Whenever someone mentions the word snack bar, most people spontaneously think of traditional fast food instead of healthy, sustainably produced dishes made from regional ingredients. Alexander Nikolay wants to change that. With Bäm Food in Siegen-Geiswald, he has established a modern snack bar that offers traditional fast food like currywurst with fries as well as his own burger creations for veggie and meat lovers. All dishes are made from regional ingredients and are served to guests in sustainable cardboard packaging. For the operator, it is a passion project – and a great success: An additional restaurant is already planned.
‘The hospitality industry has a responsibility’, says Alexander Nikolay. During the pandemic and the associated lockdowns, the take-out business became especially indispensable. Nasty side effect: mountains of packaging, much of it plastic. ‘By choosing sustainable to-go packaging and regional ingredients, restaurateurs can make a real impact – in the industry and among diners. We demonstrate that there are alternatives, and the demand is there’, says Nikolay.
A smart menu: Less is more
Buying less with strategic planning helps ensure that significantly less food ends up in the waste bin. This also pays off financially. Nikolay achieves an average write-off rate of less than 0.5% by being smart about his menu. The rule is: quality over quantity. ‘The key to success is to have different core products that allow you to easily create several dishes’, he explains. For example, he uses brioche buns for all his burgers that are especially baked for his business. ‘An extensive menu means that many different products need to be purchased. If a dish is not ordered that often, a lot is left over at the end of the day.’ His tip: It’s better to be creative and design a menu with just a few ingredients. That way, in the long run, you will produce much less waste.
METRO supports restaurateurs in conscious and sustainable purchasing: With the help of the Protrace app, METRO customers can seamlessly trace the origin of meat and fish. This is made possible by a code on the packaging or label after weighing the fresh produce. As a wholesaler, METRO also caters to customer demands for regional products.
Regionality does not happen on its own
‘Sustainable hospitality doesn’t have to be expensive, but it is more time-consuming at first’, says Nikolay. If you want to use regional products for your dishes, you have to look around and talk to potential suppliers from trade and agriculture. Conscious, focused purchasing of products needs good partners and a clear plan. The entire supply chain should be known, especially when it comes to meat and fish.
Spoilt for (packaging) choice
Choosing the right sustainable packaging is also not as simple as it first appears. Glass is reusable, but it takes up an incredible amount of space during transport; it is also heavier and therefore not necessarily more sustainable, because very few goods cause more emissions depending on the transport route. Aluminium, on the other hand, is now easy to recycle and therefore a great alternative. ‘You have to inform yourself and find the best packaging choice from the vast amount of options for your own business’, says Nikolay.
The underestimated social media
These days, a creatively designed restaurant website is extremely important. But if you want to reach your guests on a long-term basis and elevate the profile of your own restaurant, you can no longer ignore social media platforms such as Instagram. Restaurateurs should post something openly and as frequently as possible, especially on the topic of sustainability in their own business. ‘The motto is: Do good and talk about it.’ Does the meat come from an exemplary farmer? Then introduce the farm and post videos of how the animals are kept there, advises Nikolay. New items on the menu, current pictures of dishes and photos of the entire team should also be presented on social media. Being transparent with guests will also build trust in the long run and create awareness of the core message of sustainable hospitality. ‘Running a business sustainably and getting the message out isn’t something that can be done overnight’, says Nikolay. ‘You have to believe in what you’re doing – and be patient.’