Hospitality and food retail expecting a 10% rise in food sales over Christmas – here’s how to avoid it turning into waste

The hospitality sector is facing unprecedented economic challenges – and increased levels of food waste can be costly to businesses if not managed within a separate waste stream to general waste. As social gatherings increase over the festive season, so do groups visiting restaurants, bars or cafes and ordering more food than necessary. We waste 4.5m tonnes of edible food annually in the UK, with Christmas the prime time this occurs unnecessarily.

Climate action NGO WRAP reports that poultry and vegetables – the prime suspects in a traditional Christmas dinner – are among the top 10 most wasted foods in the UK. Potatoes are the worst culprit, with 710,000 tonnes wasted each year.

A food waste expert from leading sustainable waste management company Biffa urges food retail and hospitality businesses to anticipate up to a 10% increase in the number of meals sold over the festive period (compared to October and November). He further advises business owners on preventing the food sold from turning into waste.

A separate food waste stream is essential to ensuring that excess waste doesn’t lead to increased waste management costs for your business. Disposing of food in general waste bins is significantly more expensive than using a dedicated food waste bin. Therefore, introducing a separate food waste collection service will save your business money throughout the festive season and beyond, regardless of size.

Biffa also encourages businesses to explore the carbon cost of their waste and recycling. In their recently published whitepaper – From Waste Hierarchy to Carbon Hierarchy: Biffa’s Blueprint for Waste Net Zero­ – the waste management experts call on businesses to promote reuse within their supply chains. Doing so incentivises reducing waste and contributes towards the business and their suppliers’ sustainability goals while preventing waste.

Food waste expert Mark Chapman, Corporate Account Director at Biffa, warns businesses:

“With the festive season firmly upon us, hospitality businesses will be preparing for an onslaught of custom – which will be welcome after a tough few years across the sector. However, the result could see businesses selling up to 10% more meals throughout December (compared to October and November). Staff and client Christmas celebrations will deliver a hefty increase in sales and meals prepared.

“Managing waste streams effectively is a great way for businesses in the hospitality sector to save money – especially when purse strings are already tightened. Disposing of food waste in general waste bins is more costly than using a food waste bin, which ensures that waste is processed via anaerobic digestion to produce energy (therefore entering the circular economy).

Biffa is working to support businesses in understanding the carbon footprint of their waste. In the recent Waste Net Zero blueprint whitepaper, the company requests several policy asks of the Government to unlock opportunities that contribute towards net zero in the waste sector – a key ask being for businesses to reward suppliers who innovate to reuse or reduce waste.

How to prevent waste from increasing over Christmas in your business:

Understand your waste

Get to know your business waste and why it’s produced. For example, you may find that an excessive amount of plastic packaging is used that could be swapped by suppliers for paperboard. While some plastic packaging can be recycled, not all seven types of plastic can be.

Where is your team disposing of their own food waste? General waste is problematic and a missed opportunity when there are other economical, even charitable solutions. Separate your waste bins and install signs to remind your people of where to place their waste. 

Place internal bins strategically

Consider where different types of waste are produced throughout your venue and allocate bins internally in relevant places. Food waste bins may only be necessary for a kitchen or where customers’ plates are cleared, in the same way paper recycling would be most convenient in areas where paperwork is handled. Placing bins strategically will encourage staff and customers to recycle properly and discourage materials that could be recycled from ending up in general waste bins.

Align internal and external waste management

Contact your waste management providers to ensure that your external bins correspond with the bins being used internally. They can manage your waste efficiently, but also provide guidance and solutions that lower the cost of your waste management.

Providers can also help businesses separate their waste streams within different areas of the business to reduce waste and save money. Work with them to find the best places to position your external bins (for example, placing food and recycling bins as close to kitchen doors as possible – but general waste bins further away to discourage use).

Make use of labelling and colour coding

Clear, image-led labelling and colour-coding on bins and around the workplace will help ensure that your workforce is aware of how to properly use the recycling systems in place. Encourage staff to familiarise themselves with the bins and labels for efficient use. Understanding the recycling symbols will also help to prevent waste from being placed in the wrong bin.

Engage your workforce 

Staff engagement is critical and – arguably – the most important factor in reducing waste over the festive season. Educate staff on recycling and the benefits for themselves, the business and the planet. Give positive feedback, good news, best practices and initiatives to encourage staff to engage with recycling. Induction training should include correct recycling procedures. Regular follow-up training sessions should be mandatory for every employee to keep the workforce informed on recycling and reducing waste. In turn, you’ll reap financial rewards and hit sustainability goals.