Turns out this is not an easy question to answer...
BY KARL S.- NOV 23, 2023
Working in a restaurant is fast-paced, stressful and full of challenges. But it is very fulfilling for those people with a real passion for food. It is why many new restaurants open every day, despite the difficult market conditions in recent years.
Food waste is one of those challenges, possibly one of the biggest. It is terrible for our planet. But in the hustle and bustle of a stressful service, it can be easy to put food waste further down the list of priorities.
But food waste is not only an issue we have to address for environmental reasons. It affects a restaurant's bottom line as well. This post will look at how much food an average restaurant wastes in a year.
It is difficult to find exact average figures on this. Or an answer to the question "What is the Average Annual Food Waste of Restaurants?".
So we hope this post can clarify the scope of the problem, average amounts of food restaurants are wasting and what businesses can do to rescue more food.
I: The Scope of the Problem
According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the United States alone accounts for “170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (million MTCO2e) GHG emissions (excluding landfill emissions) – equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants.”
The United Nations states that “Globally, around 13 percent of food produced is lost between harvest and retail, while an estimated 17 percent of total global food production is wasted in households, in the food service and in retail all together.”
Food waste is a huge global problem. We waste around 1.3 Billion tonnes of food every year. This has a big impact on the environment. Greenhouse gas emissions related to this waste are staggering. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), the United States alone accounts for “170 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (million MTCO2e) GHG emissions (excluding landfill emissions) – equal to the annual CO2 emissions of 42 coal-fired power plants.”
The food waste problem will become, if it has not already, a defining issue in the next 25 years.
Climate change is reducing arable land across the world. This will cause a global decrease in food security. It may also drive new conflicts and wars.
But tackling food waste now could prevent all this. While restaurants are only part of the global food waste problem, the numbers suggest that they have contributed to it.
But where are those numbers?
II: What are the Average Food Waste Numbers for Restaurants?
“Previous estimates of consumer food waste significantly underestimated its scale…”
It is quite hard to pin down global average amounts of food waste from restaurants. This is because the amount of food waste can vary annually. It is also influenced by various factors, including economic conditions, cultural practices, and efforts to reduce waste.
But we can gather some wide numbers and draw some conclusions.
According to ReFED, the U.S. restaurant sector generates 11.4 million tons of food waste every year. This includes 7.3 million tons from full-service restaurants and 4.1 million tons from limited-service restaurants.
The full cost of this is more than $25 billion.
But, sticking to the restaurant sector, what are the numbers across the world?
It is quite difficult to find out.
The U.N. suggests that their previous data regarding consumer food waste may be incorrect. In fact, it may be more than twice the previous FAQ estimate from 2011.
“Previous estimates of consumer food waste significantly underestimated its scale. While data doesn’t permit a robust comparison across time, food waste at consumer level (household and food service) appears to be more than twice the previous FAO estimate (Gustavsson et al., 2011).”
The 2011 estimate was separated by geographic location. “Per capita food wasted by consumers in Europe and North-America is 95-115 kg/year, while this figure in sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia is only 6-11 kg/year.”
So if the 2021 report is accurate, the true consumer per capita food waste figures (including restaurants) could be from 190-230 kg per year in Europe and the US. In sub-Saharan Africa and South/Southeast Asia it could be from 12-21 kg of food waste per capita per year.
So, answering the question “what is the annual average food waste of restaurants?” is quite difficult to do.
This is because of cultural, economic and seasonality factors. But really, it is because of the lack of consistent food waste measurement. This is where technology can step in and provide a solution to this problem.
III: Technology and Solutions
Food waste can be fought. Customers using our app reduced food waste by 41.3%. The app also helped F&B businesses rescue 270,777 KG of food waste and saved 676.9 tonnes of emissions.
Consistent measurement of food waste in the restaurant industry is an issue. There are different systems in place, different practices and no fixed standard.
Restaurants should always pick the solution that fits their food waste reduction needs. But lack of measurement across the industry does make it difficult to find out the answer to “What is the Average Annual Food Waste of Restaurants?”. Most figures on this subject are estimations and approximations.
We have been working with clients for some time using our FIT app solution. Our solution overcomes the barriers that prevent accurate food waste measurement.
As it’s a human-centric solution, FIT builds food waste measurement behaviors in the kitchen. It is simple to use, with the kitchen team measuring waste per service (breakfast, lunch, dinner, buffet etc) and by waste type (staple, meat, seafood etc). It also works on generic Android and iOS devices, which keeps things affordable for restaurants.
We have over 100 engaged clients that use the app on a daily basis. So we have access to a lot of food waste data. Here are some of our food waste stats for 2022 across all our clients.
This proves that measurement is possible but also, that food waste can be fought. Customers using our app reduced food waste by 41.3%. The app also helped F&B businesses rescue 270,777 KG of food waste and saved 676.9 tonnes of emissions.
For restaurants, especially in a tough economy, the bottom line is crucial. So with our app we helped our clients save a total of $1.1 million.
If consistent measurement was applied across the globe, the annual average food waste of a restaurant would be much more visible, and much lower.
IV: Talk to LightBlue
Interested in our FIT app solution? Want online or onsite training in your restaurant? Talk to LightBlue. Visit our website or email us via email@example.com.