Using hospitality tech to tackle the industry’s Billion-pound waste issue

Nov 18, 2021 3 min read

Globally, 1.3 billion tonnes of food goes to waste every year, and it’s estimated that 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with this wastage. 

In the UK, the hospitality sector is recognised as one of the biggest culprits, generating over 1 million tonnes of food waste. This is not just costing the environment but also costing the sector itself £3.2 billion every year. Just to put this into context, that’s an average of £10k per outlet per year! Money that small businesses should see in their profits, not in the bin. 

Software and mobile technologies that enable agile digital menus, promote in-stock items or allow effective inventory management can help businesses creatively tackle the food waste issue - not only helping to reduce the environmental footprint but also boosting profits. Win, Win!

What gets measured gets managed

Recent innovations have allowed high-functioning operating platforms to become readily available to all hospitality businesses – small local coffee houses and boutique burger joints can run their operations with the same level of data-driven decision making as the largest global chains.

Whether using online booking systems or through an integrated Order & Pay solution, businesses are seeing real benefits in leveraging guest data to provide insights into how food is ordered, prepared, and served, so chefs can make better-informed stock purchases and greatly reduce food waste.

Get creative with the menu

Understanding what customers are leaving on their plates and why helps identify menu areas to tackle. Carbs such as fries are usually the most likely to be left uneaten, so offer this as a side along with vegetables or salads. Equally, drink garnishes like lemon wedges can be easily made optional for customers ordering via online menus. Not only do these tactics help reduce waste, you’ll also be involving customers in the solution by offering customisable orders. 

Also, digitised menus allow restaurants to quickly create discounts in the backend systems on unpopular dishes, especially near closing time. Any leftover product can be used creatively for a lunchtime special the following day without the need to re-write or print out new menus. This also applies to seasonal menus and promotions such as Happy Hours at pubs and bars. Basically, you’re never stuck with the same menu and can change your digital menu as often as you want to meet the customer demand or highlight perishable stock to sell down.

A huge (and some may say,  obvious) environmental benefit of a digital menu is the removal of printing hard copies, saving  on valuable resources.  This extends to being able to offer digital receipts.

With an estimated 200,000 trees destroyed every year in order to supply the UK with our paper receipts, there’s never been a better time to go digital and have these emailed directly to the customer especially as 90% of all receipts are lost, damaged or thrown away by consumers.

Engage the community

As the world becomes more digitally-driven and socially conscious, consumers are making more sustainable choices. We’re seeing a rise in ‘direct to community’ applications that offer businesses a channel to get rid of surplus foods. Rather than throwing away leftover food, leverage apps that help redistribute this to local charities or list it for sale on a digital marketplace at a discounted price. This is a great way to reduce waste, recoup costs, help the environment, and perhaps turn the new breed of sustainably driven consumers into loyal customers. 

As an industry notoriously plagued with wafer-thin margins, addressing the food waste issue with the help of technology will result in significant environmental and economic improvements. The Onvi team is always on hand to offer advice on how our tech can help you play your part in reducing your environmental impact.