Food waste in takeaway restaurants has increased during lockdown, whilst consumers are struggling with super-sized portions and ordering more than they need, according to new research.
Some £1.8bn worth of takeaway food is thrown away every year in the UK. Of that, 21% (£376m) arises in outlets; households are responsible for the rest, said Just Eat and the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA).
For takeaway businesses, the issue is “unpredictable ordering patterns” during the COVID-19 pandemic. And whilst householders have managed to reduce the value of food they waste, there are persistent issues with portion sizes and free side dishes that few people eat (the soggy salad, for example).
More and more foodservice businesses are setting up takeaway models to keep their businesses alive – the latest being the pub chain Greene King, according to reports this week. And food waste could surge if operators fail to better understand ordering patterns or continue to send too much.
In the survey of 341 restaurants by Just Eat/SRA: "fluctuations/unpredictable consumer ordering patterns" were the main reason for food waste (54%), followed by disrupted supply chain (38%) and business models (36%). This has led to an increase in food waste generated – from £111 to £148 per week per restaurant. According to the SRA and Just Eat, this represents a £16.7m rise for the sector as a whole during lockdown.
Almost half (45%) said they throw most food waste into the bin, though some are giving away food, either to their staff or to vulnerable or homeless people.
Just Eat said it is now providing restaurants with insights and data to “help them better anticipate lockdown fluctuations”. It also encouraged businesses to use the Too Good To Go app, through which they can sell surplus food to consumers for a discounted price.
Research amongst consumers, meanwhile, suggests they are ordering too much or the portions are simply too big. Large portion size was the main reason they chucked food away (43%). One in four (25%) said that more than half the time/every time they had leftovers from a takeaway that ended up in the bin, whilst 45% reported throwing away items they didn’t ask for.
The average household threw away nearly one tenth (9%) of takeaway food they ordered. One in four people (25%) said that more than half the time they ordered a takeaway they had leftovers that ended up in the bin.
Just Eat and the Sustainable Restaurant Association are offering new recipes to help consumers use up leftovers and reduce food waste.