Foodservice includes businesses, institutions, and companies responsible for any meal prepared outside the home, inclusive of restaurants, catering, cafeterias, and the hospitality sector. These businesses have been hit especially hard by COVID-19, as local regulations required many to close entirely at the beginning of the pandemic. Now that those restrictions have begun to ease, restaurants and other foodservice businesses are struggling to stay afloat while operating at a reduced capacity under a cloud of uncertainty. Like Retailers, Restaurants and Foodservice businesses serve end customers, and as such face similar demands when it comes to product offerings – even at lower-end outlets, consumers expect that they will get what they want when they want it, forcing businesses to overstock to accommodate fluctuations in demand.
Restaurants and Foodservice businesses generate 12.7M tons of surplus food, more than 80% of which goes to landfill or is incinerated as waste. Surprisingly, less than 1% of this surplus is donated – mainly because it’s more difficult to transport, store, and distribute food that is already prepared. Almost half of the total surplus is generated by full-service restaurants, and nearly three-quarters of the total surplus comes from plate waste, or customers not eating what they have taken or been served.
Foodservice is a challenging sector because of the diversity of models; restaurants, cafeterias, buffets, hotels, and other establishments all serve food to customers in similar but unique ways. However, behind the challenge lies a huge opportunity to not only reduce waste in their own operations, but also to make it harder for consumers to waste food – through education and through changing the environment in which food is consumed.