This article first appeared in the hospitality journal, the Hospitality Biz, December 2019 edition. Reproducing the article here with due credits to the magazine.
Last month our second year students who were undergoing internship at various hotels in the country; were back at college and I had a session with them. I look forward to the interaction as I get to hear the student’s perspective on industry practices. I asked them to share things that they appreciated and the ones that they felt were negative. This was an opportunity for us to deliberate on their observations and issues looking for logical explanations. Students need to raise questions; that is the idea of education, isn’t it? Learning happens with the kind of issues one raises and the questions one asks!
Going forward, I started making the list of best practices observed by the students on one side of the board and highlighted the negatives that they shared on the other. The issue which topped everyone’s list was ‘food wastage’. I have done an article earlier on sustainability which made this concern a serious one.
Food waste refers to the food that is wasted, lost or not consumed. The reasons are numerous and occur at every stage of the cycle such as production, processing, retailing and consuming. According to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) report in 2013; the food waste globally sums to one-third of the total food produced for human consumption, which amounts to about 1.6 billion tonnes a year. Come to think of it; one-third of the food we produce and all the energy, time, resources that go into growing, packaging and shipping it is wasted. This loss is a significant problem calling for immediate attention.
In hotels food waste can be classified by its origins; pre-consumer or kitchen waste and post-consumer or plate waste. Kitchen waste is the food discarded from the kitchen due to unskilled trimming, overlooking demand, overstocking, poor quality of food produced and use of improper storage systems. Kitchen waste receives less attention but it is as serious as the more visible Buffet waste. Plate waste on the other hand is the result of the service model used by the hotel such as portion sizes, buffet sizes and guests’ consumption behaviours. Hotels need to understand food sustainability better.
Minimising food waste will not only reduce financial loss but may become a potential gain in the long run. There cannot be a universal formula for minimising food waste as each hotel is different in nature. Some aspects can be considered by all hotels and food establishments such identifying the origins of the waste, and then coming up with appropriate prevention plan to fight this epidemic.
Food waste audit
Two aspects of food waste audit are tracking how much food is being wasted and how many people are visiting the restaurants. For this two logs can be used- a food log to keep track of what is being thrown out and why also; how much food is wasted. A traffic log can be used to track the number of guests visiting the eatery. Hotel can also make a note of the season, weather conditions, festivities, events and other helpful information that may come handy when planning events in future.
Create awareness among the staff about the challenges of implementing food waste programme; make it a team goal. It should be a part of the induction programme for the new joinees. Food thrown away everyday from the staff cafeteria should be highlighted on the board as a diligent effort towards curbing food waste.
Purchase, Stores and the Operational departments need to work closely in order to manage inventory. Have a strategy that food doesn’t remain too long in storage, the lead time is considered and there’s no over ordering. Perishables can be ordered in the Daily Bazaar. Hotels should have a plan to repurpose ingredients so as to minimise waste and train staff to be waste-conscious.
Portion sizes and popularity of dishes is a key in reducing food waste in restaurants. It is a good idea to offer half portions for a la carte served in restaurants and in-room dining. Some hotels send the extra food as staff meals; some donate remainder of the food to NGOs who redistribute food to charity. It is also becoming popular in many parts of the world to reuse food in eating joints and allowing people to ‘Pay as they feel’. People know that the food is left over and they can pay accordingly. For facilitating such plans it is imperative to have a robust storage, transportation and distribution network.
Fruits, vegetables, dairy products, grains, bread, unbleached paper napkins, coffee filters, eggshells, meats and newspaper can be composted. It benefits the environment, agriculture and can also be used to market the establishment as being environmentally conscious. Hotels can compost leftover food on the property or work with a composting partner; this will help in reducing their solid waste disposable fee as well.
It’s time we realise that throwing away food is no longer an acceptable practice. Raising awareness and changing personal habits is the way forward.