Restaurants can make a profit of £7 for every £1 they invest in cutting food waste, a global report reveals today, in findings that are hailed as proving the business case for stopping edible food from being binned.
The study is based on research for Champions 12.3, a group of political, business, NGO and farmers’ leaders from across the world who have united to tackle waste, using data taken from 114 restaurant sites across 12 countries.
The group is committed to accelerating progress toward achieving the UN’s sustainable development target of halving per capita global food waste at retail and consumer level and through production and supply chains by 2030.
The UN estimates global food waste causes about $940bn (£770bn) a year in economic losses. It says a third of the world’s food is wasted while one in nine people remain malnourished. In addition, food waste accounts for 8% of global greenhouse emissions.
The findings are published in a report from the World Resources Institute – the business case for reducing food loss and waste: restaurants. It urges all food service outlets – regardless of their size or location – to take steps to measure food waste in order to be able to track and analyse it.
The research found that the average benefit-cost ratio for food waste reduction was 7:1 over a three-year time frame, meaning that £7 could be recovered for every £1 invested.
Within the first year of implementing a formal food waste reduction programme, 76% of the food outlets recouped their investment. Within two years of implementing a programme, 89% of them did so. In addition, by reducing food waste, the average site saved more than 2 cents on every dollar of cost of goods sold.
The furniture chain Ikea has at the same time given an update on how it has reduced food waste in its own restaurants in 420 stores in 52 countries worldwide – saving the equivalent of more than three million meals from being thrown away in nearly two years.
It has used Winnow – an electronic scale developed for commercial kitchens and restaurants that weighs waste as it is thrown away – which is hailed for cutting food waste by the likes of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage restaurant.
“Through this smart scale solution, food waste is measured and registered in the Ikea restaurants and bistros,” said Michael La Cour, managing director of Ikea Food Services. “More than half of all Ikea stores have implemented the solution while others are preparing for it.”
He said the project had resulted in new ways of working in many Ikea kitchens, with examples of stores that had diminished their food waste by 50% or more.
“Every year, a third of the world’s food goes to waste,” said Dave Lewis, Tesco chief executive and chair of Champions 12.3. “That’s the equivalent of 1.3bn tonnes of food being thrown away – and we think that’s simply not right. We believe that what gets measured gets managed.”
In the UK alone almost 900,000 perfectly edible, freshly prepared meals end up in the bin every day because they haven’t been sold in time by restaurants and cafes. This means that more than 320mmeals are thrown away by British food establishments every year – enough meals for everyone in the UK five times over, according to food waste app Too Good To Go.