September 21, 2010


Conserving Energy and Contributing to Sustainable Society, While Recognizing Individuals and Community Uniqueness: MOS Food Services, Inc.

Keywords: Newsletter 

JFS Newsletter No.96 (August 2010)
"Towards a Sustainable Japan -- Corporations at Work" (No. 94)

JFS/Conserving Energy and Contributing to Sustainable Society, While Recognizing Individuals and Community Uniqueness: MOS Food Services, Inc.
Copyright MOS Food Services Inc.

MOS Burger, a Japanese hamburger chain operated by MOS Food Services Inc., holds the second largest market share of hamburger chains in Japan, with 1,368 stores nationwide (as of March 31, 2010). With its corporate policy of "contributions to humanity and society" and its corporate motto, "To make people happy through food," the company is expanding its market not only in Japan but also in Asia.

Since opening its first hamburger restaurant in 1972, MOS Food Services has kept to its mandate of being "Japan's hamburger shop tailored to Japanese tastes." The company has continued to develop food products based on an offering of safe and tasty ingredients that its customers can trust, using ingredients sourced in Japan, and staying connected to local communities.

Since fiscal 2009, the company has developed new menu items aimed at meeting a wide range of customer desires, such as its hamburgers that come with two meat patties between two buns to offer customers a hearty serving, and the "light" version targeted at the breakfast market, with a patty three-quarters the weight of the regular one.

While keeping true to its business basics, MOS Burger has strived to always provide something new, while seeking out sustainability goals as a hamburger chain. The company is also making efforts in its environmental approach to clearly show to every franchised store the correlative relationship between energy efficiency and business cost.

In an interview with Takuzo Nakayama, Environmental Group Leader of the CSR Promotion Office of MOS Food Services, about the company's environmental efforts, he said, "Our task is to bring out the vitality of our frontline staff and keep them highly motivated."

Visualizing Potential Cost and CO2 Emission Reductions from Conserving Energy

MOS Food Services set a target to reduce energy the company's consumption by 5 percent in three years from April 2010 in its Medium-Term Environmental Action Plan. The company says it has a reason for setting a goal of reduced energy consumption while many companies continue to set targets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

"Although everyone knows about the relationship between global warming and CO2 emissions, people can't really get a sense of achievement when things are stated in terms of the amount of CO2 emissions reduced, because we can't see CO2. But when our franchise stores truly understand the benefits when we tell them that when they reduce the amount of energy consumed in their business, they not only reduce CO2 emissions, but can also reduce costs and increase profits. Then, they start to work for further improvement," Nakayama says.

"To reduce energy consumption, we must make our equipment and facilities more energy-efficient, and promote efforts to save energy during operations. These are like two wheels of the same cart. In regard to energy saving with equipment, since around 2004 the company has actively introduced more energy-efficient types of equipment such as those that have received Energy Conservation Awards from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The company is paying particular attention to air conditioners, which use one-third of electricity consumed in a store."

As part of its operational efforts, MOS Food Services created an Energy Conservation Committee, consisting of employees and external energy consultants. At monthly meetings, participants discuss ways to save energy, responses to Japan's revised Energy Conservation Act, and how to communicate within the company.

In order to support its energy-conservation activities, the company monitored the energy use of equipment over a year at five selected sample stores. Employees did not have special reasons or rules regarding the frequency or timing of changing filters in the air conditioning system, controlling room temperature, or turning on or off lights. To improve the situation, the company created a manual to provide detailed tips for energy use improvement, based on the findings of the monitoring, for use in employee training.

For instance, it is difficult to cut natural gas usage because it is directly related to cooking, but after employees learned that each type of equipment had its own warm-up time, they began turning them on not all at once but at different times in order to be ready for the restaurant opening time.

"I try to let employees know at a glance what kind of changes or results they have when they change their behavior. It is not so difficult to provide general information on environmental concerns such as global warming at the right moment. What I care about is keeping them motivated and making an effort," says Nakayama

Supporting Community-Based Voluntary Efforts

MOS Food Services compiles its "MOS Communication Report" to explicitly inform stakeholders of its social and environmental efforts and communication activities. While preparing the report, the company found that many of its stores had their own unique environmental approaches as part of their community-based activities.

The Rumoi restaurant in Hokkaido, for instance, signed up for a car-sharing service for company business, while the restaurants in Nagano and Yamanashi prefectures installed "green curtains" of plants growing on walls, to allow customers to enjoy their natural cooling properties and enhance the effectiveness of restaurant air conditioners.

Some stores give their customers soap or candles made from used cooking oil, or air fresheners reprocessed from coffee grounds. Others make cushions stuffed with used beverage straws that have been sterilized and cut into pieces, with covers made from promotional flags or streamers that had been displayed outside their stores. All these efforts are self-initiated.

Instead of taking a high-handed attitude towards environmental conservation, the staff of these stores are motivated by the pleasure of doing simple things voluntarily, feeling that certain practices are wasteful or that others make them feel better.

"What we in headquarters can do to support their efforts as staff is to value each store's regional and individual qualities, their special skills, talents, and passion, and offer opportunities to fulfill their wishes. It is our store staff that serve our customers. We are confident in our menu, but we also find that customers appreciate it when they see our employees feeling motivated and voluntarily doing good things for the environment. Our people are MOS's biggest asset," continues Nakayama.

Dealing with Waste -- Some Increasing, Some Decreasing

Under its Mid-Term Environmental Action Plan, the company aims to promote energy saving as well as more effective use of resources. Specific efforts to make better resource use include drastic reduction in food waste generated at MOS Burger restaurants, establishment of a recycling system for food waste, and efforts to reuse materials at each restaurant.

"As for reducing in food waste, we try to monitor what is discarded and in what quantity, by spreading out and then analyzing garbage generated at stores," Nakayama says.

The company's food recycling rate has improved every year, achieving 37.3 percent in 2009. To address underlying causes of food waste, the company also places an emphasis on the control of waste generation prior to recycling. For example, the company has adopted an after-order system since the business was established. The restaurants prepare food only after an order is placed, instead of cooking it in advance, thereby avoiding waste.

Some MOS Burger restaurants have already established their own waste food recycling systems, which composted and utilize food waste for growing vegetables in small store gardens. Vegetables grown using the compost are then given to customers and sometimes sent to the company headquarters. It will be interesting to see how these grassroots activities go on to bear fruit.

On the other hand, packaging waste (e.g., plastic bags) is on the rise, because an increasing number of foodstuffs are delivered to MOS stores in individual packages or in small lots to ensure food safety and reduce food loss. Managing packaging waste will be a challenge for the company.

Pursuit of Tastiness Based on MOS's Originality

In the restaurant industry, there seems to be growing interest in contributing to a rise in the nation's rate of food self-sufficiency. To this end, MOS Food Services is planning to use more domestically-produced ingredients.

One of its top menu items, the "Tobikiri Hamburger Sandwich" ("tobikiri" meaning "superb") sold since 2008, features a focus on Japanese-grown ingredients, use of seasonal vegetables, and a reasonable price. It was awarded the excellence prize in the product category of the 2009 Food Action Nippon Award, sponsored by the Food Action Nippon Award 2009 Executive Committee and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. With a high ratio (49.6 percent by weight) of domestic ingredients, the burger was recognized for its contribution to improving Japan's food self-sufficiency while meeting consumer needs.

"The Tobikiri Hamburger Sandwich is an ideal burger with a strong focus on domestically produced ingredients, from meat and vegetables to sauce," says Nakayama. He also adds, "We actually feel that we are offering a good product that people appreciate, which encourages us to continue our initiatives with confidence. Thanks to this product, we, as a company, are determined to continue moving in this direction."

No matter how society changes, the principle of MOS Burger continues to be the "pursuit of tastiness." While respecting the characteristics of individual communities and people, the company says it will make further efforts to serve good-tasting food and create new ways to support its other pursuits.

Written by Reiko Aomame

See also: Food as a Bridge between Humans and Nature (Mos Food Services, Inc.)