Six Steps to Stopping Food Waste in your Business
Food waste is one of the most prevalent global challenges, and food waste when disposed in landfills produces harmful green house gases contributing to global warming and climate change.
Why is Food Waste an Important Topic?
In 2011 it was reported by UNFAO that one third (1/3) of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year. The 2030 Agenda for sustainable development found that this is now reducing, thanks to greater public awareness and public concern. Target 12.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) calls for a per capita reduction in food waste at retail and consumer levels and reducing losses along the production and supply chains. Reducing food waste and loss is critical in creating a Zero Hunger World when working towards SDG 2 and 12 (End Hunger and Ensure Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns).
Wasting food also wastes a third of production resources, such as water, energy and human resources. Additional environmental impacts from large scale food production such as biodiversity loss, land use, land, sea and water pollution, greenhouse gas production from global transportation, animal welfare issues and water management are among the few environmental concerns. In addition, the negative impact of food waste in landfills, such as leaching and methane production, is just the tip of the iceberg of the harmful effects of food waste in landfills. Mass-scale food production and increased food waste have become a sizeable environmental issue with wide-ranging impacts.
Food Waste in Hospitality
“Wastage” is a common term often heard in the hospitality industry. Calculations from the UK estimate that 18% of food waste is created by the hospitality and food service sector, whereby 1 in 6 meals is wasted.
Wastage occurs in all areas of a hotel or restaurant establishment. Whether we talk about wastage in terms of energy, water or food, all areas of wastage ought to be identified, monitored, and then minimised.
Kitchens can lose energy and water through ineffective design and operational procedures. There is, of course, the unavoidable and avoidable food waste generated from over-ordering, incorrect storage and preparation, inaccurate portion control, deficits in kitchen management, menu engineering and staff training, all contributing to the volume of wastage.
When tackling food waste, critical steps can be taken whilst also remembering the waste hierarchy; Refuse, Reduce, Re-use, Recycle & Recover with the ultimate goal of Zero Food Waste to landfill in mind.
What Steps can Hospitality Operators Take to Reduce Food Waste?
- Internal Engagement and Training Initiatives are Essential. The entire team needs to be aware of the issue and its impact and understand why it is necessary. Back of house teams, such as those who process waste, should also be involved from the beginning.
- Performing a Waste Audit is Vital in determining where your waste is coming from and allows you to establish a baseline for metrics measuring future success. A waste audit per outlet where food is stored, prepared, and served needs to be performed and then monitored.
- By monitoring and asking yourself “When, Where, How and Why”, you can formulate a plan to target the waste, ultimately reducing it effectively.
- It is estimated that up to 50% of food is wasted at the pre-consumer level, illustrating that operational adjustments can make vast savings.
- Food Consumption; post-consumer waste is also to be analysed and segregated. This analysis leads to understanding potion control and popular menu items. It is also imperative to know and understand the consumer habits of your clients and how many covers are in your restaurant. The volume of food produced and wasted can then be determined per cover and will give a very telling tale of what you are spending on food waste per person. Accurate portion control and smaller buffet portions are also imperative in reducing post-consumer waste.
- Effective Purchasing & Storage is key. Having the purchasing department work within a Green Procurement Policy has many benefits as sourcing locally and responsibly minimises food waste. Additionally, food spoils during the delivery and storage process, ensure these items, where possible, can be diverted from landfill, and analyse why they are spoiling, i.e., storage processes, incorrect storage and labelling, FIFO procedures, quality of supplier and their goods and overordering.
- Preparation is Paramount; being creative with offcuts, better menu engineering, menu planning, and portion control makes a difference.
- Introducing dedicated bins into prep areas is necessary to ensure that no production offcuts end up in a landfill. Allowing for easier management of offcuts determines their use.
- Flexible menu planning also allows for leftover food to be re-worked into specials or staff meals and so on.
- Dealing with Leftover food can be done so in many ways. Buffets can display food in smaller portions, replenished more often, reintroduced and re-worked into the menus or donated (depending on local laws). Any that can’t be re-worked or donated should be considered for animal feed. The remaining can be composted or put into anaerobic digesters to create soil amendments or to create energy.
- Customer Communication and Engagement is Important. Communicate your activities, goals, and successes to motivate your clients to come on the journey with you. Be aware to avoid greenwashing by ensuring clear and concise goals and outcomes.
Analysing and monitoring your operations, from procurement, preparation and plate, will determine what waste is generated and where you can take steps to reduce this. Ensure that data is captured, successes communicated, and any implemented reduction measures are counted. Reducing food waste not only has an environmental and sustainable impact, but the impact on the bottom line can also be dramatic.
Several tools are available to support hospitality operators in understanding and tracking their food waste. These tools offer a variety of solutions and are a great resource, especially to organisations with large teams and operations.
Look up the Shop in Sustainability Kiosk to learn about sustainable food solutions you can leverage.
Written by: Tiffany McGrath