Food For Thought: Tackling Hotel Food Waste


Marc Zornes outlines how taking action to slim down food wastage – estimated to cost the hospitality sector a staggering $100bn a year – not only boosts the bottom line, it also benefits the environment, our moral conscience and resource efficiency


For a long time, resource efficiency within the hotel industry was focussed mostly on heating, cooling and electricity efficiency solutions.

These projects have been widely adopted as attractive opportunities to cut operating expenses and improve the bottom line. In the recent years, however, the industry is waking up to the opportunity lying in food waste reduction and sees it as a key lever for improving resource efficiency in the business. Food prices in the UK are forecast to quickly rise in the fallout from Brexit and reducing food waste in this context can be a quick win for British hotels. There are several reasons why now is the time to tackle the issue.

Food waste is not only morally wrong, it is also the cause of huge costs for hospitality businesses – an estimated cost of over $100bn annually to the sector. Our data shows that in the hotel and restaurant industries up to 20% of food purchases are thrown away. Hotel businesses adopting food waste reduction strategies can exploit huge commercial opportunities, which in turn, improve efficiency and drive business returns. Our clients have shown that by measuring and monitoring food waste, it can be cut by 50% or more in value with a typical saving of 3-8% on food cost.

Beyond the economic wins, hotels are coming under pressure to consider the environment in their everyday activities. Resource challenges such as increasing scarcity of land, energy and water are quickly intensifying. Each year, food produced but not eaten is responsible for adding 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gas to the planet’s atmosphere. If food waste were a country, it would be the third biggest greenhouse gas emitter behind the U.S. and China.

Conscious customers are also demanding greener and more sustainable hotels. Online travel review giant, TripAdvisor, found that nearly 40% of travellers surveyed have stayed at an environmental-friendly hotel, with 9% specifically seeking out such hotels.

Driven by the need to make cost savings and pressure from consumers to employ sustainable practices, it is inevitable that forward-looking hotel operations make food waste reduction the norm. At Winnow, we believe that what gets measured, gets managed. Once you know exactly where waste is occurring, improved forecasting and production planning allows you to solve the issue at its root cause.

AccorHotels pledged to make a 30% reduction in food waste by 2020 as it improves the environmental sustainability of its operations. They are working with Winnow on an international basis to make their business more sustainable and save costs by cutting food waste in half.

A trial of 70 Nordic Choice Hotels found that smaller plates reduced food waste by 20% at buffets, saving costs, waste and the environment alike. By focussing on waste prevention measures, the hospitality sector can lead the way to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically aim to halve food waste and reduce global food loss by 2030 (Goal 12.3).

Our work with hundreds of kitchens proved that by moving the issue of food waste higher up the hotel agenda, it has clear benefits, both from a business, and environmental perspective. Winnow Solutions currently operates in 14 countries and will reach 25 countries soon. We have found that addressing food waste systematically, and with the right tools, can be transformative for the hotel industry and we encourage operators to make waste prevention a strategic priority.