FSA in Scotland
Last updated on 6 March 2009
Further information for catering companies
More information about the kind of approach we want to take with regard to healthy catering, and how your company can be involved.
Over the coming year, we want to increase our work with companies in the catering and foodservice sectors. In the first instance we will be seeking to engage with the companies with whom we can achieve the greatest impact (in terms of the number of meals they serve, or the number of catering companies they supply to). However we want to work with as many companies as possible, and are keen to hear from restaurant chains or catering companies in any sector.
Why has the Agency decided to work with catering and foodservice companies?
Although for some, eating out will always remain a leisure activity or an occasional treat, for many people, eating outside the home in catering outlets is becoming more popular and is making and increasingly significant contribution to their diet.
We know, from our National Diet and Nutrition Survey, that men derive as much as a quarter of their food energy from foods eaten outside the home, and women about a fifth. We also know that foods eaten outside the home are often higher in fat, salt and sugar than those eaten at home. For these reasons, the Agency wants to ensure that its range of activity to promote healthier diets encompasses the catering sector as well as food retailers and manufacturers. We want to make it easier for consumers to make healthier choices when they eat out.
What are you expecting from catering and foodservice companies?
Eating out is often a treat – and we don't want to change that. We’re not trying to radically alter the eating out experience, and we’re not trying to set a single common standard that all restaurants should achieve. Our aim is to encourage all food businesses to make small, incremental changes that help consumers move in the right direction – because, taken together, all those little changes can add up to significant improvements in individual diets.
Our research has told us that some people don't think it’s possible to make healthy choices when they eat out without having to compromise on things like price, convenience and taste. So we also want to encourage restaurants to deliver improvements without their customers feeling that healthier eating involves making a sacrifice.
The Agency believes that all catering businesses can do something to contribute – in a way that fits within the demands of their business and their customers.
If a business wants to get involved, what will you expect them to do?
We have developed a flexible framework that identifies the types of activities that companies can undertake to make changes to the food they serve and to help customers make healthier choices. This focuses on the key Agency objectives of reducing salt and saturated fat intakes; helping consumers achieve calorie balance through their food choices and portion control; and increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. Using this framework, we will work with businesses to help them design their commitments, which can then be published on our website. We will ask businesses to report back to us on a regular basis on their progress and the benefit they have delivered to their customers.
Do you expect all companies to work towards certain healthy eating standards?
We recognise that what a given business can achieve depends on the style of food; the size of the business; employees’ skills; the way the kitchen operates; and – most importantly – what the clients and customers ask for. So we know that a 'one size fits all' approach will not work.
Companies can design their commitments to suit their business and their customers. What we are asking for is commitments that support the Agency's healthy eating priorities and strategic targets; that are specific and clear; and, to ensure that commitments are effective in delivering improvements, companies will need to agree on a way of monitoring what happens and the benefits that customers receive as a result.
What about suppliers to catering companies?
Companies that supply food and services to caterers also have a critical role to play, mainly around reducing levels of saturated fat, added sugars and salt in the products they supply; ensuring they offer a good range of healthier ingredients; and providing information, advice, and practical support to help their customers use their products to provide healthier options.
We welcome commitments from more companies in this part of the sector, and we are keen to build up our contacts in this area.
What about companies that contract out catering services on behalf of their workforce?
We recognise that the needs and demands of the client (i.e., the employer that contracts out the catering provision) have a big influence on the type of offer that is provided in staff restaurants. We want to work with major employers to introduce healthier workplace catering more widely. We are currently working with a number of food retailers and manufacturers who are major employers in their own right – to gather more evidence of what is effective. We will publish more detail on this work later in the year, and will be seeking opportunities to influence more employers.
What plans do you have for small business?
At this stage in our work with catering businesses, we are focusing on the largest companies – in order to influence as many consumers as possible. However, the catering industry is characterised by the thousands of small businesses and independent restaurants in the sector, who between them serve millions of meals every day.
We have deliberately developed an approach that is flexible enough to be used by businesses of all sizes. We will be doing more work later this year to explore how we can make it easier for small businesses to contribute to this work, and to commit to improvements centred around the four themes of our framework. In the meantime, our website has some helpful resources that may help small businesses to identify steps that they can take to offer their customers more healthy choices. These are available at the links below.
To find out more about any of the information in this document contact Samantha Hanna on 020 7276 8979 or by email email@example.com