Reducing Food Waste, One Hotel Buffet at a Time

Reducing Food Waste, One Hotel Buffet at a Time

A group of food waste activists help top hotels reduce food waste and save big money

They say that too many cooks spoil the broth. But this time, in combating a global food waste crisis – the more is the merrier. As many as 40 chefs, kitchen and restaurant staff came together at Bangkok’s Marriott Hotel for a first-ever gathering to reduce food waste. That hotel-targeted push in 2019 led by environmental consultancy group LightBlue, involved using a multi-part framework to reduce food waste. It includes designing better menus, repurposing unused food, and giving away leftovers.

Under China's 'Clean Plate' campaign, a group of 10 people can only order 9 dishes

Today, this challenge has become even more urgent, with China driving a 'Clean Plate' campaign in August 2020. That's because one of the world's most populous countries has chalked up some staggering food waste numbers - enough to feed at least 30 million people annually. This is the second time authorities have called on the country to waste less. In 2013, a similiar campaign targeted the extravagent banquets of official functions. 

Chefs and restaurant staff gather in Bangkok's Marriott Hotel in 2019 to tackle the big challenge of reduce food waste. Photo: LightBlue Environmental Consulting Company

Well, the group's food waste activism started before the topic became relevant today - almost a decade ago. Since 2012, it has been actively engaging the hotel industry to stop food wastage and make their existing food processes more efficient. To date, they’ve helped massive food service provider like Sodexo, and big international chains including Marriott, Hyatt, Accor Groups and more. Marriott in particular, saved over 27 tons of food in just four months under their system.

In Thailand, where the group sees some of their most strident efforts, authorities estimate that food waste represents more than 50% of all the waste found in landfills. And beyond that, all the waste produced (about one third of all the food produced for human consumption), can actually feed another 3 billion people. Globally, it’s a 700 billion dollar opportunity.

LightBlue's L.I.T app-based system. Photo: LightBlue Environmental Consulting Company

The crucial step in combating food waste, according to LightBlue, is to track and trace. Their sophisticated system, allows restaurants to track, understand and cut food waste by as much as 30%, resulting in an at least 3% savings per cover. The smart system was created with buffets in mind. Buffet waste though, is only 10-15% of all food waste, nearly half the waste is generated before food even reaches a plate – at planning stage. This stage too, is what their system focuses on.

Chefs and restaurant staff gather in Bangkok's Marriott Hotel in 2019 to tackle the big challenge of reduce food waste. Photo: LightBlue Environmental Consulting Company

And it’s simple enough to work out with just four steps, which you do with an app in hand. You begin with weighing your waste, recording it in the app, disposing of the waste and finally, review the data collected. But what top hotels like Marriott are also gunning for go further than reducing food waste. Instead, they're pushing for a waste-free environment altogether, as seen in Bangkok Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park. It's striving to be the first five-star hotel in Asia Pacific to meet LightBlue's The PLEDGE's strict food waste prevention requirements. And, they've set their sights on another landmark goal - to be the first five-star hotel in Southeast Asia to achieve zero food waste to landfill.

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