Fooditude: The catering company fighting food waste and caring for London communities with Olio
Fooditude is a bespoke corporate catering company, established in 2005 and based in London. The team delivers a full food experience for London’s corporate offices from their central production kitchen (CPU) in South Bermondsey, and currently works with many of the world’s top tech firms.
We recently sat down with Alison Hester-Lloyd, Head of Operations at Fooditude, which has been a partner of Olio’s Food Waste Heroes Programme since 2019.
During our chat, Alison explained the ethos of Fooditude, and what sets them apart from other corporate catering solutions. We also discussed why they felt it was so important to work with a partner like Olio to cut out waste from their central production kitchen, and give back to the communities surrounding their clients’ offices.
Q: Could you give us a bit of background on Fooditude and your approach to food?
“We are office caterers, but we work differently to traditional office caterers in that we cook everything in our CPU and deliver it to client sites. We call this a “delivered-in” model and it works really well for offices in large urban centres like London, where office space is at a premium, because it removes the requirement to have a kitchen in the office. We have also benefited from the trend toward hybrid working as we can easily flex our level of service and our headcount according to the changing needs of each office.
All our food is cooked from scratch with fresh, local ingredients. For example, all our eggs are organic and free range and come from Rookery Farm and all our quinoa is from Essex (instead of Peru)! We work with lots of innovative suppliers and we’re always looking for ways to improve our sourcing and make our food more sustainable. We recently started to use flour from Wildfarmed, which is a brand that sources grain from regenerative farms. We also source surplus vegetables that would have otherwise gone to landfill from Angry Monk.”
Q: How did you start working with Olio?
Alison: “At Fooditude, we work with clients that don’t have on-site kitchens, so they rely on us for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The thing we struggled with at the start, given that we operate via pre-orders from clients, is that there was often unpredictable office attendance.That meant there was always the risk of potential food waste.
We really weren’t comfortable with that, so we started to explore options to donate any spare food from offices. Pretty much instantly, we found traditional charities were hesitant about accepting cooked meals or buffet items due to safety concerns. That’s when we discovered Olio and started talking to the team there about a potential solution.
Olio’s team and a group of supporting food safety experts worked with us to establish a safe process, including things like establishing food was kept at the right temperatures to make sure it was safe for consumption before donation. Given that so much of the food we share through Olio is cooked, it was really crucial for us to make sure all safety measures had been thoroughly considered.”
Q: Did you feel like Olio was able to flex to the needs of your specific requirements at Fooditude?
Alison: “Yes, absolutely. It was definitely a two-way conversation of how we could make it work for Fooditude’s set-up. Your team worked closely with our Health and Safety department to make sure that we were happy. Ultimately, because Olio becomes responsible for the food and its safety once it’s been collected by your volunteers, that made things much easier for us.”
Q: Is there anything else you’ve found has worked particularly well for Fooditude and how the business works?
Alison: “Olio and your volunteers have really gone the extra mile by sharing photographs and testimonials to give us a snapshot of the impact our food is having. As those photos feature both our team and Olio volunteers, it’s cultivated a friendly relationship and made everyone feel engaged – it‘s not just a food handover, it’s more than that. It’s also motivated staff members to buy into the process – which is really helpful, as ultimately they are the ones that pack up the food, making sure it’s safe, and giving it to your volunteers. So I think that’s worked really well.”
Q: Is there anything that has exceeded your expectations since working with Olio?
Alison: “I’ve been really impressed with the efficiency that our accounts have been able to get set up with Olio, and how easily volunteers could be put in place. We’ve never really had to chase anyone – things just happen. It’s always felt smooth and professional.”
Q: On the flip side, is there anything you think could be improved about Olio?
Alison: “For the time being, nothing comes to mind!”
Q: Have you found that working with Olio is a helpful tool when you’re having conversations with prospective Fooditude clients?
Alison: “Yes, absolutely. We are always asked about food waste – it seems to be top of the agenda for lots of businesses.
Whenever we start having conversations with new clients, we’ll deliver a presentation, and included in that is a section on how we deal with food waste. Having partners like Olio is very important for us to be able to demonstrate that we’re not only committed to keeping food out of the bin, but that we’re also committed to social impact initiatives, too.
Once we start working together, our clients also really like the impact reports that Olio provides – some pin them up on noticeboards, or send them round as a Slack update.”
Q:Are there any other social or environmental initiatives that you’re particularly proud of at Fooditude?
Alison: “As well as what we’re doing with Olio, we’re also a member of Planet Mark. Planet Mark help companies move towards net zero – to be a member, you have to reduce your carbon footprint by 5% each year. Otherwise you don’t retain your membership. This year we won an award for greatest carbon reduction per employee (which was a 68% reduction). We also reduced our carbon emissions per meal by 31%.
We’ve also moved completely towards renewable energy and renewable electricity. We only have renewable electricity in our kitchen – it’s 20,000 square feet, so that has a massive impact, as our electricity use is pretty high!
One the social side, we’re particularly proud of our relationship with Highshore School, a secondary school for students with special educational needs in our neighbourhood. We’ve been working with them since 2013. In that time, we’ve hosted 25 work placements and hired 3 of Highshore’s graduates into paid employment.”
Q: Anything final to add?
Alison: “It’s great to know that on the days that we haven’t used all of our food, that the food is going to a good place. I think a lot of our staff really appreciate not having to throw it all away. I think that makes a big difference. It does feel like you’re doing something good every day.”
For more information on Fooditude’s commitment to sustainability, click here.
Since the start of our partnership, Olio and Fooditude have provided nearly 5,000 meals to local communities – feeding 1,144 families, saving 1.4 million litres of water, and preventing 8.5 tonnes of carbon emissions from entering the atmosphere.
Written by Cozzi Baring, Senior Marketing Manager, Olio (November 2023)