Food Waste

Poco: Embrace the doggy bag!

By Jen Best

Jen Best

In our latest blog post, Jen Best at Poco Tapas Bar describes some of the efforts the team go to tackle food waste, and to connect staff with wider food system issues.

We are very pleased to support Bristol’s bid to be a gold sustainable food city and the Going for Gold Catering and Procurement Pledge. It’s an opportunity for food businesses, organisations and individuals to reflect on and share their good practice and in doing so inspire others to do the same.

Since 2012 we have been members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). As part of our membership we go through an annual sustainability audit which gives us an opportunity to monitor our progress which then pushes us to keep improving. As part of this audit we state the provenance of all of our ingredients down to the farm level, what proportion of our food is organic, what proportion of our menu is vegetarian, the list goes on. Going through the process of a self-audit, such as with the annual SRA survey, is a great way for any food business to improve their sustainability credentials. The Going for Gold pledge offers this same opportunity and has the added bonus of working together as part of a wider community to achieve national recognition for the great work we all already do.

Since joining the SRA we have been awarded three stars each year – the highest accreditation – and have also received numerous awards for receiving top marks in various sections of the survey since 2016. Last October we were admitted into their ‘Hall of Fame’ to acknowledge our consistent top scores! There are so many intersecting elements to sustainable food, but given that Going for Gold is aiming for excellence around the treatment of food waste – not only for food businesses, but also for individuals and other organisations – here are some of the things we do at Poco to tackle food waste:

  • We measure, track and set reduction targets of our food waste by weighing each bag of rubbish that leaves the restaurant and monitoring our waste production in line with our turnover.
  • We cook root-to-fruit and nose-to-tail, using the whole vegetable and animal. We do this by buying in whole carcasses, butchering them down ourselves and using every inch, including boiling the bones for stock.
  • We try and squeeze every morsel of opportunity out of every food item. For example, we used waste herbs from our bar spirit infusions in the kitchen and turned them into a salt cure. We use lemons for their zest, juice and then use their flesh for marmalade. Nothing is wasted.
  • We recycle cooking oil and coffee grounds.
  • We advise our customers on how much to order and offer doggy bags if they can’t finish their food.
  • We order little and often so we don’t hold a lot of food in the restaurant at one time. We couldn’t if we wanted to anyway because we are so small. This means that the food we are serving has been freshly picked and bursting with flavour and nutrients.
  • We’re particular about where our food waste goes too. Our bin gets collected by the Bio-Bee GENeco truck which is powered off the waste gases produced by the anaerobic digestion process which turns our food waste into energy, which then powers the local community.

This list is just an example – there is so much more!

One of our main missions is to connect our team with the land and the food they are cooking and serving. In this spirit, every few months we invite a supplier to our staff meeting to talk about their business. We also take our team on inspirational trips to visit our suppliers – last year we took our team to Cornwall and went foraging and did some training at the HQ of our coffee supplier.

We are also part of the Chefs Manifesto community which is a network of chefs striving together to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 (improved food security and nutrition, zero hunger) by 2030. We hope to use this platform alongside our connections with our restaurant peers in the city to galvanize chefs and businesses to join the Going for Gold scheme. If you’re a food business, take a look at the Going for Gold Catering & Pledge today.

Jen Best is Director of Poco, a sustainable and award-winning tapas and brunch restaurant in Stokes Croft.

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