What can hotels do about food waste?

This is a hot topic, and one the hospitality industry are increasingly keen to tackle. It’s astonishing to consider that:

  • Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year — approximately 1.3 billion tonnes — gets lost or wasted each year. (UNEP)
  • 73 billion tourist meals are served per year, with an estimated 200 million meals a day provided globally (Routledge Handbook Tourism and Sustainability – Hall, Gossling, Scott 2015 Edition page 51)

While a substantial proportion of food is lost within the supply chain – for instance through harvesting losses and spoilage during transport – an even greater percentage is wasted once it reaches the hotel.

Take one potato…

If we take potatoes as an example, 31% are lost on the way to the hotel, but once they reach the kitchen another 44% are wasted through spoilage, preparation, or because they are left on consumer plates. Only 25% of potatoes grown are actually eaten.

So how can hotels improve this? Much of it is down to cooking and serving the potatoes in a way that uses as much of the vegetable as possible, for instance:

Photo by Lars Blankers on Unsplash

  • Some potatoes might be wasted because they are not the right size (eg for baking) so think of alternative methods of cooking these
  • A proportion will be lost in food preparation (eg peeling for chips or mash) so think of different ways of serving e.g. skin on fries

There are many common-sense ways to reduce food waste in general, such as providing smaller plates at buffets, or smaller portion sizes. Or you can cook by demand and work on a basis of quality not quantity – offering delicious but limited menus.

What have other hotels done?

  • In one hotel in Antigua bananas were going to waste because they had black marks all over them and guests thought they were bad. When the hotel explained that these marks were due to birds perching on the bananas whilst growing, their guests completely changed their minds.
  • A hotel in Marrakesh introduced a composting scheme where sales of compost went to local charities chosen by the hotel staff. Customers were encouraged to take part by putting composting food waste e.g. tea bags, fruit peelings into a small compost bin on each table.
  • A hotel group has developed a number of dishes, particularly salads, that have long-lasting qualities, thereby prolonging their lifespan. These dishes can be served at all meals, and if not finished at one meal, they can enter as an element into another dish. They communicate this to their guests who have indicated they love what they are doing.

Through our greening hotel projects throughout the world we have seen many imaginative hoteliers reducing their food waste in different ways, often by communicating well with their customers. Most customers hate food waste too so they are more than happy when they see hoteliers doing something about it.

Hotels can get lots of great tips on reducing food waste through Green Hotelier website.





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