In September 2017, Real Junk Food Manchester opened the UK’s first waste food pay-as-you-feel restaurant on Oxford Street.
The project was initially intended as a short term pop-up. But thanks to its popularity it has been open for almost a year, and has doubled the size of its operation in that time.
Now, the project looks to expand again. In September 2018, the social enterprise will open the North’s first ever waste food catering business.
The new, larger operation (which will also be a not-for-profit) will use food that would otherwise go to waste to provide catering and meals for a huge range of people, businesses and organisations.
“The year that we have spent running the restaurant has been amazing!” said founder and director, Corin Bell.
“A huge social and economic experiment that we have learned so much from. We’ve been astounded by the welcome that we’ve received locally, and we’re beyond proud of the sense of community and inclusion that we’ve created.
“What we want to do now is take everything we’ve learned, and do more.”
The new operation will offer commercial outside catering, including buffets, canapés and hot meals, all using food that would have gone to waste, to businesses and organisations.
It will also supply meals to vulnerable people across the city through partnerships with local charity and public sector groups.
Moving from its Oxford Street pop-up, the new project will be sited in a large commercial kitchen and is part of a new partnership with a local social housing provider.
This new venture will allow Real Junk Food Manchester to intercept, process and use more food that would otherwise go to waste, as well as offering more structured volunteering and back-to-work support to a range of people.
“The volunteering opportunities we’ve been able to offer at the restaurant are social and engaging, and we’ve loved working with a huge range of people, but we feel like we can do more,” said project director Chris Haydon.
“Having spent a year with customers and volunteers from a massive range of backgrounds, we recognise that we’re in a position to offer people who have become marginalised more structured and significant opportunities to learn, train and work in hospitality.”
The final day of trading at the Oxford Street restaurant will probably be towards the end of August. Will Mancunians still have a waste food lunch spot in the city once they move?
The social enterprise have confirmed that they do intend to continue to have a cafe and restaurant presence in the city, but at the moment details of the next site are a closely-guarded secret.
“Everything that came out of the Crowdfunder in 2017 – all of the equipment, furniture, decor – will be coming with us to a new home,” said Corin.
“The whole ethos of our project is about reducing waste, and we build the restaurant with the idea in mind that we might have to move from one location to another.
“We’re excited about the idea of setting up somewhere new!”