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Food Waste

Summer is over and many establishments have already started planning for the busiest – and hopefully most profitable – times of the year. While increased footfall and festive spending fever at Christmas can get those tills ringing, potential profit margins can be seriously decreased if operators are not constantly vigilant about unnecessary food waste. Richard Walker, Marketing Manager at Reconomy looks at how much waste different types of businesses in this industry are producing and provides alarming data on just how much this waste is costing them each year.

At the very least, all establishments in the catering and hospitality sector should have an effective waste management strategy in place to ensure they are complying with the duty of care requirements set out by the UK Government. Beyond that, it is up to each individual just how effective their waste management is and how much profit is being lost unnecessarily each and every time a food item lands in the bin.

Food wasteCalculating your own waste

You may not think that your bottom line is being too adversely affected by food waste, but the chances are that if you take a moment to gauge accurately the levels of waste your business is producing, you may well be in for a nasty surprise.

To calculate the amount of waste you produce, start by distributing your waste into different sections – this will allow you to have a visual insight into the types of waste you are producing.

Use three different bins to collect the appropriate data on:

  • Food preparation
  • Spoilage
  • Leftovers from your customers’ plates. 

Use the data you have collected and multiply this figure by the amount it costs per tonne – this will tell you how much food waste is costing your business each year.

Food wasteWaste produced: restaurants, pubs and hotels

Waste for restaurants costs the sector £682 million annually.

While over 25% of the food waste is unavoidable, around 20% of the waste comes from potatoes and 16% from fruit and vegetables. The smallest amount of food waste generated in restaurants is through whole servings and dairy products. The average cost of avoidable food waste to a restaurant is £0.97 per meal. This is something that restaurants must have a focus on as they are responsible for 9% of the meals served in Britain annually – equivalent to 704 million meals. A total of 915,400 tonnes of waste is produced by the restaurant sector each year with 199,100 tonnes being food waste.

Waste generated by pubs is costing the sector £357 million every year.

Again, over 25% of the food waste is unavoidable, with potatoes contributing over 20% of the waste and fruit and veg over 15%.

On average, food waste costs each pub around £8000 each year, with the cost of avoidable food waste working out at around £0.41 per meal. UK pubs are responsible for serving 11% of all meals eaten – equating to around 871 million meals each year.

In total, 873,000 tonnes of waste is generated by pubs each year; 173,000 tonnes of which is food waste.

The hotel sector experiences a lot of food waste with internal restaurants, room service and in-room snacks all contributing to the overall loss. Each year, the cost of food waste in hotels is £318 million.

While over 35% of this waste is unavoidable food waste, potatoes once again account for 20% and fruit and veg 15%. The average cost of avoidable food waste to a hotel is £0.52 for every meal served. Hotels provide 8% of all meals that are eaten out in the UK – equivalent to 611 million meals.

Figures show that 289,700 tonnes of waste is produced each year by hotels, with 79,000 tonnes of that coming from hotels’ food waste.

Family eatingReducing food waste

  • Menu sizes
    If your menu offers plenty of choice, you will need to buy plenty of ingredients that may well go to waste if certain meals do not prove popular. Monitor the type of food that is popular and amend your menu accordingly. 
  • Portion sizes
    If your portion sizes are too big, make them smaller. An obvious solution but if your customers are generating waste then there is either too much food on their plates or they do not like what you have served them – a different issue altogether.
  • Shelf life
    Try only to buy fresh food as and when you need it. If you can’t use all your fresh food, have you considered donating it to a local homeless shelter (an altruistic gesture that will also provide excellent publicity should you choose to tell your local media) or a farm where lower quality waste can be fed to animals? 

Cutting vegetablesWaste management companies

If you decide to employ the services of a waste management company, the entire issue of waste should immediately become much more simple. Not only will you receive insightful information regarding the type of waste you are producing, but your waste management contractor will also be able to draw up a profile of your business and calculate the amount of waste your company generates, which can be beneficial in terms of waste collection timings.

Reconomy ( is one of the UK’s leading providers of outsourced recycling and resource management services. From its offices in Telford, Shropshire the company co-ordinates in excess of 12,000 waste movements every week and annually manages approximately 3m tonnes of waste.

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