Taste of the Future: Foodservice not taking sustainability seriously enough

By Luke Nicholls

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition, Future

FCSI's Taste of the Future report investigates the key trends likely to have the greatest impact on the foodservice sector over the next three years
FCSI's Taste of the Future report investigates the key trends likely to have the greatest impact on the foodservice sector over the next three years
The majority of foodservice consultants believe that hospitality businesses are only 'paying lip service to sustainability', forecasting that the issue will have the greatest impact on the sector in the near future.

According to ‘Taste of the Future’ - a new report from the Foodservice Consultants Society International (FCSI) - economic challenges, healthier eating and sustainability are the three most important issues for food-led businesses, but it is the latter which appears to be the biggest area for concern.

The report investigates the key trends likely to have the greatest impact on the foodservice sector over the next three years. It suggests that the  industry may be guilty of paying lip service rather than truly grasping the sustainability nettle, with just 43 per cent of the 64 foodservice consultants surveyed believing that businesses are​ taking it seriously.

From the survey’s results, cost appears to be the primary barrier to becoming more sustainable; the initial investment and complexity involved in creating a truly sustainable offer may be encouraging many firms to rely on CSR initiatives to ‘tick the box’.

Sustainable restaurants

BigHospitality put the findings from the Taste of the Future report to the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), which was quick to point out that making your business more sustainable can in fact be financially rewarding in the long-run.

“A sustainable restaurant is an efficient restaurant, and an efficient restaurant is a profitable one,” said the SRA’s managing director Mark Linehan. “Perhaps operators should really be considering the wider costs of not being sustainable.

“Restaurateurs concerned about potential reduced margins involved in sourcing high welfare meat for example, should look at how much savings they can make by increasing energy efficiency and cutting their waste.”

Drilling down into the individual issues within the area of sustainability that are of greatest importance to foodservice and hospitality, more than half (54 per cent) of consultants point to local sourcing as an important future foodservice trend, with 86 per cent predicting a serious impact on procurement over the next three to five years.

Reviewing & prioritising

“We would recommend that any restaurant thinking seriously about being more sustainable should take a step back and review its sourcing, environment and society practices,” added Linehan. “Step two involves prioritising; it's not possible to do everything overnight.

“So, identifying achievable, meaningful targets across the three main areas will help the restaurant increase sustainability and save money without creating an unrealistic burden.

“Our experience shows that the industry is at a tipping point. We are now working with well over 1,000 operators across all areas of the industry - the vast majority of those operators are taking their responsibilities seriously, if for a variety of reasons, not least because they believe it is the right thing to do, but crucially they know it is, as the FCSI report says, what consumers want.”

Other findings in the FCSI Taste of the Future report:

  • Over half (56 per cent) of consultants believe that investment in people and talent management within foodservice provide an opportunity for growth.
  • Capitalising on burgeoning tourism will be ‘vital’ to the future success of the industry according to nearly half (43 per cent) of consultants.
  • Curiously, less than half (45 per cent) of consultants highlight healthier eating as a key trend. This follows a report published yesterday which discovered that the majority of UK adults believe that obesity has become a ‘major problem’ in Britain and that restaurant and pub chains should be doing more to promote healthy eating.

Evaluating the Taste of the Future report, FCSI UK & Ireland chairman David Bentley said: “The foodservice sector has been squeezed on a number of fronts: persistently tough trading conditions; the VAT increase; a culture of discounting; a growing appetite for casual dining and an intensifying government focus on healthy eating in the face of rising obesity levels.

“For the foodservice sector, being ready will mean not just meeting current challenges, but preparing for future trends and prioritising the areas that will deliver growth. Our report sets out to outline the future issues and growth opportunities that the industry should be aware of.” 

The 64 foodservice consultants were surveyed on key sector trends by Allegra Strategies, who then conducted in-depth online interviews to investigate these trends in more detail for the Taste of the Future report.

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