How to reduce food loss (and waste) from the hospitality industry?


Hospitality businesses can implement a number of responsible practices. The very first step for them is to develop ‘sustainable’ menus. The restaurants’ menus can offer a choice of different portion sizes to satisfy the requirements of different customers. They may feature fewer items in their menus to operate their business with a reduced inventory of food products to decrease storage costs, minimize waste and spoilage.

It is in the interest of restaurant owner-managers to procure fresh ingredients from local businesses including farmers, bakers, butchers, et cetera, to ensure that they are preparing good food for their valued customers. Local products including organic items like fruit and vegetables, will have a longer shelf life than imported ones.

The hospitality businesses ought to forge close relationships with dependable, local suppliers to implement just-in-time purchasing systems. There is scope for them to purchase regularly and in smaller quantities to reduce the probabilities of food spoilage and dehydration. They are expected to continuously monitor the expiration dates of their food items and ingredients to minimize waste and to respect relevant hygienic standards.

Owner-managers may apply the first expired first out (FEFO) principles in their kitchens, to avoid any stock-outs. Moreover, they can use food tracking devices to identify the types of food waste they are generating.

Their monitoring and control of food waste should be carried out on a day-to-day basis, as it can lead to significant operational efficiencies and cost savings. Practitioners may keep a track record of their waste in a spreadsheet. They can measure the quantity of organic waste that is generated from their premises. They may include details like the dates (and times of events), which ingredients or recipes were wasted, the name of the employee(s) who was (or were) responsible for the waste, et cetera.

Furthermore, practitioners can estimate the composition of their organic waste and identify whether it is derived from vegetables, bread/pasta, specific meats, etc. This will allow them to make adjustments in their food menus (if possible).

Such food trackers may also help the hospitality business to detect irresponsible behaviors in their kitchens and to minimize food waste from their properties. It may indicate that certain employees are not engaging in responsible food preparation behaviors.

There is scope for hospitality businesses to train their human resources, at all levels, particularly new employees, on circular economy approaches. This way, they will be in a better position to improve their efficiencies in terms of reducing, reusing and recycling resources, and responsible waste disposal practices. They have to be supported and educated on the best practices to ensure that they are improving the (economic) sustainability of their businesses’ food and beverage operations whilst minimizing their impact on the natural environment.

Table 1 illustrates the responsible behaviors that can be implemented by hospitality businesses to reduce food loss and the generation of waste from their premises:

There are a number of laudable circular economy initiatives that are taken on board in the hospitality industry. Hotels and restaurants can utilize sharing economy platforms that link with consumers. Mobile users can download apps to get to know about surplus food from catering outlets. As a result, they may purchase good food at a discount. At the same time, such apps enable the businesses to make revenue out of their perishable food and to minimize their environmental footprint by reducing their waste.

Moreover, food and beverage businesses can benefit from tax deductions and credit systems, in different contexts, if they donate surplus (edible) food to charities and food banks.

Alternatively, food can be accumulated and turned into animal feed, compost or transformed into energy through methanation processes if it decayed or became contaminated. Non-edible leftovers may be monetized if it is utilized for secondary purposes.

Key Takeaways

The implementation and execution of the circular economy’s closed loop systems ought to be promoted through different marketing channels. Hotels and restaurants can use marketing communications through different media to raise awareness on how they are capable of generating less waste. They should promote sustainable production and consumption behaviors through different media outlets, including traditional and digital channels.

The hospitality businesses responsible initiatives can raise their profile among different stakeholders, including customers and suppliers, among others. The customers will probably appreciate the hospitality businesses’ efforts to reduce their impact to the natural environment. Some of their sustainability measures are dependent on the active commitment of hotel clients and restaurant patrons.

Therefore, it is very important for them to raise awareness about their waste prevention campaigns and on their environmental achievements so that they may feel part of the responsible initiatives. This way, they become key participants in the reduction of generated waste. Hence, businesses can educate customers about responsible consumption behaviors to help them in their endeavors to curb food loss and the generation of unnecessary waste. The food and beverage servers could engage in conversations with their clients to better understand their food requirements.

In a similar vein, the hospitality businesses ought to forge closer relationships with their suppliers including farmers and other retailers, to implement responsible inventory management systems and just-in-time purchasing. Suppliers must continuously be informed and updated on their procurement policies. Their ongoing communications may facilitate collaborative practices that may translate to positive outcomes, including the sourcing of better-quality products with extended lifecycles and longer expiry dates.

This article raises awareness on a number of preventative measures and recycling practices that may be taken on board by practitioners and their stakeholders, to reduce food waste and its detrimental effect on our natural environment and biospheres. There is scope for trade unions and industry associations in hospitality to promote the responsible behaviors, among their members.

Notwithstanding, regulatory authorities and their policy makers can encourage hotels and restaurants to invest in environmentally friendly systems to minimize their food loss and waste. They can offer them financial incentives like tax deductions or exemptions when they donate surplus food.

Alternatively, governments can support them by providing adequate infrastructures and resources including on-site composting facilities and/or methanization processes that are aimed to minimize the accumulation of food waste that finishes in landfills. Such responsible investments will ultimately result in a sustainable value chain in tourism cities, as they add value to the hospitality businesses, to the environment and to society, at large.

Suggested citation: Camilleri, M.A. (2021). Sustainable Production and Consumption of Food. Mise-en-Place Circular Economy Policies and Waste Management Practices in Tourism Cities. Sustainability, 13, 9986. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13179986 (OPEN ACCESS)



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