The call for action comes in response to the ‘Waste Not, Want Not’ report by the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IME), which estimates that 30-50 per cent of all food purchased in developed countries is thrown away by the purchaser.
Mark Linehan, managing director of the SRA, says that the IME's findings come as no surprise but further highlight the cultural shift required to overcome a serious global problem.
“Consumers often equate value with quantity rather than quality,” said Linehan. “This results in many restaurants serving unnecessarily large portions and, as with supermarkets buy-one-get-one-free offers, superfluous side dishes that go uneaten. Restaurants need to look at serving smaller portion sizes and need to encourage diners to take home leftovers.”
Too Good to Waste
In 2010 the SRA conducted its own report – Too Good to Waste– which concluded that the average UK restaurant throws away 21 tonnes of food every year. Thirty per cent of that comes off diners’ plates, and 65 per cent is produced in preparation – peelings, off-cuts and anything ruined during the cooking stage.
The SRA used the findings of the Too Good To Waste report to form the basis of its 2011 campaign of the same name; to encourage diners to ask for a doggy box and generally raise consumer awareness about the food waste problem. More than 100 London restaurants provided customers with 25,000 doggy boxes.
Another key element of the campaign, and the SRA’s ongoing work to improve restaurants’ sustainability, was to provide chefs with information and advice on how to reduce food waste in the preparation stage.
Change of culture
“We would echo the comments of the Institution that the impacts of this problem are social, environmental and economic and in order to reverse the trend there needs to be a change of culture and an increase in training,” Linehan added. “Consumers, and indeed some restaurateurs, must understand that the days of food being available where and when you want it and in whatever quantity are over.
“Food is a valuable commodity that we cannot afford to waste. Chefs need to embrace basic housekeeping skills which were second nature to the wartime generation. With rising food prices, the economic imperative will help change behaviour if the environmental argument does not.”
Meanwhile, Unilever Food Service is encouraging all hospitality businesses to share their food waste strategies for the chance to become a 'sustainable champion' by entering the Sustainable Restaurant Association's newest category in this year's Awards.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) is a not-for-profit membership organisation providing more than 1000 restaurants with expert sustainability advice through a team of specialist account managers. For more information and to become a member, visit www.thesra.org.