In an industry where customer satisfaction is key, these are the scandalous figures behind the epidemic of food waste. About 25% of all food that passes through hotel kitchens is thrown out as food waste and this figure can balloon out to as high as 45% in remote areas like The Maldives.
The problem is not isolated to a single country or region. It is a global issue and it’s no surprise that food waste is increasingly a topic of importance for the hospitality industry. In a sector with razor thin margins, increased scrutiny of environmental impacts and customer pressure to act as responsible global citizens, there are some uncomfortable figures being thrown around:
- Up to a third of all food is discarded or spoiled prior to consumption, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
- Luxury hotel brands Sofitel and Pullman produce 47 tonnes of food waste annually according to Eco Tourist
- According to the New York Times, 65 percent of travelers have a preference for hotels that can prove their environmental credentials
- The UN states that food waste costs the hospitality sector more than 100 billion dollars every year
- Hotel kitchens traditionally budget 3-5% of food purchasing costs to be written off as unavoidable food waste. Brands like AccorHotels and IHG, found that the actual number is between 5% and 15% by value of the food they have purchased according to consultancy Alice.
It’s not all bad news though. With a considered approach and proper planning, hotels can easily cut back on the amount of food waste generated, improving bottom lines without any impact on the customer experience.
The benefits can be very quickly realized too. Lucas Glanville, director of culinary operations at The Grand Hyatt in Singapore cut its food waste output from 1000kg two years ago to 800kg today by monitoring its waste generation, communicating with staff, and ensuring proper food storage. The hotel reports that it has achieved a staggering S$100,000 in savings per year.
5 ways to take action on food waste
- Complete a Food Waste Audit
You can’t change what you can’t measure. Start by collecting meaningful data - get the process started by collecting daily logs of how much food was thrown out, along with how much traffic the hotel received, what the weather was like, and other helpful information in order to plan the following year’s food requirements.
- Buffet the right way
Buffet dining is far more popular in Southeast Asia than in Europe, but produces a lot more waste than other dining formats. Still, there are ways to limit waste even within this format, like cooking when the food is needed with live cooking stations, upon request, or a la minute.
- Create a Leftovers Plan
It’s important to monitor portion sizes, and that dishes are prepared and served exactly as described on the menu. Track the popularity of each dish and cook accordingly.
Composting is by far the best way to treat leftover food. It has been shown to reduce greenhouse gases, improve soil quality and clean contaminated soil. Hotels can make use of in house composting facilities or work with an outside provider to assist with the provision of these services.
- Involve your staff
Make food waste an issue for everyone in the organization. Engage your staff and get them on board to assist with the implementation of a food waste strategy. Collaborating as a team is critical to putting a strategy into action and be sure to include food waste management training in the on boarding process of new staff.