Sustainability

Food Waste in Restaurants: Exploring the Facts

Learn about the amount of food waste in the restaurant industry and its impact on the environment. Discover ways to reduce food waste in your business.

Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food worldwide end up in the trash. That accounts for approximately one-third of all food produced globally.

What is particularly concerning is that the amount of food we waste would be enough to feed two billion people. That's more than twice the number of undernourished people in the world.

As a significant player in the food industry, the foodservice sector plays a crucial role in reducing food waste. At the same time, this industry is responsible for 40% of the world's wasted food.

In this article, we will show you more facts and figures about food waste and how restaurants can reduce the amount of food they waste.


What is food waste?

Food waste refers to food that is produced for human consumption but is discarded along the journey from farm to fork. Food waste occurs throughout the entire food supply chain, from cultivation and processing to retail and consumption.

Depending on the stage in which food is wasted, we can differentiate between food loss and food waste:

Food loss occurs during production, storage, processing, and distribution phases. This is caused by issues or errors in the supply chain, such as quality defects, inadequate infrastructure, or spoilage.

Food waste refers to food that is thrown away during consumption, either in retail, hospitality or at home. This occurs for various reasons, such as overstocking, improper storage of food, or when the expiration date has passed.

→ This is how much food waste costs you every year [Calculator]

How much food waste do these countries generate in the hospitality sector?

Depending on the region, there are differences in the food waste within the supply chain.

In developing countries, food waste often occurs more frequently in the early stages of the food supply chain, particularly during harvesting and processing. This is due to inefficient technologies, substandard storage facilities, or extreme weather conditions.

In contrast, food waste in developed countries is primarily observed at the end of the food supply chain. The reason for this is an abundance of food. Consumers have a greater variety to choose from, which leads to a more careless attitude towards food and greater waste.

Food waste by country (per year)

* Data from the agricultural sector are missing. It can therefore be assumed that the actual amount of wasted food is bigger.

Impacts of food waste on the environment

Overall, 8–10 % of all carbon emissions are attributed to wasted food. If food waste were a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China and the United States.

The production of food requires significant amounts of resources such as water, land, and energy. When food is wasted, these natural resources are also lost.

One way to reduce the carbon footprint in the hospitality sector is by accurately tracking and evaluating the carbon emissions of recipes and ingredients. Dishes that have particularly high emissions can then be replaced with more sustainable ingredients.

Waiter serving dishes in restaurant

The most wasted types of food

When it comes to food waste, it is also interesting to observe how much food is produced in the different categories and how much of it we waste.

Data from National Geographic and the Food and Agriculture Organization provide insights into this:

Category Produced Wasted
Fruits and vegetables 1.400 million tons 46 percent
Cereals 1.197 million tons 29 percent
Roots and tubers 598 million tons 46 percent
Dairy products 841 million tons 17 percent
Meat 352 million tons 21 percent
Oilseeds and pulses 227 million tons 22 percent
Fish and seafood 63 million tons 35 percent

Almost half of all produced foods in the categories of fruits and vegetables as well as of roots and tubers are wasted along the global supply chain.

How you can reduce food waste in your foodservice business

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, the hospitality industry plays an important role in reducing food waste. There are several measures that restaurateurs can take to minimize food waste in their business:

  • Optimize your purchasing through good planning and thorough preparation. By using digital ordering platforms, you can order exactly what you need and avoid incorrect orders.

  • Adapt your menu and offer different portion sizes. You can also provide information on your menu, such as "Suitable for 2 people" or "Ideal for small appetites".

  • Create awareness among your staff about food waste. Involve your team in finding solutions and implementing them.

For more information on how restaurant operators can fight food waste and for additional facts and figures on the topic, take a look at out infographic.


Let's fight food waste

Together, we can take a stand against food waste. With these facts and figures, we aim to raise awareness and bring the issue into focus.

In the hospitality industry, we promote responsible handling of food by creating transparency along the entire food supply chain.

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