Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains

Restaurants and Catering

Restaurants and caterers have a vital role to play in reducing food loss and waste (FLW) – from how they source produce and develop menus to how they manage left-overs and customer plate waste.

Reducing food waste is one of the biggest challenges for the hospitality industry world-wide. In the UK alone, over 4 million tonnes of organic waste is thrown out every year. The food we throw away is a waste of valuable resources; it is expensive to buy and dispose of. Food has a high carbon ‘footprint,’ and it requires considerable energy to produce, harvest, transport, process, package, retail and prepare and consequently has a serious impact on our planet.

Food providers in gastronomy, catering and hospitality have recently come under increasing scrutiny over their food management practices, and specifically food waste, with evidence that considerable amounts of food are wasted during preparation, or because they cannot be stored and reused. Waste management has thus become a key priority, referring to all the activities related to avoiding, reducing or recycling waste, throughout the production and consumption chain.

The key causes of FLW at the restaurant and catering level are:

  • Over-buying
  • Incorrect shelf and fridge / freezer storage
  • Poor stock or inventory rotation
  • Inadequate labelling
  • Over-portioning
  • Customers order more than they need
  • Set amounts (i.e. ordering up to 20 when you only have 5 people)
  • Poor ordering of perishable items
  • Poor planning, prepping too much
  • Quality deterioration during chill or cold storage

It should be noted that food waste in restaurants and catering consider all foods (meat, fish).

Food waste at this stage in the value chain can further be divided into 5 distinct types according to its origin:

  • Storage loss – food thrown away from storage (e.g. spoiled products, loss of quality, food exceeding a use-by date, damaged products
  • Preparation loss – foods discarded during food preparation and cooking
  • Kitchen leftovers (surplus production) – prepared food which is never served (e.g. food remaining in the cooking pots, prepared food which was dropped, overcooked or burnt food, excess food)
  • Buffet table leftovers (or serving loss) – food remaining from the buffet and serving bowls at the counter
  • Plate leftovers – residues left on consumers’ plates

Strategies for Reducing Food Waste

Strategies for Reducing Food Waste

There is no “one-size-fits-all” fix for reducing food waste in restaurants. A limited-service restaurant — where customers pay before they receive their food and often eat off premises — can generate less food waste than a full-service restaurant, where chefs create specials and seasonal menus and where raw ingredients are often cut, trimmed and prepared onsite. Engagement and awareness at the management level on the benefits of food waste reduction can help integrate best practices into the culture of the business, meet sustainability goals, and improve staff motivation and retention.

Successful waste-reduction strategies tend to connect economic growth with food waste prevention strategies, so that the time and work spent implementing food waste strategies are in line with profitability goals. Restaurants often have the flexibility to work with farms and outside groups to implement creative food waste solutions such as using imperfect produce on menus or rotating dishes to accommodate seasonal produce. Efforts are often strengthened by providing employees with knowledge about reducing food waste.

Key Publications

European Event Caterer Association Food Waste Initiative

This toolkit has been developed to help members reduce food waste within their catering practices. The toolkit includes several attachments that help collect data and stimulate the staff members.

Food waste management innovations in the foodservice industry

This paper presents multiple waste management initiatives, discusses how implementation in the foodservice sector varies depending on management’s beliefs, knowledge, goals and actions, and highlights factors that drive the adoption of food waste innovations.

Food waste prevention in tourism and food preparation

Includes discussion of a project to reduce the amount of food waste in the selected hotels and catering business and subsequently to provide guidelines for food waste prevention in this business sector.


More Resources

More Resources

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This website provides information on how to support the achievement of the SDG.3 target on food waste and maimise the contribution of all actors.
This toolkit has been developed to help members reduce food waste within their catering practices. The toolkit includes several attachments that help collect data and stimulate the staff members.