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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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.