1. Bigger portions – Since the 50’s portion sizes have grown a lot. In some cases, they have grown by more than 100%. The average portion of french fries in the 50’s was around 2.4 ounces and now it’s about 7 ounces. Restaurants and fast food chains are trying to attract more people by showing them that customer’s money is worth a lot of food at a their restaurant, keeping them coming back for more. This unhealthy competition is now one of the biggest reasons there is so much food waste in our society.
Decreasing portions sizes would be difficult. Restaurants would be afraid of losing much of their clients. However, as people become more health contentious, such changes could be seen as a positive move. Also, clients appreciate honesty, such as saying whether or not one dish is good for sharing or might be too big to consume for an individual. We believe that both the switch to healthier choices and honesty will increase the number of loyal customers. Finally, by decreasing portion sizes, a restaurant or store gains economically, by being able to utilize the ingredients for more plates. As well as, lowering their meal prices during a time of crisis. These solutions will provide a win-win situation for the establishment and its customer.
2. Menus are not flexible – Many restaurants, especially the big ones (chain restaurants, luxurious or with more clients) stick to set menus. There are some chain restaurants that don’t change their menu for more than a year. While talking about leftovers in restaurants, we are not interested in food that was not eaten by clients. This food cannot be reused for food again unless the client him/herself takes it home. It can only be used as organic waste. In restaurants, hundreds of pounds of unserved food is thrown away at the end of each day.
Big restaurants should follow the earlier advice of having smaller portions. In order to economize, some restaurants also freeze leftover food to make next day’s ‘new specials’. One such dish is the famous ratatouille. Let’s say you have a lot of vegetables left from the previous night that you wanted to serve fresh. Obviously the next day the ingredients won’t be as fresh, but they will be perfect in a ratatouille dish when mixed and boiled with other vegetables. This menu option could be a daily special on many menus. Creating a flexible menu not only can reduce your food waste (less waste = less economic loss) but also add needed diversity to freshen up the menu. This will keep your customers coming back for more.
Restaurant managers should create more specific rules as far as these policies are concerned. In this business you can’t deal with absolutes, because food is too precious and has a time limit. It is understandable that employers shouldn’t take food that is prepared to serve others, but food that is still good quality should be salvaged from the trash and put to good use. Obviously, it is much easier to control if you prohibit something completely, but we believe food is too precious to waste and needs exceptions. Moreover, local governments should be lobbying for the creation of separate garbage bins for organic waste. So far, all waste is put in the same bin. It would help dealing with many problems as far as waste management in concerned, including methane gas release in landfills.
The solution to this problem was already proposed in the USA in 1996, when a certain Good Samaritan Food Donation Act was signed into action by Bill Clinton. This law takes away liability from all entities that give away food for charitable reasons. It means that donating parties wouldn’t be responsible if somebody is harmed, unless it was done with intention. Unfortunately, USA is the only country that has such a law. The sad part is that most workers in the food industry don’t know about it, and more awareness is needed. So, speak about it with a manager at your favorite restaurant!