Food Waste: The Hospitality Industry's Role

Updated: Nov 22, 2019



The most direct way to reduce the burden of food waste is to avoid it in the first place. The hospitality industry can make its own impact in reducing its carbon footprint by being mindful of the food that they discard.


Overproduction in kitchens is accountable for the biggest amount of food wastage in hotels. Buffets are the emblematic illustration of food overproduction; food abundance is being displayed to please clients and the result is that most of the food is thrown away.


Preventing food waste in the hospitality industry requires a better planning and management of food needs to purchase food items accordingly. In order to do so, Food Wise campaign the Food Waste Reduction Good Practice Guide for Hotel Sector has been published in 2013 and advises, among others, to:

  1. Plan a policy: Develop food waste management policy with clear objectives, procedures, and goals (which includes purchasing the right amount of food for use, inspecting the food upon delivery, and designing a menu with the right portions).

  2. Storage: Ensure that food is properly managed and stored, whether that be in a stock room or refrigerator and that all ingredients taken out is used first.

  3. Handle: Make good use of food (e.g. avoid over-trimming during preparation and spoiling of ingredients) and ensure that surplus food is put to use.

  4. Training and Education: Provide appropriate training with best practices on food waste management and get employees involved in the process.

  5. Monitoring and Audit: Establish an internal audit team and audit food waste system to monitor where most food waste comes from to improve processes.

Similarly, Green Hotelier, the leading source of information on sustainable and responsible hospitality, has produced a very detailed guide called Know How Guide to help and support hotels in reducing their food waste. It comprises four main steps:

  1. Measure the hotel’s food waste.

  2. Develop an action plan to reduce food waste using the data collected, with targets, timescales and responsibilities.

  3. Review progress on the plan each month.

  4. Share good work with staff, consumers and industry.

Recent innovation can help the hospitality industry in achieving these goals. New technologies provide great tools to analyze how a kitchen can be more efficient, thus drastically reducing food waste. This enables hotels to emit less greenhouse gas while saving significant amounts of money. Indeed, it has been found that hotel kitchens waste between 5% and 15% by value of the food they have purchased. Therefore, food waste reduction should rather be seen as a business opportunity than as a hurdle.


Lean path and Winnow for instance provides a pioneer technology that allows hotel kitchens to monitor and manage their food waste by tracking how and what food is being thrown away. The products they offer are ‘smart scales’ equipped with touchscreen interface that enable users to weigh, track and photograph food put in the bin. Thus, kitchen managers can tell at which stage, what type and what amount of food is being wasted to change the kitchen culture. The data collected is processed by analytics platforms and daily or weekly reports are sent to pinpoint key opportunities to cut waste and food costs.


Winnow is a British company operating across 30 countries in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, including in Hong Kong and China. In Hong Kong, Winnow was adopted by the Executive Chef Christian Bruhns who works for The Hong Kong Jockey Club. This company, has a common kitchen in charge of preparing food for several outlets, which has up to 6,000 clients on the race days. Based on the data reported by the Winnow Systems, “we are analyzing the trends and making changes where needed, i.e. 4 to 7 types of sliced fruits for majority of our guests: we identified in which location the consumption is lower than others – we could immediately reduce our par stock and standard prep quantity”, explains Christian. In his interview given to Winnows, he also insists on the crucial importance of raising awareness within the chef team.


In Yunnan (China), the Sofitel Kunming has largely benefitted from Winnow’s technology, reducing its food waste by 56% and thus saving over ¥133,000. This success story shows how a better planning, forecasting and management of food needs can induce significant monetary gains. This has been facilitated by Winnow’s reports as well as data analysis. 


The hospitality industry can do its part in minimizing its food waste. Not only will it cut costs and save money, but by doing so it will also increase its profile as a sustainable brand.


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