Tackling food and energy waste is a growing issue for the hospitality industry, not only from an environmental perspective but also from an economic and social standpoint. Each year, millions of tons of food are wasted in the UK, and a significant portion of this waste originates from hospitality.
To address this challenge more effectively, the industry can implement a multi-faceted approach that includes better planning, technology adoption, and collaboration.
Improved Planning and Portion Control
Restaurants and hotels can enhance their food management practices by accurately forecasting demand and portion sizes. Implementing sophisticated inventory management systems can help reduce over-purchasing and food spoilage.
Menu design plays a crucial role. Offering flexible portion sizes or sharing plates can reduce plate waste, allowing customers to order what they can eat.
Training team members, both front and back of house to understand the environmental and financial implications of food waste can create a culture of responsibility.
Effective Storage and Handling
Proper storage practices can significantly extend the shelf life of food items. Ensuring that perishable items are stored at the correct temperatures and in suitable conditions can reduce spoilage.
First-in, first-out (FIFO) inventory management should be enforced to prevent older items from expiring before they are used.
Donations and Redistribution
Hospitality and catering providers can partner with local food banks and charities to donate surplus food that is still safe for consumption.
Technology platforms like food-sharing apps can facilitate the efficient redistribution of excess food to charities and individuals in need.
Data Analytics and Technology Integration
Utilising data analytics can help in predicting demand more accurately and optimising supply chains. Advanced algorithms can factor in variables like seasonality, trends, and customer buying habits to reduce over-purchasing.
Implementing kitchen technology, such as smart scales and temperature sensors, can monitor food usage and storage conditions in real-time, sending alerts when items are nearing expiration.
Apps and software solutions can provide customers with information about food waste reduction efforts and allow them to customize their orders to reduce waste.
Training and educating all team members about the importance of reducing food waste and the best practices for doing so can be a critical step.
Engaging with customers by providing information about the venue’s sustainability efforts and encouraging responsible ordering can raise awareness and promote conscious choices.
Waste Measurement and Reporting
Establishing clear metrics for measuring food waste and setting reduction targets can keep businesses accountable. Regular reporting on food waste reduction progress can help identify areas for improvement.
Certification programs like the Food Made Good by the Sustainable Restaurant Association can provide recognition for businesses committed to reducing food waste.
Legislation and Government Support
As reported by Katherine Price recently: Only last month, the government made the decision not to make food waste reporting mandatory for large food businesses in England.
The decision followed a consultation on improving food waste reporting, which included responses sourced from the hospitality sector. Respondents were presented with three policy options: maintaining current measures, enhancing voluntary agreements, or requiring large food businesses in England (those with at least two of the following: annual turnover of £36m, 250 employees or an annual balance sheet total of £18m) to measure and report their food waste.
Despite “general widespread” support for the latter (80%), the government concluded that the cost to businesses and the public sector, the burden of regulation and the chance this could further drive food inflation for consumers were too high.
Some ideas from operators and advisory organisations in the article are helpful in drawing up ideas and options for consideration.
Suppliers can help
Many suppliers to the hospitality and catering industry are as committed to reducing food waste, and every other form of waste as operators.
‘Cutting Carbon in the Commercial Kitchen’ is a guide to help hospitality businesses meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. The report has been created by Meiko UK working with foodservice intelligence specialist FOOTPRINT. A copy of the report is available here.
The equipment food is stored, prepared, and cooked in is often overlooked when waste is being considered. A lot of such equipment ends up in landfill because businesses don’t know about its true value, and it seems like an easy option. Carbon emissions can be saved by re-selling these assets and extending their lifespan. There is a growing market for these assets and circular economy specialists in foodservice, like Ramco facilitate goods like these being resold and reused.
Cleaning and Maintenance
The operation of commercial kitchens requires large amounts of energy, as energy costs have soared the importance of cleaning and maintenance in managing energy costs is ever more economically, and environmentally justified.
The lifespan of ingredients can be maximised through ensuring storage equipment is operating at optimal performance levels, refrigeration being a good example. A simple maintenance schedule followed diligently not only saves energy consumption, but extends the lifespan of fresh produce also.