I've been thinking about our business a lot this week. We are in the throws of filling in our application form for the Visit England national tourism awards which asks all about various aspects of our business including our customer service, uniqueness, sustainability, marketing, accessibility and so on.
It's a good exercise not only in assessing how you've grown and developed the business and the excellent product we offer over the last two years, but also to evaluate if there are areas where we are lacking or could improve upon.
In some areas we do things really well but don't necessarily shout about it. We've identified areas where this is applicable - such as that fact that we don't offer enough information on our use of local suppliers. To us it's just a given, but we're now thinking of adding more information to our website and in the dining room.
We won a Silver TripAdvisor Green Leaders award earlier this year, an improvement on our previous bronze award. This means we are doing lots and lots of things right in terms of the environment and sustainability, reducing the effects of both the business and our guests have on the planet.
We do have an environmental policy on our website, linked at the bottom of every page. We're going to add further information to our guest information folders in the rooms so that interested guests can see the sort of things we're doing.
Food waste can be a big issue for hospitality businesses, but I was surprised to learn that it's still domestic households throwing a much higher proportion of food waste away unnecessarily. We throw very little away at all. Although we haven't gone down the route of pre-ordering breakfast (we can't anyway at a 5 star grading level), we try to second guess the amount of pre-cooked ingredients that will be eaten daily. To keep wait times for food down, our sausages, mushrooms and slow oven cooked tomatoes are cooked in advance. If they are popular at the start of breakfast, we can always pop a couple more in. If these are not used, they're saved and we have either cold sausages with lunch or make a casserole, and the tomatoes make a soup or go in bolognese. Mushrooms also go in bolognese, soup or a variety of our other evening meals.
All other items are cooked to order so hash browns, bacon, eggs, beans and so on are never thrown away. Toast is an on-request order rather than bought to you automatically and you have the choice of white or granary and when you want it.
Over the years, we've adjusted the amount we serve so we think each dish is just about the right amount so you feel like you've had a hearty breakfast and set up for a day's sight seeing, but you don't have to leave lots on the plate by being defeated at the amount given to you. This minimises the amount we throw away. I also ask if guests want all items on the full cooked breakfast so they have the choice of eating less or not having an item they don't like and won't eat.
Even drinks are not wasted. We would rather give a smaller pot of tea or coffee and offer you more fresh later on than a very large pot to go cold. Any coffee left on the hot plate after breakfast is finished off by us. My parents then use the coffee grounds on the compost if we're visiting in a reasonable time, All pods from posher coffees like cappuccinos are recyclable. Our jams and preserves, which are made by a small company offering work experience and jobs to the disabled and those with learning difficulties, come in recyclable glass jars with steel lids.
When we regularly change our jars of cereals, nuts and fruits, the older stock goes in a big container for us to eat ourselves. Fruit salad we use up as desserts, along with the yogurts. Left over smoothies we have as a treat when we clear the sideboard and juices are used by us too. Left over butter squares that wasn't used for toast is used for spreading the next day, and any milk remaining in jugs on the tables is used by us during the day in our hot drinks.
Other consumable items like croissants, bread, cheese and meats, smoked salmon and eggs are all used personally by us if they go out of date. So, apart from peelings, egg shells, and the odd toast crust, there's little that goes in the bin.
We're just a small B&B but if we all do our bit, we can make a big difference with just a little thought and not much effort, keeping food waste to a minimum and saving money as well as the planet.
More information on our Environmental Policy can be found here.