Over half (53 per cent) of food wasted in restaurants is generated during preparation but Irish diners are responsible for most of the food wasted out-of-home (65 per cent) with one in two people (48 per cent) admitting to regularly over-ordering and leaving food behind, according to new research from Unilever Food Solutions’ Ireland.
The findings were revealed at an exclusive industry event where, for the first time, the company invited the biggest players in Ireland’s foodservice industry along with sustainability experts to take part in United Against Waste, a campaign calling for the foodservice industry to join forces and work with chefs, restaurants and consumers to take action and address the issue of reducing avoidable food waste with a single voice.
Research into the eating habits of Irish consumers when eating out supports the findings from Unilever Food Solutions’ second World Menu Report, announced globally recently. It found that eight out of 10 consumers (84 per cent) questioned globally stated that they were concerned with not only the amount of food wasted every day in dining establishments but also the way in which this waste is disposed of.
Since the introduction of new Food Waste Regulations in Ireland last Summer, food waste remains a hot topic among restaurateurs. Unilever Food Solutions Ireland commissioned research among 100 Irish chefs and operators via the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) which shows that Irish restaurants each throw out on average 4.5 tonnes of food waste a year, at a cost per establishment of €8,840. Portion-sizing has been identified both by diners and chefs as a serious problem, with 34 per cent of diners saying the reason they last left food behind them when eating out was because the portion was too big. This compares with 27 per cent of diners who left food behind because they weren’t happy with the food.
Majority of chefs and operators concerned
The majority (85 per cent) of Irish chefs and operators are concerned about the amount of food wasted by their business with 71 per cent willing to avail of an expert food waste audit to learn how to manage food waste more efficiently.
Portioning and plate waste is the No 1 area that chefs and operators want to improve on with 57 per cent of those polled strongly welcoming expert training in this area. 35 per cent of restaurant owners and chefs admit they need to improve in creative cheffing, training staff to be more resourceful when it comes to prepping food and using ingredients so as to reduce avoidable waste.
Unilever Food Solutions’ Managing Director Tracey Rogers delved into the findings. "The phrase ‘waste not want not’ comes to mind,” she stated, “We know that the Irish Government is committed to moving toward a zero waste society and our actions in foodservice are going to be under the spotlight. We have the opportunity to take the initiative to be ‘United Against Waste’ and with small everyday steps we can reduce waste, respond to consumers concerns, improve kitchen efficiency and also help caterers to save money.
“Some caterers are already reducing avoidable food waste very effectively and we have also launched a toolkit for reducing food waste, Wise up on Waste, which will help caterers to make their businesses more efficient. Together we must be united and share best practice so we can tackle the issues head on," she added. ?
At the event, the company launched a waste reduction toolkit, Wise up on Waste, offering simple solutions for Irish restaurants and foodservice outlets that can monitor and measure food waste and ensure the whole team, both back and front of house, are aligned. It includes a manual waste audit that only takes 10 to 15 minutes a day to complete and is expected to reduce food waste by at least 20 per cent if implemented.
Other research highlights
The top five ‘hot zones’ of food waste in Irish commercial kitchens are:
- Customer plates (65 per cent)
- Preparation waste (53 per cent)
- Bones/fat trimmings that can’t be recycled (40 per cent)
- Food that gets prepared but not served (27 per cent)
- Fod that has been stored in the fridge or cupboard for too long (15 per cent)
– 58 per cent of Irish restaurants currently provide training to their staff on food waste management
– Almost one in three restaurants (30 per cent) would embrace the new Food Waste Regulations (SI 508 of 2009) more if better tax breaks were linked to the regulations
– 41 per cent of chefs and operators believe the introduction of brown bin legislation was a positive initiative to reduce the environmental impact of food waste in commercial outlets
– 21 per cent said they are confident the new regulations will lead to cost savings for their business, with 22 per cent saying that the new legislation has already helped reduce the cost of waste disposal in their business
The top five reasons why Irish people leave food behind on their plate:
- Portion was too big (34 per cent)
- Unsatisfied by the food (27 per cent)
- I ordered a meal deal but didn’t want all the courses on offer (14per cent)
- I wasn’t hungry (12 per cent)
- I ordered too much (10 per cent).
– One in two (52 per cent) would like the option of being able to leave certain items off their order (eg garnish, side portion of veg) even if it didn’t mean a reduction in price/cost
– 80 per cent of diners would like to see the option of smaller portions available on menus to help curb over-eating and food waste
– More women than men are likely to leave food behind, with 56 per cent of women regularly leaving food behind compared with 35 per cent of men
– Age is an important factor when it comes to clearing their plates with the older generation more likely to clear their plate and younger people more likely to order more than they eat and yet feel the most guilty when they cannot eat it. 15 per cent of people aged between 55 and 59 years-of-age regularly leave food behind vs 55 per cent of younger generation aged 25 to 29. 21 per cent of those aged between 25 and 29 feel guilty leaving food behind vs seven per cent aged 55 to 59 years-of-age
– Almost one in three (31 per cent) say that bigger portions mean better value – this may link to our health issue as a nation (latest figures show that 61 per cent of Irish adults are overweight or obese)
– The research also reveals that 26 per cent of the Irish population are eating out once a week with one in four (25 per cent) eating out two to three times a month
Great Irish Waste Menu
At today’s launch event to bring the research findings to life Chef Proprietor of the Rustic Stone and Masterchef Judge, Dylan McGrath, created a ‘Great Irish Waste’ menu – taking food ingredients that had been thrown out, rejected or deemed inedible and turning them into delicious restaurant-standard fare that’s fit to serve to paying guests.
Dylan said that while there will always be unavoidable food waste in a restaurant such as bones or fat trimmings, there is still a big opportunity to reduce wastage through a better understanding of customers needs and wants.
He said, “Having recently developed a new commercial brand where portion sizes are bigger to suit the concept, I’ve learnt a significant amount about what customers actually eat. Even though in a huge amount of restaurants the food comes back from customer’s plates and goes in the bin, the majority of diners are not fully aware of the environmental and the cost implications of that waste. This needs to change”.
Dylan continued, "Without customers and consumers shifting their mindset, restaurants will struggle to reduce food waste within their business significantly. The individuals with the responsibility of preparing the food must have enough respect for the product and training not to be negligent and wasteful. We, as restaurateurs, need to listen to our customers more and understand what it is they want. If we’re sacrificing quality for quantity in order to retain customers, wastage will always continue”.
To download the full World Menu Report goto www.unileverfoodsolutions.ie