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The Impact of Reducing Food Waste

Bridget Holmstrom - Monday, January 12, 2015

Saving money by managing waste

WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) research suggests that 920,000 tonnes of food is thrown away each year by the hospitality industry and, furthermore, three-quarters of this is avoidable waste and could have been consumed by the customer.  This level of waste translates into the enormous cost to the sector of £3.2 billion.   For those with a visual way of thinking, this level of waste would fill Wembley Stadium to the arch.  

But these are very big numbers and it is hard to relate this to a specific restaurant.  However it basically means an estimated 1 in 6 meals served in restaurants is wasted.  This means that the average cost to a food outlet is £10,000.  There are huge savings that could be taken advantage of by those businesses willing to work at reducing the waste.  Remember that these savings are based on the cost of food and not on the collection and disposal so actually the savings could be much more.

What are the problems?

Food waste can occur at different stages in the process; such as spoilage or preparation waste or it could be plate waste - meaning that the customer just doesn't like what they see and send it back.  It could also be because the portions sizes are too big and the customer can't eat everything.  Reports suggest that some 40% of plate waste is carbohydrates - chips, pasta and so on - so customers are not eating the whole portion and send it back to the kitchen.

So can anything be done?

Measuring the waste means that the outlet will know how much and where the waste is being created. This in turn will mean that particular points where waste is being generated will be identified and, when identified can be managed.  

Perhaps restaurants could consider more sharing plates, becoming more popular, and allows the customer to eat what they want.  You could also have a greater range of portion size as different customers have different ideas on what is the ideal meal size.  

Recommendations from the experts

  1. Be creative with offcuts and use up the scraps
  2. Create competition across kitchen sections
  3. Reuse everything possible
  4. Accurately measure how much is being thrown away
  5. Manage the portion sizes

How many meals do you have to sell to make a profit of £10,000.  Well assume an average spend of £35, and a net profit per meal of 10%, a restaurant would have to sell around 2,900 additional meals to make this additional profit.  Taking care of waste looks like a good place to look for additional profits.

More information on waste management from The Caterer magazine