Application of technology to reduce food waste in the hospitality sector 


Hospitality sector

Cardiff University explain the findings from their research project on the circular economy and food waste reduction with a specific focus on the hospitality sector and usage of technology.

Within the framework of the Hodge Foundation Public Value Research Internship, the intern Maria Saju Abraham collaborated with the Cardiff Business School team, under the leadership of Dr Nadine Leder with the support of Prof. Maneesh Kumar and Prof. Vasco Sanchez Rodrigues.

Together, they delved into possibilities for hospitality venues to diminish food waste as part of their journey toward embracing a circular hospitality ecosystem. The research project approached over 30 food venues in Manchester and Cardiff to conduct semi-structured interviews.

Findings identified key challenges for food businesses when transitioning towards a circular economy, as well as highlighting the extent of technology application in the sector to achieve circularity.

kitchen-food wasteResults of the study showed hospitality venues are often dealing with recurring challenges. These encompass various organisational pressures, such as time limitations and a deficit of expertise. The introduction of novel food waste reduction strategies, amid the demands of everyday operations, presents a substantial hurdle.

Furthermore, a pronounced knowledge gap concerning employee training opportunities and practical food waste reduction strategies tailored to the specific business scale exerts a considerable influence on these establishments. There is a unanimous call for the sharing of information and the facilitation of access to a spectrum of food waste reduction alternatives.

Logistical challenges loomed large in the findings, with a primary concern being the sporadic collection of green bins, particularly during peak periods. The unpredictability of sales numbers during these peak times emerged as a related challenge, which poses the risk of overproduction, inevitably leading to increased food waste generation.

Notably, food chains faced this issue more acutely compared to privately run businesses. Smaller business entities identified shifts in customer preferences and orders as significant influencers of unnecessary food waste. A commonly cited example was the circular usage of coffee waste, despite the growing momentum of circular projects in this domain. The interviewed businesses revealed that implementing circular coffee waste usage remains a persistent challenge.

Technology applications also played a crucial role in inventory management, particularly in collaboration with suppliers.

Regarding technology, most businesses leveraged it to enhance customer engagement and manage their food waste more effectively. Commonly employed technological strategies included the use of social media platforms for information dissemination and on-site applications to facilitate ordering processes and surplus food management.

Technology applications also played a crucial role in inventory management, particularly in collaboration with suppliers. Additionally, newsletters for communicating special promotions, along with external applications for sharing surplus dish information, were prominent tools in the technological arsenal. However, some businesses that were not yet utilising technology and cited waiting times for application licensing and adherence to fixed menus as reasons for their cautious approach.

The primary motivations for adopting food waste reduction strategies were sustainability, reducing environmental impact, providing discounted or surplus food to customers in need, and repurposing goods that would otherwise go to waste. These motivations aligned with both ethical and economic goals that most business entities stated. 

food-wasteWhen questioned about the effectiveness measurements for food waste reduction strategies, only a minority mentioned food waste audits, while approximately 60% of the business entities were uncertain about metrics or their practical application.

In summary, the significance of food waste reduction strategies spans the broad spectrum of hospitality establishments. It’s crucial to recognise that food businesses have unique requirements for establishing and effectively sustaining these strategies.

Recognising these subtleties, technology emerges as a valuable ally in this endeavour, as many businesses have expressed a keen interest in adopting further food waste reduction initiatives in the future.

A notable void still exists in the implementation of circular principles to reduce food waste and in identifying the appropriate technology to enhance coordination and collaboration with food surplus recipients.

If you are interested in the research project, please feel free to contact the research team: Dr Nadine Leder.

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