We Develop: Training restaurant professionals to become pioneers in the circular economy

18.1.2024Tytti LaineWe develop

The circular economy gives restaurants a new competitive advantage, which supports them to develop their operating models in an even more environmentally friendly direction and especially to reduce the amount of waste generated in their operations. Since the circular economy is still a relatively new concept, support is needed to promote it in the restaurant industry.

People in chef coats preparing meal at a kitchen.

The Ce4Re project focuses on circular economy innovations and building cooperation. It supports restaurant, cafe and catering companies as well as food industry professionals and customers to create positive change in the world. The participants are restaurant, cafe and catering companies employing less than 50 people from Finland, Sweden and Latvia. A total of 20 companies will be selected from Finland.

Professionals in the restaurant industry are supported to increase circular economy know-how, to integrate circular economy good practices as part of their business operations, and to manage their business more sustainably. The main goals of the project are to consider the circular economy in menu planning, to reduce the amount of waste and to reach eco-minded consumers. The circular economy can be taken into account when planning menus from the point of view that no waste would be generated at all. In the selection of raw materials, it would be important from a circular economy point of view to prefer products that come as close as possible and unpackaged or in as large packages as possible. 

Online training for participants

What is topical right now in the project is the recruitment of participants and initial interviews in all three countries. In addition, a competence development training package is planned to be implemented in the spring of 2024, where experts in sustainable development, responsibility and the circular economy in the restaurant industry support the development of the skills of restaurant professionals in the themes of circular economy, menu planning, waste reduction and reaching eco-conscious consumers.

The training package is implemented completely online in each country in its own language and it also utilizes cross-border cooperation. The development of skills is supported by a series of webinars, both among Finns and between participants from all three countries, and by sharing skills.

The training package consists of four themes. The aim of the restaurant industry's sustainable development and circular economy theme is that the participants know the basics of sustainable development, responsibility and circular economy related to the restaurant industry, understand their importance in business success and know how to apply what they have learned and evaluate the implementation of sustainability thinking, corporate responsibility and circular economy principles in their restaurant.

Another theme is the planning of menus from a circular economy point of view, in which the minimization or complete elimination of waste, the procurement of raw materials (as environmentally friendly as possible, nearby, organic, unpackaged, etc.) and the planning of food preparation without or with as little waste as possible and using energy wisely are emphasized.

The topic of the third theme is waste reduction and minimization, where, in addition to menu and portion planning, cooking waste, plate waste and waste generated from operations, sorting and the role of distribution chains are highlighted. The fourth important theme is communication and marketing, where participants are supported to understand how a restaurant communicates about sustainable development, responsibility and the circular economy, and to understand the importance of communication and marketing as a competitive means of restaurant operations. The participants apply what they have learned in the planning and implementation of their own restaurant's communication and marketing. 

Join the project?

Companies in the restaurant industry interested in development have the opportunity to apply to participate in the Ce4Re project. One of the restaurant industry companies that joined the project is Restaurant Päre from Pori, Finland. founded in 2017, whose main products are the buffet breakfast and lunch offered on weekdays. Tiia Hentunen, an entrepreneur from Päre, believes that the values ​​and operating methods of a restaurant or any company will be of increasing importance to consumers in the future. She feels that even though Päre's theme has been ecology since the beginning, it is great to focus on the theme even better with the help of the project and bring it to the fore in marketing as well. According to Hentunen, there is still room for improvement, for example, in the smoother sorting of waste.

In the future, the transition to a circular economy can also bring a big change to the supply chain of the restaurant industry, which is currently dominated by large wholesalers. The change in the restaurant industry in the future will be a lot about how raw material handlers, product manufacturers and suppliers take the circular economy into account even more. 

Did you know?

  • According to The Finnish Hospitality Association MaRa, there were a total of 12 865 restaurants and 16 165 establishments in Finland in 2022.
  • About a fifth of all restaurant food ends up as waste in Finland. 
  • According to the Finnish food law, the obligation to hand over unused food, for example food waste that can be still eaten from a restaurant to primarily human consumption, applies to all operators in the food industry, if it can be done without endangering food safety and at reasonable costs. 
  • According to Finland's reformed waste law, companies must start sorting the different waste fractions even more widely and keep records of the amount and processing of the waste generated in the operation. In addition, there must be a willingness to report to the authority about the amount and processing of waste fractions generated in the operation. If possible, the accounting must include an estimate of the amount of food waste that can be thrown away as edible.

The Ce4Re project (development of common circular economy solutions in the Central Baltic Sea restaurant sector) is a project of the Central Baltic Sea Interreg 2021–2027 Programme, which is financed by the European Union and project partners. The funding for the project, coordinated by the Tourism Development Center of Satakunta University of Applied Sciences, is a total of 1.12 million euros and will last until the summer of 2026. The Pyhäjärvi Institute, Sweden's national organic food center Ekomatcentrum and Vidzeme Planning Region from Latvia are also involved in implementing the project.

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