Philip Mahoney, VP of food & drink, The Rezidor Hotel Group, speaks to Michael Jones about his company’s pioneering approach to food waste
How have you tackled food waste in your hotels?
The issue of food waste has been on the agenda for some years and we obviously keep abreast of shifts in consumer behaviour. As is often the case, our strong Nordics presence helped us in this regard. Some years ago we saw that people wanted to order smaller portions than we were offering and it became the norm to have multi-portion pricing because people didn’t want to see food go to waste.
Of course it helps when technology and infrastructure keeps up with these changes. We’ve had food composting units in operation in Norway for some years now and we encourage hotels to subscribe to these programmes through local authorities or third-party operators wherever possible.
What specific programmes did you introduce?
In 2014, we started working with Unilever in our Central European hotels to introduce food waste reduction training for our Food & Drink teams. This went hand-in-hand with a waste monitoring programme which saw some significant reductions in food waste as teams saw what they were throwing away and implemented tactics to reduce this. In 2015 we launched a new breakfast programme for Radisson Blu. This had the twin objectives of increasing the quality of the food we served with a heavy bias on localisation and reduction in food waste. The challenge we set ourselves was to make this a cost-neutral waste.
How did you achieve this?
We did this by introducing little techniques to reduce consumption and placed more emphasis on styling and visual merchandising, rather than bombarding our guests with a mas of different products. The number of lines on our buffet reduced from 143 to 90, but, by making it look good with great quality, giving it a more multi-sensory appeal and by making it more relevant to specific local markets, our guests are saying it’s a better experience. An example of this was introducing whole sides of home-smoked salmon rather than horrible processed stuff. It presents better, just oozes quality and tastes significantly better. It costs more but consumption reduces as guests cut what they want to eat rather than pulling away great clumps of stuck-together leaves. In our first trial, consumption reduced by 50%.
How successful has this been?
The breakfast initiative reduced waste upwards of 27% and we have actually recorded around 80% reduction in some cases. This is contributed to by both the amount guests are taking and by reducing production levels. The training and monitoring practices we put in place yielded a 44% drop in waste in the first year of operation. Change in product, sourcing practice and reductions in waste and production also had a corresponding positive impact on our water and carbon footprints of more than 20%.
Why is food waste important to you and your company?
We have always been at the forefront of corporate social responsibility in the hospitality business with our Responsible Business and Environmental Policy programmes. We appointed a director of responsible business back in 1994 and this year were recognised as the World’s Most Ethical Hotel Company by the Ethisphere Institute for the eighth year in a row with only two other hospitality and lodging companies included in their list. Food waste is an increasingly important part of this agenda. But aside from the altruistic motivation, we are responding to what our clients are telling us in little pockets where we operate. This is already a global issue, obviously, it’s simply a question of time before this is on everyone’s agenda and we can help in some small way by spreading the word. There are obvious business benefits to us here, both in terms of enhancing customer loyalty and making our cost base more efficient.
At the INTERNORGA show in Hamburg, Germany, in March 2017, Foodservice Consultant hosted an expert roundtable on the subject of food waste in Europe. The roundtable, which featured FCSI Germany-Austria members Hildegard Dorn-Petersen FCSI, Frank Wagner FCSI and Bettina von Massenbach FCSI, can be viewed here.