Due to the increase in out-of-home dining over the last few decades, food waste in the hospitality sector has become a key sustainability concern. A study conducted by RMIT University found that 250.000 tonnes of food waste are tossed away by foodservice facilities. We can see a significant upsurge of food waste of almost 12% in the area of the hospitality industry.
For a systematic and lasting change, the awareness of every participant in the industry is crucial. Without a well-informed setting and individuals within the setting willing to make a change for the better, it is unlikely that the food waste will see its numbers decrease in the nearer future. Therefore, everyone, including the kitchen staff, servers and customers, is an equally important factor in managing the food waste within the hospitality industry.
Besides, food waste means more costs. If the planning and kitchen organization were done better, the waste could be reduced, meaning that the expenses for the ingredients and energy consumption would be proportionally smaller.
With these thoughts in mind, what can be done within the food industry to raise awareness and begin the long-overdue action towards sustainable food management?
Mismanagement in the hospitality sector causes 8-20% of total food waste. The repercussions of inefficient management are overproduction, large portion sizes, poor menu composition, cooking errors that result in bad tasting food, too long working hours of the restaurant, just to name a few. These unbalanced practices altogether cause extra food waste, which wouldn’t be as high in the case of better kitchen and service organization.
Thus, introducing a new food waste management policy and defining clear goals to reduce food waste is an essential step. Better planning of the food supply, rearranging the menu options according to customer needs and wants, training the staff to minimize the chances of cooking mistakes and cooking within the frame of “just-enough” are only some efforts that are paving the way for a more sustainable environment.
Sustainability as a new trend
Mentioning the way to sustainable environments as a goal for the hospitality sector leads us to interesting findings done by Booking and Deloitte. They discovered that a significant percentage of travelers choose a sustainability-friendly brand or accommodation over the non-sustainable ones.
The same goes for the food industry. People love to support a good cause, especially when they feel the authenticity and honesty behind the company.
Consequently, many start-ups built their business precisely by offering methods and techniques to kitchens for measuring food waste. They also help kitchens and restaurants to introduce eco-friendly materials and practices in their daily operations. Some of these start-ups are Winnow, The Perfect Company, and Apicbase.
A Guide for Managing Food Waste in the Hospitality Sector
After measuring and seeing the precise amounts of food wasted, it is time to tackle food waste further down the road. One valuable reference point of good practices is the Food Waste Reduction Guide for Hotel Sector, published by Food Wise Hong Kong Campaign. Although this guide is focused on the food services of the hotel sector, it can be applied to any hospitality establishment. The guide recommends that the following actions, among others, include preparing a food waste reduction plan, educating and training staff and setting clear objectives.
A more detailed action plan would include the following procedures:
- Planning the grocery shopping and designing the menu
Over-stocking and over-supplying is almost always a certain road to throwing the excess food that the kitchen could not use in the designated time. Thus, following the restaurants’ needs and planning the shopping accordingly is the way to go.
Similarly, designing the menu based on previous experiences (side note: asking the guests to review is an excellent way to get valuable info) and reducing the portion sizes will be economical for the business and practical for the food waste.
- Storing and handling the food materials
After purchase, storing the food is the most vital part, as depending on the kitchen practices, the food will either go bad sooner or stay fresh longer. FIFO (first-in-first-out) is a common formula that many establishments follow. Along with FIFO, kitchen staff should ensure that they regularly maintain the fridge and freezer and that the packages preserve food effectively.
When preparing the vegetables, the chef and the management should instruct the staff not to peel the vegetables more than necessary and, according to the reduction plan, to use the extra prepared food and trimmings for other meals.
- Educating the staff
Education and training of the entire team is the fundamental component of managing food waste in the hospitality sector. Introducing ways to minimize the scraps from the food and using every part of the, say, vegetables can significantly impact overall food consumption and food waste. For example, a single carrot could be used without any scraps, just like zero-waste chef Tim Ma suggests. Such innovative solutions can create a unique and exciting style of the restaurant and make it recognizable among customers.
- Donation of excess food
The hospitality sector is opening up for more and more collaborations with charities and food donation associations, which is a commendable move for any establishment. With constant surpluses in food, the foodservice industry has a vital role and immense potential to decrease food waste by relocating leftovers or pre-prepared food to those who need it the most.
- Recycling the food waste
Eggshells, coffee grounds, banana peels – everyone thinks they are of no use and automatically throws them into a bin. Nonetheless, they become a tremendous nutritional value for the garden soil through composting.
Although it requires more effort and planning, restaurant kitchens are encouraged to make a small garden to have their own resources and become self-sufficient. Creating an organic waste recycling for vegetables means taking care of every step of the food waste management. If the lack of restaurant space doesn’t allow planting vegetables, making a small pot for, at least, herbs can already bring about the more positive direction.
 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959652620329061, 12 January 2022
 https://www.foodwisehk.gov.hk/pdf/GPGuide_Hotel_en.pdf, 12 January 2022