Challenge: Don’t know where to start

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Challenge: Don’t know where to start

Tackling sustainability issues is daunting. Being overwhelmed about food waste is completely understandable. Knowing where to start can be a huge hurdle, so here are some suggested solutions!

Start by measuring your food waste. In doing so, you can better manage it by identifying how much waste is generated and where it comes from. This can help to identify causes of the waste and ways to prevent it. To take a line from our good friends at EarthCheck, you can’t manage what you don’t measure!

You can record your waste on a food waste tracking sheet, available via WRAP (2015) or US EPA (2015). For more detail, Unilever’s Wise up on waste is an app for professional kitchens to conveniently monitor and track food waste, including monitoring the composition of plate waste. We recommend you go this extra step; if you are wasting a lot of meat, this is costing you a lot of money!

Food waste audit template (NEA and AVA, 2017, p.22)

These sheets help to give standard metrics to help measure your waste. Once you’ve obtained your baseline, you can then set goals to track your achievement over time in terms of weight or volume, and in financial value. You may also wish to tackle certain areas first, for example, the buffet, where you can reduce prepared portions and select foods that can be made quickly as needed, instead of pre-making too much.

Hotel Waste Mapping Guide

(The Travel Foundation, 2013, p.i)

Understanding the type and source of food waste produced from the food and beverage area is very important. At the minimum, you should aim to quantify total food waste, but measuring the type and source of food waste from all stages of food preparation and service is recommended.

The key types of food waste generated are:

  • spoilage of raw materials: anything from the kitchen that is not suitable for use e.g. bruised or mouldy potatoes, spoiled produce, goods that are damaged/past expiry date;
  • preparation waste: anything that is not for human consumption and usually thrown out, e.g. potato peelings, cut-offs, dropped/burnt food, meat/fish bones etc.;
  • overproduced food: i.e. prepared food portions that have not been sold/consumed – including leftover buffet waste; and,
  • plate scrapings from customers.

View this video to see how the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit saved over US$60,000 by reducing food waste. (Winnow Solutions, n.d.). Read the case study on Anantara Siam Bangkok to learn about the simple changes they made and find out how Novotel Phuket Kamala is saving 29,000 meals annually. 

Utilise this example chart below to record the weight/volume of food thrown out, and be sure to record waste at every meal for at least three days.

Meal time/type [e.g. dinner all you can eat buffet]
# of meals served/covers [e.g. 150]
Spoilage (kg) Prep waste (kg) Overproduced food (kg) Plate scrapings (kg)
Total spoilage 5 Total prep waste 6 Total overproduction 7 Total plate scrapings 8
Spoilage/cover 5/150 = .03 Prep waste/cover 6/150 = .04 Overproduction waste/cover 7/150 = .047 Plate scrapings/cover 8/150 = .053
Total waste (kg) 5+6+7+8 = 26
Total waste per cover (kg) 26/150 = .173

Once you have completed this chart, you will be able to identify the following:

  • Which meal produces the most waste
  • Which area produces the most waste
  • Types of food waste produced

Tips for easy management:

  • Be sure to segregate food waste into separate bins for spoilage, preparation, overproduction, and plate waste
  • Colour code bins for easy training of staff and clear segregation (Pirani and Arafat, 2014)
  • Monitor what food is left on plates or at the buffet and try to obtain some customer feedback to determine the reason why it was not eaten. Results can impact menu planning (Futouris e.V., n.d.)
  • Implement online surveys or guest satisfaction survey cards that accompany the check at the end of the meal. Consider implementing loyalty points or other incentives to encourage guests to complete survey