The government needs to work with the restaurant sector to find ways of cutting plate wastage if the industry is to stand any chance of containing soaring food waste volumes, a new report has warned.
It is estimated that the equivalent of one in 6 meals served in the UK is wasted, with figures showing that the hospitality and foodservice sector accounts for 9% of all UK food waste.
A newly-published report by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee claims that with 30% of the total waste generated in the hospitality sector from customers’ plates, it is time for the government to take action.
The document, which can be read in full HERE, suggested a number of ways in which the hospitality sector could tackle plate food waste, including offers of smaller portions for a slightly reduced price, menus directly encouraging customers to take leftovers home, and clarity on sides that come automatically with orders.
If restaurant businesses are going to reduce portion size, it said customer involvement would be key: “Eateries need to communicate to customers why they are doing this. If customers understand why it is being done, they are less likely to complain. There is a lot that can be done at the menu level,” it was noted.
In Scotland, the ‘Good to Go’ initiative encourages restaurants to provide a take-home box service for leftovers. The report said industry association ALMR, which represents restaurant chains in the UK, supported the initiative but argued it would not be suitable for all business models, and that there were reputational and financial costs to businesses to consider.
It is not thought that such a scheme is planned for England.
“A large proportion of unnecessary waste in the hospitality sector is the result of large portion sizes and resulting waste left on customers’ plates,” the report concluded. “The incoming government must work with the hospitality sector to encourage it to examine ways of preventing plate wastage, for example, by offering smaller portions, by providing clarity on the sides that arrive with a meal, reducing the amount of sides, and encouraging take-home service for leftovers.”
The ALMR notes that the amount of waste generated varies significantly with the type of business, with casual dining outlets wasting less than pubs which themselves wasted less than restaurants.
The most common foods thrown are items such as chips, bread rolls and coleslaw.