Sustainable catering

Sustainable catering

Industrial kitchens are getting a taste for sustainable food
This project is part of the following focus area:

People are eating more and more outdoors. In Belgium, this out of home market - which accounts for about 40% of the total food market - is therefore a powerful lever to make our consumption pattern more sustainable. Since 2008, Rikolto (Vredeseilanden) has been supervising institutional kitchens and canteens to make sustainable food the new normal.

The production and consumption of food is responsible for a third of our ecological footprint. By working together with institutional kitchens and catering companies, we reach a large number of consumers through a limited number of entry points.

In recent years we built up a diverse portfolio of collaborations with different types of institutional kitchens:

  • Company canteens (including Toyota TEM Evere, IKEA Food Belgium);
  • Restaurants of public institutions (including the City of Ghent, the City of Antwerp, Federal Public Service Finance);
  • Restaurants of educational institutions (including University College Leuven-Limburg, University of Antwerp, University of Ghent);
  • Catering in care institutions and nurseries (including UZ Leuven (university hospital), OCMW Harelbeke, Ukkepuk in Kessel-Lo)

In each of these partnerships, we have been focussing on six sustainability areas: reduction of meat consumption, sustainable agriculture, fair trade relationships, local and seasonal vegetables and fruit, sustainable fish and food waste. Healthy and tasty food, good for people, animals and planet: that's the goal.


  • There are all kinds of sustainability initiatives out there for industrial kitchens, but these actions do not often have a broad impact. They rarely lead to structural changes in the procurement policies of the kitchens.
  • Contract caterers and distribution companies do not yet have a proactive approach to encourage their customers to choose sustainable catering and procurement.
  • The supply of sustainability food products for major users remains limited because demand is not yet very high.
  • There are very few legal incentives promoting sustainable catering and procurement among out-of-home product or service providers, which leads to a worrying obsession with prices.

Our strategies

  • We put support programmes in place in different types of institutional kitchens in order to develop innovative practices and models. We ensure that sustainability criteria are included in calls for tender and in general procurement policies.
  • We organise debates and round table discussions with contract caterers and distribution companies so that the roles of the different parties in the holistic process of transitioning towards greater sustainability can be more clearly defined.
  • We connect bulk food suppliers with those requiring their products.
  • We document our experiences and the lessons we have learned, and on that basis we draw up recommendations for a more sustainable policy.

Results achieved

  • 12 support programmes have been carried out in partnership with the staff restaurants of the City of Antwerp and City of Ghent, the student canteens at the University of Antwerp and the 2 restaurants in the Luca School of Arts in Ghent, the student canteen at the Katholieke Hogeschool Leuven, the catering facilities for the Mano Mundo Festival and the Wereldfeest in Leuven, the visitors’ restaurant in residential home De Kluis and the De Hoge Rielen and Destelheide residential complex, the 17 staff canteens of the Financial Department of the Federal Government, the Toyota TME staff canteen, the IKEA Food Belgium restaurant for staff and customers, the Hogeschool Ghent restaurant, the kitchen of OMCW Harelbeke and the main kitchen at UZ Leuven.
  • 6 editions of Your Choice, alternately organised as a trade fair and networking event, have brought supply and demand together.
  • Publication of a brochure which collates the experiences from the pilot project.
  • Development of guides on sustainable fish, waste reduction, sources of vegetarian protein and insects.
  • Setup of online platform on sustainable catering for professionals

What do we expect in the long term?

  • A transition towards sustainable catering and procurement in the out-of-home food sector in Belgium (in the social catering segment).