Customers’ uneaten food accounts for 34% of food waste in the hospitality sector, according to a new academic study.


Recognising the impact of ‘plate waste’ on restaurant bottom lines, researchers from a university in New Zealand set out to find out why some customers don’t clean their plates.


Using a survey of 1,000 people, they found that cost was a major factor. Perhaps surprisingly, however, respondents said they would be more likely to waste food if a meal was MORE expensive.


Lead author Francesca Goodman-Smith said she was surprised that people were more likely to waste an expensive meal.


She said: “People dining in expensive establishments may have more disposable income and the value they place on food for survival may be less than, for example, someone facing food insecurity would.


“They may also be more concerned about overconsumption.”


Researchers also found that people created more plate waste when a meal was longer in duration or was taken at dinnertime, rather than lunchtime.


The main factors that would motivate people to reduce food were money, followed by saving hungry people, saving the planet and preventing ‘plate guilt’.


Ms Goodman-Smith said: “Too many food waste reduction campaigns focus on environmental motivators, rather than financial ones.


“These campaigns could be more successful if they leverage the cost saving elements of food waste reduction—when multiple motivators are at play consumers are far more likely to change their behavior to avoid wasting food.”


Creative tips to reduce hospitality food waste


Findings from the New Zealand study suggest that hospitality businesses can generate significant food and waste cost savings by encouraging customers to waste less.


Bearing in mind that diners appear to be particularly sensitive to cost when it comes to wasting food, here are some tips that you can use to reduce plate waste.


Offering customers doggy bags as standard


Doggy bags are a win win for restaurants and customers. Restaurants save on waste disposal, because less food ends up in their bin. And customers save because they now have a meal that they can reheat and eat next day or as a late night snack.


A trial scheme in Scotland found that while customers were keen to take food home with them, two-fifths were too embarrassed to ask for one. To tackle this, restaurants on the pilot Good to Go scheme proactively offered doggy bags to customers and managed to cut food waste by an average of 42%.


Get flexible with your menu


Not every diner is the same. Some want a light bites, others want a big portion.


You don’t need to cater to every possible taste. But you can keep your menu short by being flexible with your products. Creating a ‘small’ portion size (with a smaller price to match) could prevent waste from anyone that’s not that hungry. You could also try allowing customers substitute sides they might not like, or eat starters for a main course.


Monitor waste and adjust your menu accordingly


Monitoring what ends up in the big will give you an insight into your customer’s appetites. You may discover, for example, that chips or rice are disproportionately wasted. If you have a big waste problem, you could consider plating up smaller portions of these side dishes.


Some advanced food waste systems use electronic scales to monitor what food is going into the bin, but you could just as easily ask your kitchen porter what foods are most likely to be wasted.


Central Waste Liverpool offers a flexible and cost-effective food waste collection and recycling service in Merseyside. Separating and recycling hospitality food waste can help reduce costs and is better for the environment, with waste food used to create renewable biogas. For more information on food waste collection services, speak to a member of the Central Waste Liverpool team today. Call: 0151 733 5551.