As referenced in last week’s column, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the American Hotel & Lodging Assn. (AHLA), with support from The Rockefeller Foundation, recently released results from a set of projects demonstrating innovative strategies aimed at reducing food waste in the hotel industry. I believe it is one of most worthwhile sustainability projects in which AHLA has participated. Based on the results of the project, a website—an online toolkit—was launched. You can find it at www.hotelkitchen.org.
Ten hotel properties participated in the 12 weeks of demonstration projects, including a mix of full-service branded hotels and several independent operations across the country. They tested different waste reduction strategies, including low-waste menu planning, staff training and education, and customer engagement. Overall, participating properties reduced food waste from 10 percent to 38 percent. If this scaled across the industry, it would eliminate half a million tons of waste within a year. In some cases, properties lowered food costs by 3 percent or more after increasing measurement and engagement.
I took a close look at the website. It focuses on food waste prevention, donation, and diverting the rest away from landfills. The site is geared toward full service hotels, because changes in buffet and banquet service can have a major impact. But the toolkit also includes valuable approaches that can be applied to all property formats and food service institutions, including restaurants, cruises, and catering companies.
Those participating in food waste reduction initiatives can save money, energize and empower staff, and meet the demand of stakeholders such as meeting planners who are seeking out hotels with food waste reduction programs.
Ten Case Studies Included
The website includes 10 case studies—hotels from Denver to Singapore—that participated in the project. The Hyatt Regency Orlando, under the leadership of their Executive Chef and with support from their Senior Director of Events, participated in a three-day rapid prototyping exercise to redesign the standard hotel buffet. The Food Waste team at WWF visited Hyatt Regency Orlando to observe and audit a large buffet style lunch event. The education by the WWF team had a noticeable impact on the chefs’ and kitchen staffs’ meal production procedures. Among the hotel team’s efforts, Hyatt Regency Orlando decreased their standard production rate by 25 percent per event. Additionally, by analyzing the first-day orders by attendees of the same multi-day meeting, the hotel team can better prepare meals and portions for later days that meet those guests’ specific preferences. This strategy results in less leftover or uneaten food and beverage at the end of the meeting.
The hotel’s Executive Chef and Executive Sous Chefs are now regularly engaged with staff on waste reduction topics. Food waste reduction techniques are discussed at all bi-monthly staff meetings, as well as daily culinary and pre-shift meetings. Real time discussions when food is brought back to the kitchen have encouraged staff to brainstorm what possible contributors to that food waste are and what solutions can be implemented.
As part of this pilot, Hyatt Regency Orlando participated in a rapid prototyping lead by IDEO to design a waste-reducing buffet. The outputs of this pilot have been continued, including: premiering a “meal of the day,” serving smaller plates with easy options for requesting more, reducing the number of items placed out at one time according to guest preferences, and closing one side of the buffet as events conclude. Each of these efforts have been done to minimize any noticeable change in the guest experience with remarkable success.
On the website you can download the 65-page toolkit. It explains how to get started—with a Food Waste Management Task Force, for example. It also explains how to create the right culture—a sometimes “daunting” step, the toolkit explains. Also in the toolkit: how to develop a separation and measurement scheme; tips on how to prevent food waste during the plan, handle, and serve phases of food production; and much more. Did you know buffets are the largest culprit contributing to food waste in hotels? The toolkit offers tips on how best to manage buffets.
Be sure to read and share this valuable toolkit.
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