A conversation with Alice Woodwark - Managing Director, Restaurant Associates - UK

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What motivated your personal interest in sustainability and food waste reduction?

Food waste only really becomes visible once you see the kind of figures we, as a UK population, are throwing away. Once you are made aware of this fact, it is difficult not to become personally invested in the issue. We recognise that as a company we also need to reduce our food waste. We’ve already introduced a number of measures to tackle this issue and as our target to reduce our food waste by 10% by 2020 shows, it remains at the very top of our agenda.

Can you share a story about a food waste hero who inspired you?

We have an amazing team at Wellcome Trust who have done the business proud in the way they have adopted the technology of Winnow Solutions--a smart-scale system which weighs food waste and produces detailed reports on what is being wasted and where in the foodservice process. Particular praise must go to Claire Adams, Contract Manager on site, for embedding the technology so well in the kitchen. I believe the whole kitchen team deserve the highest of praise. Reducing food waste by 70% is an incredible achievement, one that even caught the eye of esteemed food critic Charles Campion when he visited the site to taste the delicious ‘rejuvenated’ (utilising unused ingredients) menu.

What change have you made, personally, to be more mindful of food waste?

In the past, I believe we have all probably been guilty of overindulging in portion size. I now make a conscious effort to buy slightly less food so that I do not overeat or leave food uneaten on my plate--two scenarios which I am sure we are all familiar with.

What will it take for the UK to make food waste a priority?

I believe there has already been a substantial shift in perception of food waste. Take for instance the Courtauld 2025 Commitment to cut food waste by 20%, which has now collected 136 signatories, Compass Group included. There is still a lot we can do collectively as a nation, but the signs are there that the message is taking hold.

What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?

One of the most important steps someone can take to reducing their personal food waste is to simply plan ahead in a sensible fashion; buying impulse items is a sure way to seeing some of it end up in the bin.