Hospo Voice

9 zero waste tips for hospo venues

December 21, 2020

How to reduce waste and increase sustainability in the hospitality industry

It’s probably happened to you a million times – you clear lunch plates, there’s almost half a meal on one or more diners’ plates. “It was lovely, but I couldn’t eat another bite,” they claim. And you’re forced to scrape that food straight in the bin. It makes you feel a little sick, right?

When you look into the statistics of food waste, it’s pretty horrifying. More than a third of the food produced in the world is lost or wasted. Wasted food costs the Australian economy over $20 billion a year. As makers of food, hospo venues have a huge part to play in reducing food waste.

So what can we do? Let’s face it, restaurant waste management should be a priority for all of us. Here are our top zero waste tips for hospo venues.

1. Think about where you get your food from

The first thing you can do to increase sustainability in the hospitality industry starts before you even get the food. Consider where you’re getting it from and how it gets to you. According to Anna Langford from Friends of the Earth Collective in Melbourne, some fruit and veggies we get from the supermarket have already travelled thousands of kilometres before they get to us.
“We really need to move back to the more local way of living… There will be more climate-related disasters in the future. It will make us more resilient if we don’t have to rely on food being shipped from the other side of the world,” she said.

2. Have a seasonal menu

If you’re buying food locally, then it will become natural to work on a seasonal menu. And yes, that might mean smashed avo won’t be available all year. 

Not only is it more expensive to source food that isn’t in season, but it’s also makes it more likely that you’re buying from overseas and increasing food miles.

3. Reduce your meal sizes

Another zero waste tip is to think about how much food you’re serving. Do they always send back a portion of that lasagne? Maybe it’s just too big? Consider reducing the size (and cost) of the main meal and offering more extras so people can tailor the size of the meal to their appetite.

4. Reduce takeaway packaging

At the Melbourne’s Friends of the Earth Collective café, they never used to have takeaway containers. According to Anna: “You can come in and have a coffee inside, bring your own cup or take a reusable cup to borrow and bring it back.”

With COVID, biodegradable takeaway cups are now available. Until we’re no longer under threat from the pandemic, choosing compostable packaging is the best we can do to increase sustainability in the restaurant industry.

5. Reduce other single serve plastics

Look at the single serve plastics you use in your venue and think about what you could cut out. Things like:

6. Can your leftover food feed someone else?

Look at the food you’re throwing away. If some of it is edible, consider donating it to organisations like Oz Harvest. They take excess food from commercial outlets like restaurants, then deliver it to people in need.

7. Compost your food

The rest of the food (and the coffee grounds!) shouldn’t just be chucked. Composting is an amazing way of producing soil. Don’t have space for a composter? This is where you have to get creative. At Friends of the Earth café, they give their food waste to their local primary school that has a kitchen garden program. You could look into local community gardens or even extensive properties with lots of garden to maintain. Another alternative is to have an exchange with any farms you get your produce from.

8. Recycle (properly)

A key part of restaurant waste management is setting up a decent recycling program. Set up a collection system with well-labelled, easy-to-use bins so your staff know exactly what they can recycle and what they can’t.

9. Be a champion

If you’re passionate about sustainability in the hospitality industry, volunteer to be a zero waste champion. You need to be passionate about the environment and can motivate and educate other employees. Sound like you? Have a chat to your hospo venue owner or manager about how you’re going to reduce restaurant waste in your venue.

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