RESTAURANTS WASTE almost five times more food than the average UK household.
While hundreds of establishments have taken steps to reduce food waste, the industry average still stands at almost half a kilo of waste per diner.
The Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) said such waste levels are “unacceptable”, and it is trying to encourage more restaurants to cut portion sizes or offer doggie bags to customers for their leftovers.
Taking leftover food away to eat later is commonplace in the US, but Brits are more reluctant to ask. A survey by ITV for its “What a Waste” programme last week showed that almost half of those questioned have never asked for a doggie bag.
In 2011, the SRA launched its “Too good to waste” campaign, which tried to embolden UK diners to ask for doggie bags so they could take their leftovers home. Some 25,000 boxes were distributed to London restaurants.
Mexican street food restaurant group Wahaca has reduced the amount food waste from diners’ plates by 20% since it started offering customers SRA doggy boxes.
However, the SRA believes more restaurants and diners need to overcome their reservations. “Diners and restaurants need to work together and start equating value with quality rather than quantity,” said SRA managing director Mark Linehan. “Restaurants should also make diners feel more comfortable about asking, and diners should feel free to ask to take home leftovers from a meal for which they have paid.”
SRA research shows that the average restaurant produces 21 tonnes of food waste a year, which works out as 0.48 kilos per diner per meal. According to WRAP, UK households produce 7.2 million tonnes a year, which equates to 0.1 kilos per meal.
“Many restaurants are taking this issue seriously, embracing good kitchen practices, offering smaller portions and encouraging diners to take home leftovers,” said Linehan. “But wasting half a kilo per diner is unacceptable for business, the environment and customers. The industry as a whole must do more.”
Tracey Rogers, managing director at Unilever Food Solutions added: “With restaurants wasting almost five times more food than the average UK household, it’s vital that we celebrate the operators that are making small changes to the way they work to help the environment and, more importantly, save money.”