Joel Montaniel, CEO & Co-Founder at SevenRooms discusses how technology can help the hotel industry reduce food waste
In the UK alone, hotels are estimated to produce 79,000 tonnes of food waste each year, with the vast majority of this waste deposited in landfills.
Driven by consumer demands, the topic of sustainability awareness in hospitality and excess food waste have been thrust into the spotlight in recent years. Yet, while the hospitality sector has taken important steps in eliminating single-use plastic, operational limitations have prevented them from addressing food waste at the same scale. And while there are initiatives making progress — UK-based non-profit FareShare recently launched an initiative to collect surplus food for charity, and smart bins have been employed to track waste in kitchens — hotels have a massive opportunity to take action against avoidable food waste.
Food waste represents a cost of £318 million to the hotels sector annually, and eliminating even a small portion of this waste could result in significant savings. Research has shown that if the average restaurant reduced the amount of food it throws away by just 20% a year, they would prevent four tonnes of food going in the bin, ultimately saving an estimated £2,000 a year in avoidable food costs and around £1,700 on waste collection. The benefits of reducing food waste in hotel restaurants are clear – both environmentally and economically – and technology can move the needle towards this goal.
Operations platforms are used in most hotels for the management of guest data and bookings, to help with administration and to communicate with guests. But a lesser known fact is the data kept in these platforms can also be leveraged by operators to reduce food waste in hotel bars and restaurants. In view of this, we’ve looked at ways in which hotels can employ technology to tackle the food waste epidemic.
Monitor guest data to optimise ingredient orders
In the hospitality industry, a key reason for food waste is the inability to accurately predict supply needs, resulting in chefs and managers over-ordering ingredients and supplies. For instance, a hotel restaurant may take 20 orders for filet mignon in a typical dinner service, but one evening, only 8 people order the steak due to an influx of vegetarian guests. In this particular situation, 12 portions of steak would be wasted, incurring an environmental and economic cost.
However, with the right technology, food waste can be prevented, not just tracked or redistributed. If hotels use an operations and guest engagement platform that is able to cross-reference guests’ dietary requirements, previous order history and upcoming reservations, chefs could have all the information they need to tailor their ingredient order as closely as possible to their upcoming bookings.
In the situation above, the platform would be able to provide guest insight data that could inform more accurate ingredient orders. By seeing there are more vegetarian diners booked in than is typically for that evening, hotel restaurant staff could respond to the change in demand by adjusting their meat order – both preventing avoidable food waste and saving on costs.
Track guests’ dining habits to tailor your food offering
By monitoring guest data at on-site food and beverage outlets, hotels can also gain significant insight into guest preferences outside their rooms. For example, suppose a frequent guest mentions to a server that they don’t like Brussels sprouts, but are a huge fan of octopus. By recording this information on the guest profile of the operations platform, the restaurant gains insight into what the guest prefers — and can more proactively tailor service and suggestions on-site. The restaurant can also further leverage this data to prevent waste by actively not serving Brussels sprouts with any of the dishes they order.
What’s more, one of the key reasons so much food is discarded in the hospitality industry is the volume of leftovers – but what if, rather than continuing to throw this food away, restaurants took action and adjusted portion sizes accordingly? This is yet another area in which guest data can be leveraged. Logging and tracking the volume of leftovers can indicate if there are certain dishes that guests rarely finish, suggesting that the portion is too large. Making proactive changes to portion sizes served can therefore have a profound effect on food wastage, tracking back to the bottom line with reduced supply costs.
Consumers are moving towards brands that are clearly committed to waste reduction, and this includes the hotel industry. Five-star property One Aldwych has embraced sustainable tourism with a comprehensive recycling scheme and the use of biodegradable packaging, becoming the first UK hotel to be awarded the Luxury Eco Certification Standard as a result. Clearly, a proactive approach to food waste needs to be incorporated into business strategies to ensure hotels are minimising waste while maximising profits. It’s time for the hospitality industry to implement new technologies that have the power to make a real impact in solving the problem of food waste. With sustainability being a hot topic for consumers, it could be a costly mistake not to.
Joel Montaniel is the CEO & Co-Founder of SevenRooms, where he leads business strategy across the organisation. Prior to founding SevenRooms in 2011, Montaniel served as Chief of Staff at LivePerson, leading strategic, operational and cultural initiatives. He started his career at Credit Suisse within the Real Estate, Finance & Securitisation Group. He graduated with a B.A. from Georgetown University.