There is a heightened awareness of the growing global issue that food waste represents in a context of booming populations, shrinking arable land, freshwater scarcity and climate change. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), roughly 33% of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year, approximately 1.3 billion tons, is lost or wasted. The GSTC is already recommending hotels and destinations to put efforts in demonstrating effective sustainable management, a guideline that encompasses minimizing food wastage and finding ways to create value out of food waste.
Aligned with GSTC principles and philosophy, a Food Waste Prevention program for hotels has been developed by LightBlue Environmental Consulting, a Bangkok based hotel sustainability auditing, training and consulting firm. Within 5 to 10 years, most major hotel chains will understand the true cost of food wastage and will be controlling their food waste much more carefully», predicts Benjamin Lephilibert, Founder and MD of LightBlue Environmental Consulting.
Sofitel So Bangkok was chosen as a pilot hotel, and after weeks into the initiative, the hotel saw noticeable improvements in food waste prevention, food cost reduction and practices in its key departments such as Food & Beverage and Kitchen. The project consisted of a full week of audits to understand where food waste is coming from, where in the food chain it is happening (Spoilage, Preparation, and Guests), what the reason for discarding is and what main items ended up in the bins. For seven days, employees have been sorting, weighing, defining and recording Food Waste during breakfast, lunch, dinner and night shifts at each food waste generation point of the hotel, establishing a Food Waste baseline performance level (in grams of food waste per cover).
«At first I thought it was complicated and wasting our working time. We did not understand why we had to separate food waste. But then we received training about what were our mistakes in the past. Now before I throw something away I think twice whether the item could be used again or not» says a First Kitchen Agent Culinary of the Hotel.
Then a dedicated team composed of staff and managers from Kitchen, Food & Beverage, Stewarding, Human Resources, Engineering and Finance (The So Food Lovers Committee), took the program in its own hands and tested various initiatives for Food Rescue, Food Cost reduction and improved practices in key areas. «We went through a lot of changes together with LightBlue and hard work for recording food waste and make chefs and staff change the way they perceive the food and treat the food», says the hotel Culinary Designer (Ex. Chef) Paul Smart.
The efforts were indeed worthwhile as the hotel managed to rescue 6’535kg of edible food, coupled with very substantial financial savings.
Actions included, in production: reinforcing the strict labeling system, scrutiny of quality and temperature at receiving (especially for temperature sensitive items like oysters), increasing the number of deliveries, and staff awareness-raising campaigns at canteen, even among staff not working with food.
Additionally in guest-facing services there was improved communication between front of house staff in F&B and the kitchen, particularly around the percentage of bookings already served. Tighter portion control on the buffet were also implemented, together with additional live cooking stations, more food prepared on demand, and presenting the late night buffet at a discounted price after 9.30 pm.
Chefs and kitchen staff found creative opportunities for re-using food which had previously been thrown away including: fruit used for carving or decoration was collected for use in smoothies; cheese from the morning buffet was used for topping on pizzas; and fresh seafood on the buffet was cooked and served in hot dishes in the evening.
«Very few similar projects have been implemented so far across the industry. The hotel should feel proud to be part of this pioneer initiative. Within 5 to 10 years, most major hotel chains will understand the true cost of food wastage and will be controlling their food waste much more carefully», predicts Benjamin Lephilibert, Founder and MD of LightBlue Environmental Consulting.