• Know-how
  • 26.10.2023
  • 4 min

The problem of »food waste« in foodservice

Food for the bin: In 2019, 17 per cent of all food produced worldwide ended up as waste. To be precise: 931 million tonnes. This was the conclusion of the United Nations (UN) "Food Index Report 2021". As well as private households (61%) and retail (13%), foodservice (26%) is one of the places where a particularly large amount of food is thrown away. And one of the places where food waste can be effectively reduced. We show you how to do this in our second article "11 ideas for less food waste in foodservice". Let's start with some important basic information about food waste in foodservice.

1 What is food waste?

Food waste is the wastage of food. It refers to all food that is intended for human consumption, but is not consumed for various reasons. Non-edible parts of food such as animal bones and fish bones, fruit peelings and coffee grounds do not count as food waste. However, if a carrot is peeled despite being completely edible, this is food waste.

2 What is food loss?

When food is wasted, a distinction is made between the stage at which the food is lost or thrown away. It is referred to as "food waste" when it occurs in retail, foodservice and domestic consumption. If the waste occurs before this, for example in production, during storage and processing or during transport, it is referred to as "food loss".

3 Where and why does food waste occur?

Food waste is generated in all areas of the production chain: from agricultural production, transport and processing in the food industry to retail sales and finally food preparation in private households and foodservice. There are different reasons why food is thrown away in each area.

Adverse weather conditions, pest infestation, incorrect storage, failure to meet aesthetic standards, insufficient buyers

Manufacturing industry
Rejects, incorrect storage, technical production issues, mechanical damage, strict quality controls, overproduction

Mechanical damage, spoilt or lost goods

Wholesale and retail
Excess stock, short best-before dates, non-compliance with aesthetic standards

Miscalculations when ordering, incorrect storage, preparing too large quantities, unfulfilled demands on quality and appearance, strict hygiene regulations, leftovers from guests, leftovers from the buffet

Private households
Incorrect storage, excessive purchasing, incorrect treatment of best-before dates

What is avoidable food waste?

Food waste that is not consumed due to spoilage, decay or quality defects even though it is edible and is or was perfectly healthy, is avoidable. This also includes food that is fed to animals. Feed that has been grown exclusively for animal feed does not fall into the food waste category.

What is unavoidable food waste?

Unavoidable food waste includes all non-edible parts of food such as the peel and leaves of fruit and vegetables, cheese rinds, animal bones, mussel shells and fish bones. Plus all other waste that cannot be avoided: for example, potatoes that are infected by a pathogen even though they have been stored correctly.

4 Why should food waste be avoided?

Environmental reasons

Food waste is one of the biggest drivers of the climate crisis along with the automotive and aviation industries and is responsible for 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions .

(Source: WWF 2022)

Moral reasons

Every year, 931 million tonnes of food are thrown away worldwide. At the same time, around 735 million people around the world will go hungry in 2022 .

(Source: Food Waste Index Report 2021)

Economic reasons

Food waste represents an enormous economic loss. The Boston Consulting Group has estimated the value of wasted food at around 1.2 trillion US dollars per year .

(Source: Boston Consulting Group)

5 Main reasons for food waste in foodservice

  • Miscalculations when purchasing goods
  • Incorrect storage
  • High demands on quality and appearance
  • Strict hygiene requirements
  • Preparing excessive quantities that are ultimately not sold or consumed
  • Guest leftovers
  • Leftovers from the buffet
In a restaurant kitchen, a chef uses a knife to chop vegetables on a chopping board

11 ideas for less food waste in foodservice

Every restaurant and foodservice business has opportunities to reduce food waste and save money. In our second article on the topic of food waste, we will show you what you can actually do.

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[Image 1: Freepik | Image 2: Freepik | Image 3: Freepik]