Challenge: Plate scrapings
Plate scrapings are the uneaten food that is left on a guest’s plate. Typically, it is no longer fit to “reuse” or “recycle,” but can be recovered or diverted from landfill in another way, as compost or as use for biofuel. Food service establishments can also invest in an aerobic food digester such as the ORCA, a machine that turns food waste into environmentally safe water that can be released into the municipal sewage system. Cowtech, a technology developed in Thailand, turns waste into another form of usable energy. Because plate scrapings occur rather far down on the food waste hierarchy, it is good to try to avoid as much of it as possible. Besides doggy-bagging, here are some ways to reduce the amount of plate scraping waste that is generated at your eatery.
- Minimise the quantity of bread and starter portions provided prior to the meal
- Serve condiments in small portions
- Serve smaller, carefully weighed out portions
- Offer different portion sizes to your clients to fit various needs, e.g. S/M/L, “smaller appetites,” or kids portions
- Make the choice of side dishes more flexible, or optional (for reduced price), e.g. smaller portion sizes with refill options
- Favour flavour over quantity
Here are some ways to make the most of service and plate presentation opportunities:
- Serve food on smaller plates to make the portions look larger
- Present food in an attractive way using colourful and fresh-looking ingredients with various textures
- Present food creatively, reducing the quantity served
- If using garnishes for decoration, try to utilise the inedible part of the fruit or vegetable from kitchen prep
- Offer as much front/show cooking as possible, allowing you to prepare fresh, correctly portioned dishes in front of your guests and to their liking
- Use more voluminous garnishes such as curly salad leaf; they create the same volume on the plate but use fewer leaves
Communication is key. It is vital to communicate any changes to your practices as well as your sustainability policy and food waste reduction efforts to your guests.
“Raising general awareness about food waste and its costs automatically drives waste down” (Futouris e.V., n.d., p.30).
Some questions you may ask your guest when taking orders:
- Portion size (half, full, kids)
- Ingredients or allergies
- Preferred cooking methods
- Sides (with or without, types of sides available)
- Train staff to read back the order to guests. This type of communication takes the customer’s preference into consideration and reduces the amount of plate waste, or the frequency of plates being sent back.
Target social norms that lead to food wastage. For example, doggy bags in Thailand and the UK are not looked upon favourably; therefore in many UK restaurants, servers are now instructed to take it upon themselves to provide a doggy bag if there is a lot of food left on a guest’s plate (Pirani and Arafat, 2014).
Managing expectations can be much easier if communication is frequent and open. This practice also extends to encouraging guests to make and keep to reservations, (or be charged for a no-show; guests must provide their credit card information when making a reservation), and reply to invitations in the case of events, so that a more accurate headcount can be accomplished and preparations including purchasing can be done accordingly.
Remember that communication goes both ways; ask whether the customer actually wants that refill, condiment, or side dish, rather than serving it automatically
Download Futouris’ Sustainable Food Guest Communication Manual for some signage templates and wording suggestions to communicate with your guests. These tools, of course, can be changed to match your corporate branding.