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Tips on Reducing Food Waste When Eating Out

I love eating out.  I love the fact that someone else is going to cook for me and serve me beautiful food.  I love not having to prep, or clean up.  I love getting dressed up.  I love seeing my friends and family in a setting other than home.  And I simply love eating.

I think this pretty much describes the majority of us.  The emotions that come along with eating out are usually happiness and excitement. So many of us have linked these two emotions to ordering and eating more food than we normally would.

When we are having a good time, we are also less likely to notice how much is going to waste.

We have talked about how more that 50% of household waste is food waste.  When you shift your focus to hospitality- staggeringly, 62% of waste is food waste.  This would include food for meals that were never ordered, food scraps and unfinished meals.

As a consumer, these are the statistics:

  1. 17% of restaurant meals aren’t eaten;

  2. 55% of leftover restaurant food doesn’t get taken home; and,

  3. 38% of leftovers taken home are never eaten.

As you might imagine, food waste generated in the hospitality industry is a huge contributor to the food waste issue.  Regardless, I love eating out too much to ever suggest that we shouldn’t, or that we should do it less.

Here are a few of my tips for reducing waste when eating out:

  1. Don’t upsize: supersized portions lead to overeating and wasted food.  In fact, a study in the United States showed that their standard restaurant meal today is more than four times larger than it was in the 1950s.  It is also up to eight times larger than the standard serving sizes suggested by the relevant food authorities.  With our obesity rates here in Australia, we wouldn’t be too far off these statistics either.

  1. Order the entrée size portions or share plates: If you are a serial non-finisher, order the entrée sized portions if you have the option.  If you’re extra hungry, perhaps order a side dish to share rather than trying to finish a full-sized portion.

  1. Order a la carte instead of the buffet or set menus: This way, you have more control over you own portion sizes.  When ordering a buffet or set menu, there is also an intrinsic pressure to consume more food, to make your dollar worthwhile.  In terms of food waste, buffets are a notorious waste generator. Restaurants try to ensure that buffet offerings look plentiful and abundant. This leads to a large amount of waste at the end of service.

  1. If you don’t finish your meal, ask for a doggy bag (take away container): Don’t be shy to do this.  Your delicious restaurant meal can stretch into another meal, which means you get to enjoy it again, make the most of the money you spent and best of all- save yourself some cooking!

  1. Support restaurants with good sustainability practices: This is a large topic that could have another blog post in its own right.  Consider whether the restaurant donates surplus food rather than sends it landfill.  Show your support for food waste-conscious businesses that make use of “ugly” foods or those that repurpose excess ingredients. How do you know this? Check their websites and social media, many places publicise their sustainability practices. If you aren’t sure- you can always ask.

  1. Rate your restaurants: Where possible, give credit where credit is due.  If you notice that a restaurant has awesome sustainability practices, make sure you leave them a review which reflects this.  We want to encourage more businesses to do the same, by shifting the social norms and expectations around food waste.  If more consumers expect such practices, then surely businesses will have no choice but to conform?

Team, thank you so much for working so hard on reducing food waste at home.  Now it’s time to shift our focus to the larger world and see how we can make a difference. Remember- many small steps together will take us far!

Have you posted in our Trash to Treasure Competition yet?


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