RMIT University is on the look out for cafés to take part in its Watch My Waste national food research project.
A team of researchers is hoping to identify the volume and value of food that Australian businesses are throwing away, and why it is happening.
According to Watch My Waste, hospitality sector profit margins have been in steady decline for the past 15 years.
Many business owners are left scratching their heads as to where exactly money is being lost.
RMIT’s Watch My Waste researcher, Dianne McGrath, suggests that the answer, might in fact, lie in the bin.
“Our research project is helping the hospitality sector gain a greater understanding of the impact that food waste is having,” said Dianne. “By participating in this study, Australian cafés could help themselves identify simple steps to reduce food waste, and have a better bottom line as well as a positive impact on the environment.”
The study began in February 2015, and is accepting the last set of three-month participants in April 2016.
Interim data has found that participants spend approximately 24 per cent of weekly turnover on food purchases. The results show at least 40 per cent of that food ends up in the bins of restaurants, cafés, and other foodservice businesses around Australia.
“If businesses realised how much food they were actually throwing away – slice by slice, burnt steak by burnt steak – they would be surprised,” said Dianne. “This is why it is important to actually measure it, then you know what the size of the problem is for you. That is a very strong incentive to change behaviour.”
Early data indicates that food waste in businesses can be as high as 317 grams per cover in some cases.
“Visualise putting a good-sized steak on a customer’s plate, then taking it off and throwing it in the bin before serving,” said Dianne.
Dianne says that reducing food waste extends beyond business bottom lines.
“The associated greenhouse gases with food waste to landfill are significant,” she says. “If food waste were a country it would be the third highest greenhouse gas emitting country in the world behind only the United States and China.”
Thanks to United Nations General Assembly commitments, food waste in hospitality is starting to gain the attention it needs.
On 1 January France enacted a law requiring restaurants to cut food waste. A law requiring supermarkets to donate unsold food will come into effect later in the month.
Dianne says businesses that find food waste solutions now will be better equipped to comply with future government policy.
“As the public embraces similar ideas and measures, customer satisfaction and loyalty may also be bolstered by increased food waste reduction initiatives,” she says.