Furious pub landlords say ‘astronomical’ amounts of food are being binned because of the government’s substantial meal rule.
Beleaguered hospitality industry bosses say customers are only ordering food including chips, scotch eggs and oysters because they ‘have to’, without any intention of eating it.
They say restrictions in the Covid tier systems are ‘doing more harm than good’, leading to confusion among publicans and customers and massive amounts of food waste.
Lotte Lyster Connolly from The Prince Albert pub in Stroud, which runs a food bank collection, said she feels ‘very strongly’ about food waste.
She told MailOnline people would no longer be able to pop into their local for a pint on Christmas Day with family, because they’d be forced to order food.
Lee Worsle, who owns The Coach House Inn in Winterbourne Abbas and The Kings Arms pub in Portesham, told MailOnline food was being wasted amid the fund to feed hungry schoolchildren.
Meanwhile Gary Murphy, who runs the Ye Olde Mitre in High Barnet, north London, told MailOnline he was worried customers ‘are going to get fat.’
Stuart Procter, chief operating officer of the Stafford Collection which includes the Stafford London hotel in St James’, home to the American Bar, said: ‘People just want to have a business meeting or a drink with their families so the amount of wasted food is astronomical’. Pictured, American bar at the Stafford Hotel in London
Punters enjoying their pints and snacks at the Ye Olde Mitre in High Barnet, north London
Gary Murphy, from the Ye Olde Mitre in High Barnet, told MailOnline that 95 per cent of his customers just come in for a drink. He now serves small portions of chips, scampi and chicken
Lee Worsle, who owns The Coach House Inn in Winterbourne Abbas and The Kings Arms pub in Portesham, told MailOnline food was being wasted amid the fund to feed hungry schoolchildren. Pictured, his offering of scotch eggs
Campaign for Pubs hits out at substantial rules
Alastair Kerr, South West Regional Representative for the Campaign for Pubs, told MailOnline: ‘What has been proven over the past few weeks is that these new tier systems and their effects are doing more harm than good for our pubs and the hospitality sector.
‘These restrictions on ‘substantial meals’ have only led to confusion from publicans and more cost incurred, as publicans across the country have had to invest substantial amounts of money into their food services.
‘We must not forget wet-led pubs that have ultimately been thrown under the bus by these new restrictions and cannot operate entirely.
‘Over the past few weeks we have seen contradictions from Govt Ministers on what constitutes a substantial meal and no clear guidelines on how/when alcohol can be served with these meals.
‘If there is no clarity from the government on the matter, then unfortunately we will see an increase in wastage of both beer and food and sadly the closures of many of our loved pubs in the UK!’
Under Tier 2 rules restaurants, pubs and bars can only serve alcohol if it is alongside a ‘substantial meal’.
But The Caterer reported that this has led to an increase in leftovers, which are difficult to donate to food waste charities due to safety rules.
Gary Murphy, from the Ye Olde Mitre in High Barnet, told MailOnline that 95 per cent of his customers just come in for a drink.
‘They don’t necessarily want to eat but they are eating anyway. They’re all going to get fat, and I think that’s more of a problem.
‘We’re serving chips, scampi, chicken bits and they are nibbling it. What we are giving them is nice when they’re having a drink, but it’s not necessary. It’s not good for their health.’
Mr Murphy said he did 110 covers yesterday, but would do ‘maybe 10’ burgers on a normal Wednesday.
Over the weekend his pub served more than 600 meals when they would usually serve up to 15.
He added: ‘There is a lot of garbage and an awful lot of paper waste.
‘The food is unhealthy fried stuff. To me it doesn’t make sense but people are doing it because the government are telling them to.
‘There’s a sense that the rule are getting onerous and inconsistent and there is just a sense of, ‘let us use our commons sense.”
Lotte Lyster Connolly from The Prince Albert pub in Stroud told MailOnline: ‘We have a food bank collection here. Food waste is so awful at this time – people out on the streets are hungry, and then people are being forced to eat food but they’re not hungry.
‘Everything we have, we offer to put in a takeaway box so people can take it home. We are looking at a way people can donate their meal to a homeless person on Christmas Day.
‘Pubs know that they’re making food that people are going to just leave and it’s criminal.’
George Purnell, founder of Koop + Kraft restaurant in Cowplain, Hampshire, estimates that on average customers are wasting £5-£10 of food a head
Charities unable to accept food donations
A spokesman for London food waste charity the Felix Project said it has been offered a ‘substantial’ amount of surplus food under Tier 2 but was unable to accept hot meals that have sat out on tables due to safety reasons.
The group is now trying to connect restaurants and bars with nearby food banks who may be able to collect and distribute meals safely in a short window of time.
Richard Smith, head of supply at the Felix Project, said: ‘The Felix Project will always take surplus food when it’s safe. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to take recent offers from bars where food has been ordered and not eaten. Traditionally there is a lot of waste at Christmas time and we ask all food producers to get in touch if they have any surplus.’
Jamie Crummie, co-founder of the Too Good To Go app, which lets people buy excess food from hospitality and retail venues, added that pubs should encourage customers to take leftover food home with them.
Brewdog has started offering ‘doggie bags’ with all its sit-in meals for guests to take leftovers home or ‘give to someone in need’ to reduce food waste.
West Dorset pub owner Lee Worsley told MailOnline: ‘People are ordering but not consuming. The amount of food going into the waste bins is higher than it normally would be.
‘It actually makes it very difficult if you’re offering a good quality level of food – not frozen – with the current restrictions in place. The effect of that being you have to run with a much shorter menu.
‘We’re in an area where the rate of infection is lower than Cornwall and the Isle of Wight.’
He said the timing and uncertainty of the new tiers being implement the week before Christmas was disastrous.
‘How we will manage food orders days before Christmas, I have absolutely no idea. It’s virtually impossible.
‘Politicians are making decisions they haven’t taken any advice or guidance about. We’re functioning under a communist rule.’
Peter Sheehy of The Turks Head Inn in Gloucester doesn’t serve food at his pub – but is now offering cheese and onion rolls to get around the rules.
He told MailOnline: ‘The foolishness of it all is people don’t have to eat the food, they only have to buy it. And they only have to buy it if they buy alcohol.’
Stuart Procter, chief operating officer of the Stafford Collection which includes the Stafford London hotel in St James’, home to the American Bar, said: ‘People just want to have a business meeting or a drink with their families so the amount of wasted food is astronomical.
‘They are ordering oysters and leaving them, scotch eggs too. It’s incredible.
‘Over the period of time we’re going to be in Tier 2 it will add up to thousands of pounds of waste.
‘It’s really sad when there are homeless people in London and we’re just throwing food away.
‘There are many restaurants, hotels and pubs doing the same.’
Under Tier 2 rules restaurants, pubs and bars can only serve alcohol if it is alongside a ‘substantial meal’. Scotch eggs are among the food being wasted (file image)
The government is due to review the current tier system on 16 December. Oysters are among the food being wasted (file image)
Bell tolls for our traditional pubs
Thousands of traditional pubs risk being lost for ever because of the impact of lockdowns, according to an industry expert.
Fiona Stapley, editor of The Good Pub Guide, sounded the warning as it published its latest list.
She said this year had been a ‘nightmare’ for pubs with ‘the industry facing the darkest of moments’.
But she added that while the road ahead was ‘frighteningly rocky’, publicans were ‘plucky and extraordinary people who retain a teeny spark of hope’.
She urged drinkers to return to pubs when the rules allow. ‘It is imperative we support them – the pub… is the beating heart and focal point of countless communities,’ she said.
The guide gave its latest Pub of the Year award to the Olive Branch in Clipsham, East Midlands.
George Purnell, founder of Koop + Kraft restaurant in Cowplain, Hampshire, estimates that on average customers are wasting £5-£10 of food a head.
But he said it was impossible to cut portion sizes as meals legally had to be a ‘substantial’ size.
Mr Purnell told The Caterer: ‘Everyone in the industry saw this problem coming.
‘It will be like the 10pm curfew, which didn’t make sense. The government are on the wrong side of history on this.
‘We’ve also noticed a lot of people are drinking more than normal.
‘We were expecting our alcohol sales to go down but they haven’t changed. I don’t think that’s what the government was intending.’
He said it was more difficult to find food waste charities to work with being based in a village in Hampshire. ‘We’re not having much luck and are having to chuck a lot away,’ he said.
The Yummy Pub Co, which runs four sites in London and the south east, has adapted its menus to reduce waste.
At the Somers Town Coffee House pub in Euston dishes now have a greater crossover of ingredients and a reduced number of garnishes.
Co-founder Tim Foster said this has cut the number of prep items in the kitchens by 50%. ‘It’s been a lot of work, but also great to really review the seasonality of the dishes,’ he told The Caterer.
The government is due to review the current tier system on 16 December.