[Focus] Mille et Un Repas: less waste for better quality catering

Mille et Un Repas is a catering company for schools, medical and social institutions and businesses. It has been developing the Zero Gaspil'® approach to fight against food waste since 2007.

In France, waste in catering represents an average of 167 grams on a 450 gram tray. A third of the meal goes in the bin. It creates unnecessary costs for organizations, wastes resources and leads to excessive waste production.

Faced with the scale of the problem, the Zero Gaspil’® initiative was begun jointly by Mille et Un Repas and a client, Françoise Gras, director of the Saint-Pierre school in Bourg-en-Bresse. 

An initiative enriched by its own experience

The initiative turned out to be conclusive and has gradually been adopted by other restaurants. It has been expanded and structured over the years, which has made it possible to reduce waste more and more, to increase the quality of meals and to spread good anti-waste practices.

The initiative was first directed towards an awareness campaign using tools such as posters and challenges. Change in behaviour led to halving of the amounts thrown away. However, it has proven difficult to further reduce losses without changing the way meals are served. This is because the traditional self-service line generates waste because it encourages people to take more than they can eat and portions are not adapted to their size or to how hungry they are.

Mille et Un Repas has completely redesigned its mode of organization on the basis of this observation. In the Zero Gaspil'® model, dishes are no longer laid out along a self-service line but are presented on self-service distribution centres in the restaurant. Only the meat and fish are served up by the chef who makes sure to fill people’s plates according to their needs. This new furniture is accompanied by explanations and awareness-raising actions for staff and pupils.

With this system, diners first serve themselves starters and then use the same plate for the main course. They are invited to take small amounts and go and get more starters and toppings if necessary. In this way, they can eat their fill without overloading their plate and possibly ending up throwing some of the food away 

The innovative aspect of zero waste is in the way dishes are distributed and also in their design. Mille et Un Repas is committed to a quality approach: the chefs work on site, use fresh, local products and vegetarian menus are gradually being put in place.

As the company has always been oriented towards a CSR philosophy, the fight against waste fits naturally into its activities. The project just requires a few adjustments regarding staff awareness and purchasing policy.

The multiple benefits of fighting waste

The different facets of the Zero Gaspil® approach generate economic, qualitative, educational and environmental benefits as well as well-being for staff and diners. It therefore represents a strong competitive advantage.

The service by distribution centres is more user-friendly. It changes the way of working for staff who are no longer behind the service lines but in the room. Some tasks are lightened such dish washing and filling plates or individual ramekins. In addition, waste reduction is a source of cost avoidance for restaurants as they adjust the amounts purchased and reduce their waste collection costs.

These avoided costs make it possible to reinvest in local, organic products, and to make purchases oriented towards the circular economy without increasing the price of menus. The purchasing methodology has changed because of this. Mille et Un Repas is working with local authorities who help companies forge ties with local producers so that they are more in tune with the expectations of the catering industry as far as logistics and available quantities are concerned.

The educational aspect is inseparable from this approach which mainly concerns school restaurants (they represent about 65% of meals). Mille et Un Repas gives talks in classrooms at the beginning of the year to teach pupils how and why to avoid wasting food, and how this is different from non-consumable food waste such as peelings.

The results are remarkable: the amount of food thrown away per tray is less than 20 grams in Zero Gaspil’ restaurants. Another beneficial effect is that the approach helps to educate children in taste and balanced diet. 

There is an increase in the consumption of fruits and vegetables related to the many choices on the distribution centres and to the presence of staff in the dining room.

Due to its status as a provider, Mille et Un Repas is not involved in the recovery of food waste. The idea can be mentioned but only individual restaurants can decide whether or not to take on this commitment. 

Evaluated, certified and recognized benefits

Zero waste restaurants are equipped with measurement systems. Everything is weighed and recorded to assess progress. At the end of the meal, the trays are emptied by the diners onto a sorting table where the different types of waste are separated.

The Zero Gaspil® initiative is covered by a standard approved by Veritas Certification in 2013. Restaurants can be accredited after an audit assessing sixty requirements divided into four areas: environmental and economic; customer relationship and diners; food, health and well-being; social.

The method of fighting against waste as formalized by Mille et Un Repas turns out to be a major structural factor giving quick, consistent results. It has attracted the interest of public authorities, especially since 2014, the European year against food waste The company regularly takes part in Ministry of Agriculture working groups about questions of taste, balanced diet and eating habits It has also signed a charter of commitment on local products with the prefect of the Loire to promote local production and increase local purchases.

For more information:

Photo credits: Mille et Un Repas

Source: ECLAIRA - Newsletter No. 9 / January 2018

>Read and download the ECLAIRA Newsletter No. 9 as a PDF

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Newsletter edited by CIRIDD with support from Région Auvergne - Rhône-Alpes

Moderated by : Traduction Birdwell

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