We are now constantly being bombarded by claims of climate change and doom and gloom for the planet. Even last week’s episode of Doctor Who ended with a rant about the damage we are doing to our home and how it will all come back to bite us very soon.
If you have read any of my previous columns you will know that I am not a complete believer in all this negative talk, and that I think that the planet will regulate itself. However that does not mean that I subscribe to our wasteful and over-consuming society.
There is no doubt that we throw away far too much. While millions of people around the world have difficulty in finding or affording enough food to eat on a day by day basis, we in the developed world throw out vast quantities of perfectly good food every day.
Food prepared and cooked at home for our own use is generally just the correct quantity, and if there are any leftovers then most of us are good at reusing these in subsequent meals. So home use is not the main problem. The two main areas of massive food waste are restaurants and supermarkets. The biggest culprit in restaurants or hotels is the buffet. Huge quantities of food are cooked and laid out on serving dishes for diners to help themselves, and at the end of each session there is a mountain of food that has not been consumed and has to be thrown away.
A la carte can also be wasteful as the chefs will prepare many dishes in advance in anticipation of them being ordered but again at the end of the night unordered food is thrown out.
In the past, in the UK, a lot of this food waste was sent to local pig farms where it was converted into pork products and so in a way recycled. This is not a realistic solution in this part of the world and in any case the environmental agency stopped it on the grounds of hygiene and so perfectly good food goes straight to landfill.
A friend of mine who runs a hotel and in-house restaurant has a perfect solution to this. He asks his guests in advance what they would like to order from the menu that evening, and that is all he prepares and cooks, voila! No waste. There is no reason why restaurants and hotels around the world cannot adopt this same practice. Simply ask guests what they want to eat in advance, ie, when they check-in or book a table or it could be done online or by an app, offer a discount to diners who order in advance and suddenly huge amounts of waste are not created. Many hotels already do this for breakfast by asking you to make your choice the night before and hang your card on your door so it is not groundbreaking practice.
The huge indulgent brunches have got to change. Instead of a buffet have the diners order from the menu in advance. I have been to three Christmas dinners in the past month in which I ordered my starter, main and dessert in advance. So it’s not difficult, it is just adjusting to a new way of dining.
This is a marketing plan for a restaurant, go this way, declare yourself greener than the competition and watch the luvvies flock to your door.