Encouraging diners to come back “again and again” in a buffet setting helped to reduce food waste in hotel restaurants in Norway by 20.5%.
In the trial, detailed in a UN Environment Programme report called Consuming differently, consuming sustainably – researchers at GreeNudge tested two interventions. In the first, typical buffet plates were replaced with smaller ones. In the second, the plates remained the usual size but there were signs encouraging guests to revisit the buffet: “Welcome back! Again! And again! Visit our buffet many times. That’s better than taking a lot at once.”
The smaller plates helped cut food waste by 19.5%. However, the signs encouraging guests to make multiple visits rather than loading food in one go reduced food waste even more – by 20.5%. The researchers said: “The measures reduce the amount of food the restaurants need to purchase, and there is no change in guest satisfaction, making it likely that profits will increase. The measures thus constitute potential win–win opportunities.”
The research was conducted in 2013. More recent research on behalf of Champions 12.3 across 42 hotels in 15 countries showed how buffets are one of the largest sources of food waste, and it’s often the high value products, like meat, that are thrown away. Researchers found that many hotels were able to significantly reduce their food waste by implementing very simple changes, such as providing smaller plates for customers or selling leftovers from the buffet later in the day.
At the MGM Gold Strike Resort and Casino in Robinsonville, Mississippi (USA), which serves more than 650,000 guests each year, certain items that were continually left over at breakfast or in the evening were shifted to “a la carte” cooking near the end of each serving period. By reducing food waste, the average site saved over 4 cents on every dollar of cost of goods sold.