How to Reduce and Manage Waste in the Hospitality & Food Industry

12 May 2022
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Here’s a shocking statistic: over a third of all the food waste generated globally is wasted. Much of this waste, which equates to around 900 million tonnes, ends up in landfills around the world and accounts for around 10% of all man-made greenhouse emissions. Unsurprisingly, one of the biggest industries that contributes towards this food waste problem is hospitality

In this article, the Zest Recycle team will discuss ways in which hospitality businesses – such as pubs, bars, restaurants and the events sector, as well as corporate canteens in large buildings – can better manage their food waste, so we can all start moving towards a greener, more sustainable future. 

The hospitality and food services industry 

It’s estimated that the UK hospitality and food services industry generates nearly 1.1 million tonnes of food waste each year, a huge proportion of which is absolutely fine to eat at the time it’s being discarded. This is a waste of money for businesses, and of course, it’s having a huge impact on the environment in the process.

On the flip side, there is also a devastating hunger problem here in the UK. Currently, around 7 million people (1 in 10) in the UK are struggling to afford to eat each day, and this figure is only going to rise as the cost of living soars. Those 1.3 billion meals that are being thrown away each year could feed those that are struggling for around half a year. Think of that: if we just managed to become more efficient with our food waste, we could eliminate half the problem just like that.

The solutions 

In what follows, we’re going to be providing some useful and informative guidance regarding some of the actions hospitality businesses can take to reduce food waste . 

  • Waste audits – If you’re only just starting to look at ways to improve your business’ food waste problem, then there’s a chance that you’re not yet aware of just how much waste you’re currently producing. A waste audit will solve this. 

Essentially, a waste audit will allow you to record exactly how much food you are throwing out on a monthly basis. One of the most useful things about a waste audit is that you will be able to find out exactly which foods are making up the bulk of the waste you throw away, so you can then form specific strategies around them. 

While a waste audit might sound like a daunting task, investing in food waste reduction strategies is something that will pay dividends in the long run if you find the right waste partner who understands your vision. Here at Zest Recycle, we make waste auditing an essential part of our waste strategies for our clients, which allows us to find new solutions to long-standing problems. A survey conducted by WRAP discovered that for every £1 that a food business invested in waste reduction, they were able to save around £7 through operational efficiencies. 

  • Avoid overbuying – One of the biggest problems that food businesses face day in day out is ensuring that they have just the right amount of stock. Not enough, and you can’t offer the full menu; too much, and you end up throwing a large chunk of it away. In order to guard against being caught without enough stock, many pubs and restaurants tend to greatly overbuy, particularly if suppliers are offering special deals.

To avoid this, make sure you take into account seasonal changes in custom before you fully commit to your order, and don’t be tempted to increase the order size for a deal if you know that it’s only going to end up being thrown away. 

  • Dealing with over-preparation – Over-preparation is the most prominent cause of food waste in bars and restaurants across the UK, it can actually far outweigh customer leftovers in many cases. While preparation in advance is very important for certain types of foods and dishes, if it becomes clear that you are constantly having to throw away the same dishes that have been prepared long in advance, a change of strategy is needed. 

Try to work out which days, weeks and months are going to be more high-traffic for your business, and then adapt your preparation schedule to suit. For example, maybe stick to your traditional preparation schedule in December during the busy period, and then ease off a little in January when things die down. 

  • Keep track of your stock – Keeping an inventory of all the stock you have at any one time is a fantastic way of combating the over-ordering problem. It also helps greatly when it comes to staying on top of expiration dates, as you will be able to tell exactly what is going off and when, and you can alter your orders accordingly.

    If you do think that you’re not going to be able to use some of your stock by the given expiration date, try and get ahead of this by looking for places such as food banks and soup kitchens where your stock could be redirected to help those in need.
  • Consider reducing portion sizes – Another huge contributor to food waste in the food industry is customer leftovers, and around 40% of customers cite that portions being too big is the main reason they leave food. Carbohydrates, particularly things like chips, can often be the part of a meal that’s left as they can be extremely filling. On top of this, there’s also all of the potato peelings that need to be thrown away during the preparation phase.

In order to better understand customer portion needs, monitor which meals on the menu tend to come back with the most left, and then consider altering portion sizes accordingly. By reducing portion sizes slightly, you have a simple and easy-to-implement way of reducing food waste. This will  also be something that customers prefer as well, as they might leave the eatery feeling better about not having left food – and also not feeling too full!

  • Food waste segregation and treatment- Of course, it would be naive to think we could eradicate food waste entirely, which is why having measures in place to capture as much food waste as possible for segregation and treatment is essential. Anaerobic digestion is one green method of dealing with food waste where organic matter (in this case food) can be broken down by bacteria in the absence of oxygen. This process then creates a fertilizer that can be useful for farming. Another popular method of diverting food waste from landfill is to compost your food waste, something that is becoming more popular in restaurants not just here in the UK, but across the globe.

At Zest Recycle we help businesses manage their food waste more sustainably by:

  • Waste Auditing
    We would conduct an audit of food waste management operations to understand where food waste is being generated, what volumes and types of food waste are being generated, and the potential quality of waste for reuse and waste treatment strategies. 
  • Identifying opportunities for Prevention and Reuse
    We would suggest solutions for food waste prevention in the first place and then look at opportunities to support local causes through food redistribution, working with our network of supply chain partners.

  • Proposal – Waste Segregation
    We would put forward a waste segregation proposal working with Kitchen / Operations / FM teams to identify the type and location of food waste containers required to capture food waste for segregation. This will also involve looking at potential contaminants of food waste materials and how these can be eliminated or switched to a more sustainable product.

  • Food Waste Treatment
    We would find a suitable treatment solution for your food waste by working with our network of supply chain partners and treatment facilities in the UK. Treatment levels will largely depend on the quantity of waste produced, location of food-producing sites and quality of food waste material generated.

  • Implementation and Support
    We manage the whole process from the waste auditing and proposal stage, right through to providing the necessary equipment, containers, and collection service. This includes helping encourage high levels of participation and segregation through the provision of waste segregation materials (posters and signage) and awareness and educational materials and support.

Are you a business owner that’s looking to manage your  food waste more efficiently? Zest Recycle has helped businesses all over the UK harness their waste as a resource and create efficiencies throughout their operations, so if you would like to learn more about what we do, all you have to do is get in touch.

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