Circular hubs - a survival and growth strategy for difficult times

Challenges to be met

Increasingly expensive products.
Increasing energy prices.

Uneven competition.
Saving at the expense of the environment.
Lower prices at the expense of quality.
And finally, the question: is it time to close the business?
These and similar issues are becoming increasingly common in the food service industry. Resilience to these difficulties is key. Both for restaurants, local producers and the rest of the industry. It is not easy, so good tactics for survival are important.

We are happy to share our experiences of the current projects in the Rebread and Handelek operations, which allow us not only to save costs, but also to take care of the environment and develop cooperation with our partners.

Circular hubs are the solution

In order to take corrective and preventive action we need to analyse our business thoroughly. Which costs can be reduced, what can be saved, where is the money running away?

A tactic to build business resilience to unforeseen, difficult situations in the marketplace is to strengthen cooperation with other sectors involved in the entire supply chain and to spread circularity practices to all products, in line with the 'farm-to-table' principle.

Delivery is an example.
The greater the transport distance, the higher the price.  It is therefore necessary to check all producers who are closer in order to reduce this distance. Check the type of transport. Is there anything else you can do?
You could work with a neighbouring caterer who may order the same products and organise joint deliveries, thus halving the cost.

And high product prices?

As much as 91.4% of the world's raw materials are still used in a linear model, i.e. a one-off. Extracted, processed in production and discarded. This irretrievably wastes raw materials, water, energy, which costs money.
Do you serve bread to your customers? Are you left with some unused bread that is drying out? Why not start working with a partner to process it into bread acid or beer?

These are small examples of what can be achieved by collaborating with other actors.

Such a network of actors working together can be called hubs.

If their cooperation is based on and geared towards the full use of all raw materials and other elements in the cycle, such as water, energy, while reducing the carbon footprint as much as possible - this is circular cooperation.
Hence the name of such a network - circular hubs.

The result of this cooperation is not only the optimisation in terms of production, logistics, consumption, processing and use of resources of the actors in the cooperation network, but also the very important activation of local communities and the support and creation of opportunities for the development of local businesses.

Such practices are already being implemented in the world. Restaurant Nolla from Helsinki has tailored its menu to seasonal produce, local producers. Silo restaurant from Copenhagen reduced costs and plastic consumption by working with suppliers and producers, choosing reusable packaging for transport.

Where did the idea for circular hubs come from?

The source of the idea to organise circular hubs around the resources of a region, i.e. its culture, communities and producers, comes from our experience of running HANDELEK, an artisanal restaurant and bakery in Krakow since 2017. As a small restaurateur and producer, we were hard hit by pandemonium, regulations and restrictions. Difficult conditions imposed on us the need to conduct a thorough analysis of our business and look at absolutely every element of our work in terms of organisational, financial, environmental and relationship-building with partners and customers.

We know that small and medium-sized restaurants, are hard hit by a period of pandemic constraints and instability in supply chains, and now also by rising product, energy and labour costs. At the same time, they are on the front line of major global environmental, health and social challenges. Implementing innovation in this sector is constrained by a lack of time, financial resources, the necessary competences, and often intangible resources: vision, belief in the possibility of change, or favourable social norms (e.g. regarding not wasting food).

Therefore, in our opinion, it is from small and medium-sized restaurants that the circular hub should start.

We want to help others

So far, our idea of circular hubs has gathered a lot of interest among important organisations. One of them is a key content partner in building awareness and operation of circular hubs - EIT Food and For Solutions headed by Agnieszka Małkiewicz - the largest and most innovative conference and community for the food service industry in Poland with operations in Europe - Made for Restaurant.
The idea has also attracted industry experts, both from Poland and abroad, who are willing to help with this initiative with their knowledge and years of experience.

Together, we decided to raise the level of circularity in the food service industry by developing standards and ready-made methods based on our experience and knowledge for self-implementation by other operators and circular hubs in other regions.

Through regular workshops, we will develop materials that will facilitate the creation of such a hub in our own community and modify the business to be more circular and sustainable.

As Matthew Fraser put it in Circle Economy & The Circularity Gap Report, "Transforming our way of life in a circular economy model is feasible, but requires action from many stakeholders. A global circular economy will not happen without radical collaboration."