Critical First Steps to Reduce Hotel Food Waste

By Pete Pearson Director of Food Waste, World Wildlife Fund | June 10, 2018

Hotels are on the forefront of a movement to save food-and money.

Every year, about 1.3 billion tons of food are lost or wasted around the world-a third of all the food produced. To the average American family of four, that can add up to thousands of dollars a year. What might food loss and waste cost a hotel that serves thousands of people?

In countries like the United States, food is wasted most often in grocery stores, food service industries and in homes. We all share a responsibility and have an obligation to take a bite out of this problem, including hotels and the hospitality sector. But where to start?

Fortunately, in collaboration with World Wildlife Fund and the American Hotel and Lodging Association, dozens of hotels have been experimenting with food waste strategies. And their lessons have informed a free, open platform on the web called HotelKitchen.org. This platform provides hotel managers and staff with a simple, step-by-step guide to develop and implement a food waste strategy.

Step 1: Build a Food Waste Management Task Force

Before you can even develop a strategy, you need a cross-functional team that includes people from different departments across your hotel. It should include departments that receive, store, prep, serve, and dispose of food as well as the catering and event sales department. The team should be able to monitor how food is received, prepared, offered to guests, thrown away, what roles different employees need to play to reduce waste, how the hotel communicates food waste reduction to its guests, and what impact the effort has on the hotel's finances.

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Coming up in January 2019...

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Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.