efficient models with high Energy Star ratings. These appliances are designed to use less energy without compromising performance.
- Utilise residual heat: Take advantage of residual heat by turning off the heat source a few minutes before the food is fully cooked. The retained heat will continue cooking the food, saving energy in the process.
- Optimise oven usage: Plan your cooking schedule efficiently to make the most of your oven. Cook multiple dishes at once, utilise all available space, and avoid opening the oven frequently, as this leads to heat loss and longer cooking times.
By implementing these energy-efficient cooking methods, you can not only reduce your carbon footprint but also save on energy costs for your mobile catering business in the UK.
Minimising water usage and implementing water-saving measures
To minimise water usage and implement water-saving measures, you can adopt efficient practises that contribute to a more sustainable approach in your operations. Start by installing low-flow faucets and aerators in your mobile catering unit. These devices reduce water consumption without compromising on performance.
Additionally, you can invest in water-efficient equipment such as dishwashers and steamers that use less water per cycle. Regularly maintain and repair any leaks in your plumbing system to prevent wastage.
Encourage your staff to be mindful of water usage by training them on efficient dishwashing techniques and reminding them to turn off taps when not in use. By implementing these measures, you can significantly reduce your water consumption and minimise your environmental impact.
Another way to minimise water usage is by practising responsible water management. This can be achieved by reusing water whenever possible. For example, consider using a greywater system to collect and treat wastewater from sinks or dishwashing stations. This treated water can then be reused for tasks like flushing toilets or watering plants.
Promoting local and seasonal ingredients
When it comes to promoting local and seasonal ingredients, you can make a big impact by sourcing your ingredients from local farmers and suppliers.
This not only supports the local economy but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation.
By creating menus based on seasonal produce, you can offer fresh and flavourful dishes that are in line with the changing seasons, showcasing the best of what the UK has to offer.
Sourcing ingredients from local farmers and suppliers
Sourcing ingredients from local farmers and suppliers not only supports the local economy but also reduces carbon emissions associated with long-distance transportation. By purchasing from local farmers and suppliers, you're helping to strengthen the local food system and contribute to the sustainability of your community.
The produce you source locally is likely to be fresher and more flavourful, as it doesn't have to travel long distances to reach your mobile catering business.
When you buy from local farmers, you can establish personal relationships with them, allowing you to have a better understanding of their farming practises and the quality of their products.
This transparency enables you to ensure that the ingredients you use are of the highest standards. Additionally, sourcing locally reduces the need for excessive packaging and refrigeration, further minimising your environmental impact.
By supporting local farmers and suppliers, you're not only doing your part to protect the environment but also providing your customers with delicious and sustainable food options. So, take the time to research and connect with local farmers and suppliers in your area.
Your mobile catering business can make a positive impact by sourcing ingredients locally and promoting a more environmentally friendly approach. Take a look at websites such as farminguk.co.uk to find local producers to get in touch with.
Use eco-friendly disposables and packaging
Customers are now much more conscious of the impact of single-use plastics on the environment. Some will take their business elsewhere if you only offer them these non-biodegradable products. As more and more food businesses opt for greener alternatives, using disposable plastic could make you look outdated as well as being bad for the environment.
Here are a few examples that you may be able to use within your own business:
- Introduction to sustainable packaging: Sustainable packaging is designed to limit its environmental impact by reducing waste, using renewable energy during production, and using materials derived from renewable resources or recycled waste. For mobile caterers, transitioning to this solution can help to significantly reduce their carbon footprint.
- Biodegradable packaging: One of the most common sustainable packaging solutions is biodegradable packaging. These materials decompose naturally and safely, causing minimal harm to the environment. For example, mobile caterers could use biodegradable sandwich wraps or takeaway containers made from corn starch or plant-based materials.
- Compostable packaging: Compostable packaging goes one step further than biodegradable materials by breaking down into nutrient-rich compost. This includes products like compostable coffee cups, plates, and cutlery. For instance, a mobile catering food truck serving coffee could use compostable cups and lids, reducing waste that ends up in landfill.
- Recyclable packaging: Recyclable packaging is another excellent sustainable solution. These materials can be collected and reprocessed into new products. For example, mobile caterers could opt for recyclable aluminum foil trays for serving meals, which can be recycled endlessly without losing quality.
- Reusable packaging: For caterers who have regular clients or operate in a stationary location like a market stall, reusable packaging could be a viable option. This may include robust plastic containers that customers can return for a discount on their next purchase. A mobile catering company could also offer a small discount to customers who bring their own reusable containers.
- Do away with unnecessary packaging: An effective way of promoting sustainability is to eliminate unnecessary packaging. For example, instead of individually wrapping utensils, a mobile caterer could offer utensils only upon request or use a dispenser.
- Educate customers: To increase the effectiveness of sustainable packaging efforts, mobile caterers could educate their customers about the importance of proper disposal. For example, they could include information on how to compost or recycle the packaging on the containers themselves or on their social media platforms or provide signage and recycling bins when catering for an event.
Using biodegradable or compostable containers and utensils
By using biodegradable or compostable containers and utensils, you can reduce your environmental impact and contribute to a greener future. These sustainable alternatives to traditional single-use plastics are designed to break down naturally over time, minimising the amount of waste that ends up in landfills or oceans.
Biodegradable containers are made from materials such as paper, bamboo, or sugarcane, which can decompose into natural elements when exposed to the right conditions. Compostable containers, on the other hand, are made from organic materials like cornstarch or bagasse, and they can be turned into nutrient-rich compost that can benefit soil health.
To better understand the benefits of using biodegradable or compostable containers and utensils, let's take a look at a comparison between these sustainable options and traditional single-use plastics:
|Biodegradable/Compostable containers and utensils
|Traditional single-use plastics
| Environmental impact
|Break down naturally, reducing waste
|Persist in the environment for hundreds of years
|Can be composted or biodegraded
|Often end up in landfills or oceans
|Made from renewable materials
|Made from fossil fuels
|Increasingly valued by environmentally conscious consumers
|Increasingly seen as harmful and unsustainable
By choosing to use biodegradable or compostable containers and utensils in your mobile catering business, you are not only making a positive impact on the environment but also aligning with the growing demand for sustainable practises.
These alternatives offer a viable solution to reduce plastic pollution and create a healthier planet for future generations. Remember, every small change counts, and by taking this step, you are contributing to a greener and more sustainable future.
Regularly evaluating and improving environmental performance
Now that you've educated your customers about sustainability, it's time to take the next step in making your mobile catering business more environmentally friendly. This involves regularly evaluating and improving your environmental performance.
By doing so, you can ensure that you're continuously making progress towards reducing your carbon footprint and minimising waste.
To begin, set up a system for regularly monitoring and evaluating your environmental performance. This can include tracking metrics such as energy consumption, water usage, and waste generation. By regularly reviewing these numbers, you can identify areas where improvements can be made.
Once you've identified areas for improvement, it's time to take action. Implementing changes can be as simple as switching to energy-efficient appliances or incorporating more sustainable packaging options. Here are three ways you can improve your environmental performance:
- Optimise energy usage: Install LED lighting, invest in energy-efficient equipment, and practise smart energy management to reduce electricity consumption.
- Minimise water waste: Repair any leaks, install low-flow faucets and toilets, and consider using water-efficient cleaning methods to conserve water.
- Reduce food waste: Implement portion control measures, donate excess food to local charities, and compost food scraps to divert them from landfills.
By regularly evaluating and improving your environmental performance, you can demonstrate your commitment to sustainability and inspire others in the mobile catering industry to do the same.
Remember, small changes can make a big difference, so don't hesitate to take action. Together, we can create a more environmentally friendly future for mobile catering in the UK.
Think supply side to broaden your impact
Customer-facing businesses such as catering are under pressure to make changes, because the customers are able to see and judge what you are doing with their own eyes. Don’t forget that as a catering business, you are a customer, too – you can nudge your suppliers to make better choices.
For example, you might ask your suppliers to use biodegradable or reusable packaging materials. It makes no sense using eco-friendly products in the customer-facing side of your business if behind the scenes it’s a plastics free-for-all. Staff will notice the disconnect and customers are likely to spot the plastics refuse, too.
Don’t forget to blow your own trumpet
If you’re making the effort to be environmentally friendly, don’t be shy about sharing the good news with your customers. Explain your initiatives through your promotional materials or displays, giving facts and figures about the waste you have reduced, electricity saved and so on.
Being green can be a great marketing tool if you remember to make the customer the hero of the story - by doing business with you, they are helping the environment. You could even seek special recognition of your green efforts - why not see if there’s an award you can be nominated for, or issue a press release to local news sites?
While you’re improving your catering business by going green, why not switch to an alternative catering insurance provider, too? Here at Mobilers, we’ve got years of experience helping catering professionals find the right cover for them.