Talking Point: Do you know how much your food waste really costs?

Hotels should consider the cost of purchase, labour, water & cooking.

Hotels should consider the cost of purchase, labour, water & cooking.

Continuing our Talking Point posts on waste and food waste this month, Brian Quinn at highlights the true cost of food waste to hotels. Chances are your food waste is costing you much more than you realise. Here Quinn explains why and offers one technological solution to monitoring.

In 2013, the Waste and Resources Action Plan (WRAP), a UK government sponsored organisation, commissioned a study into food waste within the hospitality and food Sector and discovered some interesting facts, for instance;

  • Hotels account for 8% of all meals eaten out which equates to about 613 million meals a year
  • 19% of all the food hotels purchased (by weight) was wasted.
  • Total food loss was 78 thousand tonnes of food a year of which
  • 49 thousand tonnes (avoidable waste) was perfectly edible
  • Equivalent of throwing away 1 meal in every six served.
  • 66% of food waste was caused by over production, spoilage and expiration
  • 34% was caused by plate waste.
  • Source
The true cost of food waste.

The true cost of food waste.


Financial Implications

Throwing this much food away has a considerable impact on the sector that goes beyond the normal costs associated with waste collection.

The study estimates that the additional annual cost to the hotel sector is about £318m a year, or £0.52 per meal but the killer stat was the so called “True Cost” of food waste disposal. Most businesses think of the cost of food waste as the price they pay to the waste contractor says WRAP, but to determine the true cost of food waste, the businesses should also include the;

  • Purchase price of the food
  • The additional labour,
  • Energy,
  • Waste,
  • Admin,
  • Water,
  • Transport and
  • consumables.

Across the HaFS sector, they determined that the average disposal price (per tonne) is £2,800,00 and in the hotel segment a staggering £4,000.00.

The table below sets out how the true cost is calculated, at more than 62%, food waste is the biggest single cost whereas waste management costs, which is where businesses often look too to save money, the costs are equal to just 1.4%

Tonnes Cost Per Tonne Total  
1 £4,000.00 £4,000.00  
Item Annual Cost % Per Day
Food £2,484.00 62.1% £6.81
Labour £1,056.00 26.4% £2.89
Energy £288.00 7.2% £0.79
Waste £56.00 1.4% £0.15
Admin £88.00 2.2% £0.24
Water £32.00 0.8% £0.09
Transport £8.00 0.2% £0.02
Consumables £4.00 0.1% £0.01
Total £4,016.00 100% £11.00


Food waste segregation and landfill diversion.

For a long time the advice WRAP gave to reduce costs was to segregate food waste and divert it from landfill to an AD plant or in vessel composter, the problem with this strategy is that it might be more sustainable but it does nothing to reduce the volume of waste. Another issue with diversion is that it may not be a cheaper alternative for much longer.

Evidence suggests that costs are set to rise because (a) the UK is reaching a saturation point with the number of AD plants and composters available (b) the volume of feed material needed by these plants is falling and (c) the government incentives to the waste contractor to accept food is being removed.

Waste prevention through monitoring and measurement.

Recently DEFRA and WRAP has announced that food waste prevention is now their number one priority. There are two ways to do this, one is manually and the other is by using technology.

LeanPath Inc. produce the worlds leading automated food loss tracking and measuring system. In a nutshell the system records all waste loss by item, costs, creation point and reason. Results in the USA have seen, on average, food costs cut by 2%-6%, waste volumes cut by 50% and a culture of waste prevention established. The knock on effects are less packaging, and all the additional costs associated with waste as outlined above.

How it works

Measure and report.

Measure and report.


The LeanPath Tracker 2.0 is a device you install in the kitchen to capture waste before it’s discarded. The terminal consists of a scale, an integrated camera, and a 10” touch-screen user interface. Culinary team members place all pre-consumer food waste items on the scale before they throw them away.

The scale captures the weight of the item, the camera takes a photo, and the team member answers a short series of customised questions to record the food type, reason it’s being discarded, station, meal, etc. You can then review selections and hit “Submit Report” to instantly transfer that data wirelessly to the reporting dashboard in a cloud-based data warehouse.

GoGreen Tomato graph 2

Utilising LeanPath Online, operators can identify trends and opportunities for food waste reduction. Reports, alerts, and real-time analytics provide the operator with immediate feedback to drive efficient and effective waste reduction results.

There is also a mobile app that can be added to any Android tablet. The tablet is placed in a dedicated spot within the kitchen or food production area as part of the food waste tracking station and team members use the tablet to account for all pre-consumer food waste before it’s discarded by selecting a few buttons to record what’s being thrown away and why.

For more information or to book an onsite demonstration please contact Brian Quinn.
cell:     +44 780 361 3637
Office: +44 203 290 8865

Leave a Reply