The nuts and bolts of making your bar more sustainable

Jessica Mason

20 June 2018

Making your bar more sustainable isn’t just good for the environment, it’s good for your bank balance and your venue’s reputation as well. Jessica Mason explains how and why you should go green

What if you were told your bar was sending money to landfill sites, contributing to the destruction of the planet and also turning away customers? Not great ethically – and not good business sense either.

The cost of food and drinks waste for the average bar is £8,000 each year, according to the British Hospitality Association (BHA). In fact, the BHA reckons that food and drink waste 'represents a cost to the sector alone of £357m each year, including food procurement, labour, utilities and waste management costs'.

The cost of food and drinks waste for the average bar is £8,000 each year

So much for the bad news. The good news is that by reducing waste, saving energy and being proactive about recycling, your business could ring the changes. Certainly improvements will play well with your customers.

According to Sanjay Aggarwal, founder of the wine and champagne cork recycling programme Recorked UK, the average bar visitor now has a greater awareness of the environmental impact of their behaviour than previously. So turn things around and you can raise your venue’s profile by talking about the journey.

All of which means that by creating a more sustainable bar, you could save money, help the environment and welcome in more customers – all by doing the right thing.

What do you need to do? Read on for some ideas.

Calculate your waste
Firstly, get staff on board by explaining why you are reducing waste. Next, you need to run a review to see how much you typically throw out. Choose a period that would be typical for your business; a mix of days when you are busy and when you are quiet.

To capture the items normally thrown away, set out separate containers for spoilage, preparation and glass/plate. Label the containers so staff know where to put the waste. Weigh the containers and record against each day for each type of wastage. The BHA has a three- or seven-day tracking sheet on its
website, or you can get the free app Wise up on Waste.

Check the weights against the BHA’s calculator tool on its website to see how much you could be saving over the course of a year. How long should the review last? As long as you desire to get a good idea of how much waste your business is creating. You may need as little as a week, but you might decide to do this for as long as a month to get a clear picture.

Tip: Make sure staff don’t make any changes to what is normally thrown away while you are carrying out the review. This will give you a good starting point or ‘baseline’, which you can use to track progress.

Get staff involved
Make time at your staff meetings to share any progress with the review process and highlight top staff ideas.Set goals and targets and see if you can reach them. Create league tables to help staff stay interested and involved.If you are a multiple operator with more than one site, it’s a good idea to share any successes with your other business.

What’s next?
Based on the results of the review you can:

  •  Work out how much the surplus waste is costing your business.
  • Get staff involved in thinking about where the waste is coming from.
  • Plan actions to begin reducing the amount you throw away.
  • Work with other companies and charities to reach your goal.
  • Items should never be over-ordered or over-supplied – particularly beware of stockpiling obsolete seasonal stock.
  • Consider working with a local or national food redistribution charity, such as Plan Zheroes and FareShare.
  • Recycling and composting (covered in more detail below) are an obvious win-win.

Tip: Interested in the bigger picture of throwing away less? The Waste Hierarchy is a guide to managing resources in harmony with the environment and your business needs. It will also help you meet your business’ legal obligations.


Save Energy
Turn it off. Really. Turn. It. Off.
Remote coolers usually run 24/7, even at night when there is no demand for drinks cooling. A typical bar’s cellar has two or three remote coolers. A typical beer cooler costs approximately £450 a year in electricity to run.

Energy-saving controls can manage remote coolers’ energy demands when the bar is closed and save around £100 per unit per year for a beer cooler, and £50 a year on a soft-drink cooler. A typical bar, in other words, can save £250 a year, as well as saving energy.

Buy standalone timer devices that switch the units on and off according to predetermined schedules. Alternatively, they can be intelligently controlled as part of an integrated cellar energy and conditioning monitoring system. Payback can be less than a year.

Reconsider and recycle
Shifts in attitudes to packaging are easy and can be a quick win.

Recorked UK recycles used wine and champagne-style corks, and also metal champagne cages, from across the UK. It takes care of everything by sending out a recycling kit with everything your venue will need to get collecting, including recycling bags and a recycling station.

The service is absolutely free and, for every cork it resells, Recorked UK donates a percentage of the profit to charity.

There’s plenty of waste in packaging, but suppliers can help by:

  • Using returnable and reusable transit packaging for the likes of fruit and vegetables.
  • Using catering packs, which can result in less packaging per unit of product, but only if this is not going to create food waste because product is not used before it goes out of date.
  • Using reusable packaging, serving drinks on tap, or optimising packaging with lighter-weight glass bottles.
  • Using recycled and recyclable paper straws, rather than plastic ones.

Ice and a slice
Six ways to reduce fruit and garnish wastage 

Garnish waste can be generated across your business. It can occur at purchasing, storage and preparation, through to leftovers in customers’ glasses. What’s thrown away is not just fruit, but also staff time and disposal costs.

  • Smart ordering: Check your stock and buy only what you need. Support local – you’ll get fresh seasonal produce that lasts longer.
  • Savvy storage: First in, last out. Store newer items at the back to ensure older items are used first. Label and date new supplies as and when they come in. Use airtight containers to keep all ingredients fresh, or even freeze and/or dehydrate them.
  • Smart drinks menus: Explore ways of using the same ingredients across different drinks or canapé dishes. Using preservation, dehydration and stewing methods for certain fruits, herbs and vegetables can help them last longer, and help your bar use them in a variety of ways, as syrups as well as garnishes.
  • Review the size of your drinks and also the use of garnish. Are there ways you can add value to the drink without adding extra ingredients? Ask staff for their thoughts, best recipes and ideas.
  • Engage customers and let them know what you are doing to reduce waste, and see what they think. Ask them if there’s anything they’d like left out of their drinks.


While you're here…

Have you registered for the on-trade’s favourite drinks show yet? Imbibe Live is taking place on 2 and 3 July at Olympia London.

If you don't already know, Imbibe Live is the innovative and interactive annual exhibition for anyone who sources, buys or serves drinks in the licensed on-trade. From sommeliers to buyers and from managers to publicans and bartenders, this essential date in the drinks calendar will see the industry’s finest come together.
Register today:

We can’t wait to see you there!

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