How Much Cash Are You Throwing In The Trash?

By Benjamin Lephilibert Founder, LightBlue Environmental Consulting | May 13, 2018

Imagine the following scenario. You're at a conference for hotel executives and the speaker asks you to take out your phone and perform a calculation based on the average number of monthly covers served on your property. He tells you to take that number and multiply it by twelve, divide it by three, and then multiply by five. He then asks you to raise your hand if your answer is greater than 200,000. (Every hand goes up.) He then says to keep your hand up if the number is above 500,000. (Many hands go down, but a solid contingent of raised hands remains.)

He then explains what they've done. "I just asked you to take your monthly covers and multiply that by twelve to get an annual figure. You divided it by three to get to an estimate of the total kilograms of wasted food, and then you multiplied that figure by five to estimate a dollar figure for your property's annual food waste. Now, please put your hand back up if you think the figure you calculated is a realistic estimate of your food waste. (Zero hands go up.) Okay. Please raise your hand if you think your food waste is less than ¼ of the figure. (Most of the people in the room raise their hand.)"

This scenario has played out with similar results across boardrooms and banquet centers. Given the chance to calculate a rough estimate of their waste, hotel executives reflexively deny the possibility that their food waste could be so significant or that they could even be performing anywhere near the average. (Even though they've typically made no effort to compete on this front.) In doing so, these leaders tend to miss the mark by an order of magnitude. So, when they think it's one to two hundred kilograms per day, we've learned to expect the measured amount to be around a thousand.

When we actually go in to measure it and share the results, they still tend not to believe it. Then we show them the waste and the conversation changes as they begin to understand and accept the problem. (It's hard to ignore a day's worth of food waste when it's piled up in front of you.) Once you get to that point, building commitment for change is easier, as the problem that was hidden in plain sight can no longer be ignored. But working to gain the support necessary for success doesn't end there, and why is it so hard to get to that point?

Food waste is often seen as either nonexistent (that's where the conversation typically starts), or as a necessary evil (that's where it often shifts to once it's been proven to exist). But neither of these are ever the full story. Properties that take food waste seriously know that it occurs, and even when they're doing a good job of avoiding and diverting it, they know there are always ways in which they can improve. While at the other end of the spectrum, it sometimes seems there's a bit of a Dunning-Kruger Effect in play, wherein those who haven't really jumped into this work believe they've already mastered it.

There are two key questions we find ourselves going back to around the problem of food waste: 

Source: Skeptical Science
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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

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.