Reducing food waste isn’t just about saving the planet and winning green credentials, it also offers a chance to reimagine your catering and elevate the guest experience. GUEST magazine talks with F&B specialist Pia Bøgeskov about the challenges and opportunities of curbing food waste.

By Kim Wyon

Why should a company cut food waste? “ 

Well, it makes sense on all levels regardless of the size of your business. No one likes throwing away perfectly good resources. Cutting food waste is good for the environment and good for your green credentials, too. Reducing food waste is also a beneficial cost-cutting exercise – and it’s an important first step towards offering your guests a better culinary experience.

By saving on your overall catering costs, you can spend more on high-quality food items, such as organic or locally farmed produce. And by utilising the produce better, you can be more generous to your guests and offer complimentary treats – such as healthy snacks and creative starters – to elevate the overall guest experience.

“We see a general trend especially among young consumers who expect a more conscious approach to food in general. Much the same can be said for corporate clients.”

What are the first steps? 

“The first step is to measure and analyse the level of food waste. You need to identify where waste takes place on all levels, including food scraps and discarded edible food. It’s important to note everything in a practical and intuitive way. The main culprit is nearly always the buffet service. Buffets are a very entrenched part of hotel culture, not least in Scandinavia.

Buffets are perhaps less popular outside our region. Some research even seems to point to buffets not being that popular here, either. A survey conducted by the Danish culinary institute Madkulturen indicated that only 21 percent of Danes enjoy the buffet experience. That puts our whole industry approach to catering into perspective. Do we need to rethink the hotel buffet?”

F&B specialist Pia Bøgeskov, partner of TN Concept & Design

Are there any quick fixes? 

“If your food waste mainly stems from the breakfast buffet, there are a number of simple tweaks and nudging exercises you can adopt. Using smaller plates, glasses and coffee cups and offering smaller-sized servings will reduce food waste almost instantly.

“This may cut consumption by anywhere from 3-10 percent even with lean businesses. Another useful method is to reduce buffet sizes and combine buffets with à la carte choices. You may find that your guests really appreciate the extra attention involved in personal service.

“The à la carte breakfast choices would typically be egg dishes, including omelettes prepared using ingredients from the day before, such as tomato salad. Such a service is a useful way to cut food waste, while giving guests a better dining experience. Making guests aware of your food waste policy by posting signs at the buffets has also proven quite useful.

“Another simple way to cut food waste is to donate unwanted edible food to charity or use third-party resellers such as the Too Good To Go app. This won’t help you cut wasteful procedures in your kitchens but will ensure excess food is used and not wasted. The good old doggy bag is another helpful quick fix.”

What are the greatest challenges?

“The biggest challenge is ensuring food waste is continuously measured on an everyday basis. After a few quick successes, some level of fatigue may set in among the staff. But turning the chore of weighing food scraps into a fun team competition is one way of encouraging a little extra commitment. Making the results very visible is another important aspect of ensuring efforts are recognised as team achievements.

“Another way to engage culinary workers is to appeal to their professional creativity and skills. You can boost your sustainability approach and even cut costs further by engaging and inspiring chefs to prepare food using oddly-shaped vegetables, for instance, which are generally cheaper. There is a lot to be said about recognising the skills and creativity of your culinary teams.”

Which professional tools are there? 

“Large corporations worldwide from Hilton to IKEA and even medium-sized players can benefit greatly from professional food waste tools such as Winnow Solutions. In Denmark, the eSmiley programme also offers food waste coaching.

“In Norway, the KuttMatsvinn 2020 programme has developed shared food waste tools, and in Sweden the SaMMa industry collaboration initiated by Naturvårdsverket also offers assistance and guidance for businesses seeking to cut food waste.”

FOOD WASTE ACTION LIST

Cutting food waste requires action and dedication on several levels. Preventing food waste is the sure way of cutting costs. Reselling or donating edible food waste should have second priority. Finally, develop a strategy to make the best out of food scraps by turning it into biofuel and compost.

PREVENTION:

  • Introduce waste tracking and analytics
  • Improve inventory management
  • Improve utilisation of food resources
  • Reduce foodstuffs used as decoration
  • Reduce buffet service in favour of à la carte
  • Introduce sample plates and hot dishes to order at breakfast buffets
  • Use smaller plates, cups and glasses at buffets
  • Serve smaller portions and slices
  • Post calls-to-action at buffets

RECOVERY:

  • Reuse foodstuffs by preserving, pickling and fermenting
  • Donate excess food to charity and work with local food waste programmes
  • Use secondary resellers such as the Too Good To Go app
  • Introduce doggy bags

RECYCLING:

  • Food scrap composting to create organic fertiliser and second-generation biofuel

FOOD WASTE IN FIGURES

The UN Sustainability Goals include a vision to cut food waste globally by 50% by 2030.

Current food waste per capita/year: Norway 74 kg (Østfoldforskning/Matvett), Denmark 121 kg (Landbrug og Fødevarer), Sweden 126 kg (Naturvårdsverket).

Share of total food waste generated by restaurants and commercial kitchens: Norway 3% (Østfoldforskning/Matvett), Denmark 8.6% (Landbrug og Fødevarer), Sweden 11.5% (Naturvårdsverket).

The figures for the three Scandinavian countries are not directly comparable since the Swedish figures include inedible food scraps, whereas the Norwegian and Danish figures exclude inedible food scraps. Tentatively, Norway has registered the lowest food waste.

ABOUT PIA BØGESKOV

As an experienced F&B specialist, Pia Bøgeskov has worked with food waste initiatives since 2011 in close collaboration with businesses, knowledge centres and the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. She has