food waste

Restaurants, hotels and other establishments in the hospitality sector may be increasingly conscious of sustainability in their operations, whether it is in the materials their building is made from, the elimination of plastic cutlery or the use of green energy.

However, sustainability also applies to food. Much has been made of the issue of ‘food miles’ and the carbon footprint involved in transporting produce from farm to fork, but food waste is another major issue.  You may well ask: Is your establishment sending out staff in their server aprons to dish up only the freshest food and not something that can be salvaged before it goes off? 

The high level of inflation experienced in countries like the US and UK may be prompting consumers to act on this issue in their own homes. In Britain, for instance, the annual rate of food inflation is 16.8 per cent and rising, compared with an overall Consumer Prices Index inflation figure of 10.5 per cent, now tracking downwards. 

With many people under pressure, the importance of making the most of whatever food they have is clearly important. Yet a House of Lords report into food waste published in 2021 found that the UK produced 9.5 million tonnes of it a year. While this was 15 per cent less than in 2007, the government acknowledged this was too high and said it wanted to halve this figure by 2030.

Initiatives have begun to spring up to tackle the problem, helping tight household budgets and getting edible produce to plates instead of trash cans. Oddbox, a fruit and veg delivery firm that specialises in misshaped produce the superstores won’t sell, has launched an app called Soilmates. This helps people match up leftover veg in their fridges with great recipes.

Head of impact at Oddbox Heather Lynch told the Sun newspaper: “We want to change the destiny of thousands of vegetables, to help fight food waste and create tasty plates of food in the process.”

She added: “Not knowing what to do with leftover vegetables, or a lack of inspiration to turn them into delicious meals is one of the most common causes of food waste at home.”

This can pose an obvious challenge to the hospitality sector, but also an opportunity. Could menus be designed so that even if the ingredients for one dish are not all used up, they can still be included in something else? At the same time, such a move could make more efficient use of food and save money in the process.

According to Oddbox, common problems leading to waste in British households include products only being available in multipacks, providing higher quantities than the buyer wanted, while often items are simply left in fridges and forgotten about.

These are not the kind of problems that a well-organised restaurant, café or hotel should have, either in terms of the volumes of items ordered or knowledge of what quantities remain in storage at any given time. This means it should be easier to keep food waste low.

By doing so and making a point of this, you can provide an extra level of appeal to your customers, providing not just fine food, but demonstrating a reputation-enhancing responsible attitude towards sustainability.

February 28, 2023 — Jacob Blakey