Just one fifth of hospitality businesses know where their food waste comes from

By Amelie Maurice-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Waste not want not: New survey gives insight into food waste in the sector (Getty/ svetikd)
Waste not want not: New survey gives insight into food waste in the sector (Getty/ svetikd)

Related tags Environment Sustainability Food Waste management Hospitality

A joint survey of leading hospitality operators, representing more than 2,3000 sites, has revealed only one fifth of sector businesses track whether their food waste comes from preparation, spoilage or plant waste.

The survey, conducted by Fourth, the leading global software provider for the hospitality, retail and leisure industries, and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA), assessed how the industry was coping with the food waste challenge, which costs the sector £3.2bn per year, with 1m tonnes of food wasted.

This statistic is alarming given the recently passed Environment Act, set to come into force in 2023, states all food waste must be segregated from general waste and collected separately.

Also, with conditions covering the mandatory reporting of food waste expected to go out for parliamentary consultation later this year, the survey revealed only slightly more than half (55%) of businesses are currently reporting their food waste.

Fourth managing director Sebastien Sepierre said there are only benefits to reducing waste, yet the research suggests hospitality businesses have yet to fully embrace the role of technology in this challenge.

The survey also revealed 90% of operators had food waste monitoring systems in place, yet only 45% were conducting regular food waste audits on site.

What’s more, only 10% of operators were using technology to monitor their food waste output, however, 60% of businesses were providing staff with some form of training on food waste reduction.

Getting to grips with waste

Furthermore, 80% of participants said they couldn’t say what proportion of their waste was from preparation, spoilage or plate waste, while 20% are currently separating their waste into these more detailed streams.

Of the £20,000 that food waste costs each hospitality venue on average each year, up to three quarters of that is avoidable, revealed Fourth.

According to Sepierre, evidence shows businesses that employ smart measuring systems tend to reduce their waste by 15%, emphasising the vital role technology can play in promoting better waste management, safeguarding both profits and the planet.

He said: “Cloud-based technology enables owners and managers to monitor all stock within the business and order in a timely fashion to help keep waste down. Inputting wastage also allows them to keep a close eye – and therefore work to reduce – what is going to waste before and after service.

“After two extremely challenging years, and with further financial obstacles in the form of inflation, energy bill and VAT rises around the corner, getting to grips with waste is now more important than ever.”

While many businesses have made progress in area of food waste, the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) reported food waste rose by 19.3% between 2011-2018, from 920,000 to 1.1m tonnes. In the last few years, the sector has faced further challenges around reducing wastage, with the pandemic causing uncertainty around quantities required, staffing and trading restrictions.

A major issue

SRA managing director Juliane Caillouette-Noble believed the survey results showed hospitality was taking important steps to reduce food waste, but that more needs to be done for the benefits of both businesses and the environment.

She commented: “The challenge has grown over the past two years with the pandemic resulting in fluctuating demand and unexpected closures leading to vast volumes of wasted food. High staff turnover in the same period means much of the training on the issue will have been lost.

“Food waste is a major climate, commercial and community issue. The scale of the problem is immense but the prize on offer through serious reduction, is equally huge.

“If the sector achieves the 25% reduction target by 2025, as set out in WRAP’s Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, it will also slash carbon emissions by 900,000 tonnes.

“The guide we have produced with Fourth provides key insights and practical advice on this challenging but essential journey.”

The help businesses focus on food waste, Fourth and the SRA have produced a free, downloadable whitepaper for the sector. This outlines the challenges the industry faces, the progress it has made. It also includes insights from leading operators on how to train staff, monitor and record waste, implement technological solutions and reduce overall food waste.

The two businesses are also hosting a webinar on Wednesday 9 March at 10am, with insight from a panel of industry experts on how to tackle the food waste challenge. You can register your place here.

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