Hospitality food waste can be a real challenge for operators. Social media pictures of choking oceans and overflowing landfill sites have brought the waste issue into sharper focus for many people. And some operators have been criticised for throwing food away when many people still go hungry in the UK.

Analysis by Reconomy reveals the scale of the food waste problem in the hospitality sector. Their findings include:

  • Hotels – generate 9% of hospitality food waste, approximately 79,000 tonnes each year
  • Pubs – generate 13% of hospitality food waste, approximately 173,000 tonnes each year
  • Restaurants – generate 22% of hospitality food waste, approximately 199,000 tonnes each year
  • Quick service restaurants – generate 8.3% of hospitality food waste, approximately 73,000 tonnes each year
  • Staff catering – generates 2% of hospitality food waste, approximately 17,500 tonnes each year
  • Leisure – generates 7% of hospitality food waste, approximately 61,500 tonnes each year
  • Services – generate 3% of hospitality food waste, approximately 26,500 tonnes each year
  • Healthcare – generates 13% of hospitality food waste, approximately 114,000 tonnes each year
  • Education – generates 13% of hospitality food waste, approximately 114,000 tonnes each year

Food waste isn’t just a moral or environmental problem. Binning food can also be very expensive.

Restaurants alone spend £682 million on food waste related costs each year according to figures from the Waste and Resources Action Programme – a British waste action charity. That’s the equivalent of £3,500 per tonne of food waste.

In addition to the costs associated with disposing of food, this figure also includes the cost of purchasing the wasted food as well as the cost of any labour and utilities involved in procuring and storing the food.

There are many ways that you can reduce your food waste costs, including using a dedicated food waste collection service. But the best way to minimise food waste expenses will always be to reduce the amount of food that’s wasted in the first place.

Central Waste Liverpool’s tips to cut down on food waste

There are many different ways to tackle the food waste problem in hospitality venues, including buying less food, finding new ways to sell food that would otherwise go to waste and ultimately reducing the amount of food that ends up in food waste bins.

Here are some of our top tips for operators.

Get staff to buy in

For people that don’t know anything about running a hospitality venue, cutting down on food waste is easy – just buy less food. In reality, this is very difficult for venues as you never really know how much you will sell in any given week.

Some operators find comfort in over-ordering on some food items so that customers aren’t left disappointed on a busy weekend.

If you are really serious about cutting food waste though, then you will find that your experienced hospitality managers have the tools they need to follow through. Most would be more than happy to see less food go to waste, but they will need your support and guidance.

Even simple things like measuring the amount of food that’s wasted each week, setting targets and providing some additional training can achieve very positive results.

Clean plates every time

A Groupon survey found that about a third of Brits did not finish their food last time they ate out. The same survey found that, on average, we waste more than £80 on unfinished food every year. This might not sound like a lot, but it adds up to more than £4 billion annually across the UK.

As operators, you can’t force people to finish their food (however tempting it may be sometimes), but you may be able to reduce waste by encouraging staff to offer customers doggy bags so they can take leftovers home.

Selling unsold food

Any food not picked off the menu doesn’t need to end up in your food waste bin. New food waste apps allow hospitality venues to tackle the food waste problem by matching unsold food with hungry customers.

The Uber of the food waste world, TooGoodToGo has more than 4,800 restaurants, shops and other venues signed up to its app-based platform. As well as reducing waste, this also opens up another (relatively small) income stream, helping cut hospitality food waste costs even further.

Donate excess food to those that need it most

Even if you can’t sell food to cut down on waste, you can make sure it goes to someone who needs it.

Many hospitality venues in Liverpool help support their local communities by donating unsold food to people that need it most – including homeless shelters, school breakfast clubs, older people’s lunch clubs and community cafes.

If you run a restaurant, bar, café or hotel, you might be able to come to an agreement with a local charity or community group to help redistribute unsold food. If you come from a big operator, you may be able to partner with a larger organisation like FareShare (one of the groups helping Marcus Rashford with his recent campaign).

Recycling food waste into green energy

There will always be some food waste that can’t reduce or redistribute, including things like peelings, spoiled food and plate waste. But this doesn’t mean that the food should be left to rot at the local landfill.

All food that is dropped into one of Central Waste Liverpool’s orange food bins is used to create biogas, which can in turn be used to create renewable energy.

Bioenergy only represents a small fraction of the UK’s total energy mix, but the amount of bioenergy generated in the UK has increased more than eightfold in the twenty years to 2019.

Recycling food waste in this way means that homes and businesses across the North West can get access to clean, green power. It also helps us reduce the price of hospitality food waste collections in Merseyside.