An interview with Selma Seddik, co-founder of Instock

InStock Amsterdam

InStock DenHaag

InStock Utrecht

InStock Amsterdam

Selma Seddik is a co-founder of Instock, a social enterprise that works to end food waste by raising awareness and collecting unsold food at local supermarkets, wholesalers, farmers and trading companies for use in its restaurants, products, wholesale business and catering service. Jo Littlefair talked to Selma to find out more about the challenges of running an F&B organisation with surplus food.

Tell us how you came up with the idea for Instock

As a Management Trainee at Ahold, the largest food retailer in the Netherlands, I worked in the sustainability department and then spent a year in the company’s Albert Heijn supermarkets. I was amazed by the quality of the products that were going to waste on a daily basis. Myself and two colleagues entered an internal innovation competition with an idea to rescue unsold products and turn them into delicious food for the public. We won the competition and that’s how Instock was born.

You started off creating dishes for the Instockpop-up back in 2014 – how many restaurants do you operate today?

The company grew very organically. We started off collecting food from 8 local Albert Heijn supermarkets in an electric van. It grew to include more supermarkets and expanded over time. We now have three restaurants: one in Amsterdam, one in the Hague and one in Utrecht. There is space for 80 in each of our restaurants.

InStock DenHaag

Do you think the Netherlands has a more forward-thinking attitude to sustainability than the UK?

I think the UK has a lot of food waste initiatives and there’s a really active community there. Tristam Stewart for example wrote a book called Waste and was one of the first people identifying food waste as a huge issue. He’s a real thought leader.

How do you come up with the menu for the restaurants with a constantly changing list of ingredients to work with?

We work together with many creative chefs such as Lucas Jeffries, Andreas Chrisomallis, Tiziano Capasso and Sven van der Spek. Initially we had a different menu every day as we didn’t know in advance what ingredients we would be collecting. It would include 3 dishes: a starter, a main and a dessert. But now we have 12 different dishes and they are on the menu as long as we have the ingredients ‘Instock. This is possible because we have scaled our logistics. Sso even though all our food is rescued, it’s become more like a normal restaurant.

With the uncertainty around the produce you’ll have on a given week, is it possible to have an in-house style of food?

A lot of our chefs bring their own unique style and there is a lot of freedom for them to make what they want. So, our style is very difficult to put into words. The best place to understand our style is our Instagram page (@instock_nl) where you can really see how it has developed.

As designers we have clients asking if they have to change their style to stay ahead of the game. With sustainability at the heart of your business, do you feel the need to change your interiors?

We have one interior style and it’s been similar since the beginning. We maintain our restaurants and keep them looking fresh and clean. We have done a few renovations, but we don’t plan to change the interiors regularly. We value the use of recycled materials a lot and we try to use as many durable materials as possible.

InStock Utrecht

What are your ambitions for the future? Would you ever open a restaurant in a hotel?

The restaurants are really important flagships, places where we can show what we do. In the end though they are not the ultimate goal. We look at our impact and have shifted more towards our online platform On the platform we can connect surplus streams to chefs of for for example large catering companies and hotels.  A lot of chefs are willing to make steps towards ending food waste and are interested in cooking with our products. We’re now selling 20,000 kilos of rescued food per month!

What are your ‘little black book’ recommendations for places to eat in Amsterdam?

Zoku is a really cool initiative and is just around the corner from one of our restaurants. Sometimes we’ll hold our strategy meeting there, it’s a great place to work, eat and just relax.

There’s a great restaurant called Circl, which is in the financial district in Amsterdam. The building and interiors are made from recycled and reusable materials. From many angles it’s a very circular business.

De Ceuvel is also very inspiring and hardcore in the sense of sustainability. It’s a grass roots initiative and they go that extra mile – they even have eco toilets.