Solutions to food waste in tourism

Today we are talking about solutions to food waste in tourism. Every month or two I will try to propose solutions to problems of this kind: I wanted to start with food waste because it is a problem that is very close to my heart. 

Solutions to these problems will come partly from my direct experience and partly from solutions proposed by colleagues to the worst problems in the tourism sector.

I hope I can help you! I recommend that you read all the way to the end so as not to lose any of the solutions I have found for you.

Why do I care so much about wasting food? And why is it useful to deal with it as wisely as possible?

First of all, food waste in tourism can occur at different levels: it can happen in a hotel because in the accommodation there are different levels of treatment that include food: for example full board, half board or breakfast. In each of these occasions, there is always a part of the waste, especially if we use a method that is very convenient for the operators, the buffet. 

The reason why I want to find solutions to this situation is certainly partly because I don’t like the waste, I don’t like to be part of a process, of a situation that wastes especially when there are so many people who would really need a lot of help from all. 

The hotel is not the only place where food is wasted: restaurants, bars and all the itineraries that include stops for lunches, dinners, tastings can produce some food waste.
This happens because we often rightly want to give the best possible to our guests and both guests and operators often see this best as abundance.

Giving abundance of food, of choice, of everything, the guest will feel full of generosity, will feel welcome, will feel appreciated and will feel above all satiated. 

Obviously behind this situation, in addition to the emotional part, there is an important economic part that can benefit from a waste reduction, and for this reason today I wanted to tell you a little bit about my ideas, my aspirations and my actions.

Photos representing the abundance that you want to offer taken from an article in Il Sole 24 ore describing a 5-star breakfast.
Where to have a 5-star breakfast in the best hotels in Europe. https://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/dove-fare-colazione-5-stelle-migliori-hotel-europa-AEJTjTTG

Maybe you have already heard or read that I run a small hotel; in this context, I tell a part of the decisions I made.

I started some researches between January and February 2020 and the two
solutions that seemed to be more suitable for my needs, for the need of my small hotel are (1) to make agreements with non-profit organizations in the area that work to bring food to people in need and (2) to find the best way to reduce waste.

  1. Make arrangements with a non-profit organization to donate exceeding food.

Depending on the different levels of organisation of each structure, this kind of agreement is possible. My hotel, for example, is a family-run business and needs to find a solution that is not too demanding to make this contribution.

I have found through a list of which I am part that deals with
exchange – I look for – I offer some interesting contacts. I asked the people who normally attend this email list what ideas they had about it and what could be done to find a solution.  My starting idea, however, was to find someone to give the leftover food to, but absolutely enjoyable, as very often we ourselves took it home to eat it, say after closing time in the kitchen.

  1. Using technology and Apps to improve communication and sharing of unsold food

The second point and the second idea I had, in fact, already identified it by researching for my website sustainabletourismworld.com a few years ago.

The fact of finding an App, like a mobile phone app, where you could
organise an exchange, retreat and other such things. I had found some, one from the UK called PareApp (now not available anymore), and this app allowed people to indicate what, where and when there is leftover food. This App was suitable for restaurants and bars because users who are interested in avoiding this kind of waste can pick up this food for free or discounted depending on the proposal of the place.

There is a correspondent in Italy, from what I’ve read it seems to be the Italian version of an international App so basic English and in fact, it’s called Too Good To Go which means “too good to be thrown away”.

This is obviously a solution that I am taking into consideration even if in my case I would only keep it as the last hypothesis, the last solution because I will always try to prefer donating to people in difficulty rather than selling unsold goods.

  1. Improve service to waste less food

The third interesting but simple solution that I found is to work more on the service you do: for example, to reduce the individual portions especially in cases where there is an all-inclusive or in cases where we are talking about rates with half board and full board. It has been found by WRAP, which is the UK’s Resource for Action Programme that just a small reduction in the side dishes, in particular, helps the person to finish what is on their plate. As a result, it helps to reduce the food that is no longer reusable significantly.

Another solution I found during the Global Sustainable Tourism Council course that I attended between January and February 2020 is to have smaller dishes and colourful dishes. The smaller plates allow people to see the fuller plate even in the buffets and as a result, the guests only take what they are really ready to eat.
Colour, this is another study brought to light during the course, it seems that having coloured plates instead of the classic white plates helps to see the plate full and consequently to take less food and leave less.

These are three small solutions that can be adopted by any structure at any level, any office at any level because very often even in offices in companies there is this problem, especially if you have a canteen and if you have to deal with a large number of employees that use the canteen. I hope these three solutions are interesting.

The bonus idea to reduce food waste

The bonus idea, the bonus solution, the slightly more challenging solution is
the reuse of food. In this case, we do not talk about leftover food on the plate, because of course at the bar or in the restaurant it is not possible to do this, however, as one of the major sources of food wasted especially in tourism comes from the way it is prepared, the solution, the fourth solution, the bonus solution is to become creative and use different methods of preparation and also recover and become creative in the way the food leftover and not served can be revisited and repurposed.

This idea has always been quite normal in my head and in the heads of many people.
Colleagues, however, it is interesting that Viver Verde 100 ideas to protect
the environment and feel good propose 2 examples: one the bread that becomes ribollita or Pappa al Pomodoro and this is actually something you can do as I said before at any level. Even the smallest structures, in the case of hotels, can manage a minimum of the bread for which ribollita or pappa al Pomodoro is boiled.

Risotto, on the other hand, can become a velvety blend. In my opinion, this is very interesting, and I would never have thought of it. Jumping rice or rice oranges are one level, but thinking of making a velvety risotto from a risotto seems to be very interesting and also a delicious idea.

That’s all for today. I hope these four ideas these four solutions are useful and interesting for you.

To conclude as always the task at home: choose one of the proposed solutions to start applying it immediately and of course, I would like to know which one you have chosen and how you are carrying it out. Whether you start today or not, you know you are already using some of them. Please leave a comment below and see you soon! 

Sara – tourism consultant

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