Article 14/02/2024

Tackling hospitality waste with sustainable practices

By Luka Osborne

The late and great Anthony Bourdain once said, “Luck is not a business model… If anything is good for pounding humility into you permanently, it’s the restaurant business.” 

If you work in hospitality, you probably don’t need to be told that the economy is tight at the moment – you can probably feel it. Unfortunately, it’s one of the first industries to feel the crunch. People with less disposable income means fewer people going out to eat, drink and holiday. Hospitality managers know all too well that watching costs is crucial to maintaining a healthy bottom line – especially considering this year’s inflation and its effect on rent, utilities and the price of goods.

The forecast for the rest of 2024 doesn’t look so great, and naturally making some cost-cutting and loss-preventive choices will become more and more important. If you work in catering, or as a restaurant manager/owner, chef, or hotelier, you might be thinking: “How can I save money, and reduce waste?” or “How can I reduce costs, and make my business more sustainable?”

Well, you’ve come to the right place. One great way to tackle costs is by keeping waste in check – especially when margins are slim. Reducing waste improves profitability without compromising on quality or customer experience, and importantly, it’s also better for the environment. Sustainability makes sense.

Sustainable practices are the perfect way to save cash and score green credentials for hospitality businesses.

Let’s take a look at some of the best modern solutions to save on waste and recoup costs.

Managing food waste

Food waste is a big issue. 13,000 Olympic swimming pools big. That’s right, every year Australians waste more than 7.6 million tonnes of food, with hospitality accounting for a third. Not only does it affect a restaurant or hotel’s bottom line, but commercial food waste collection isn’t cheap. Food waste is just one factor in the long list of hospitality waste types, which may include white goods, sharps disposals, hazardous waste disposal and restaurant oil disposal… Why add to the list? There are many things that businesses can do to get on top of food waste, including:

  • Ordering less, ordering fresh, ordering locally and more frequently. This way restaurants can save storage space, minimise spoilage, and know the product hasn’t travelled far. Plus you’re supporting local businesses (like your own).
  • Using ‘nose to tail’ cooking methods for meats, fruits, and vegetables and planning the menu accordingly, like being creative with leftover ingredients, offcuts, ‘daily
    specials’ and other menu items.
  • Offering various portion sizes, not everyone eats the same! This gives customers the option of paying for what they want to eat and leaves them space to order a dessert.
  • Decluttering and organising storage for efficiency and labelling and dating food as it comes in. Remember FIFO – first in first out.
  • If you know there is an overstock of an item donate to a food rescue foundation such as Oz Harvest or Food Bank.
  • Check your stock regularly and purchase only what you need – which brings us to the next point…

Automation for hospitality

We live in a brave new world where artificial intelligence (AI) can be your business’s new best friend. AI for restaurants and AI for hospitality can cover all sorts of menial management tasks, such as POS systems, rosters, stock ordering, inventory management, and even customer complaints. Regularly auditing and optimising your inventory with AI software prevents over-ordering, and unnecessary expenses and reduces food waste.

Hotel automation software cuts down on many tedious tasks and can help track and centralise every aspect of the business, including inventory management, payments, guest comms and check-ins, check-outs, bookings and cleaning rosters. Some popular inventory management software tools for the hospitality industry are Order Mate and Light Speed.

Although virtual assistants can be handy, business owners should remember the importance of a human face in the service sector, however, many of the behind-the-scenes operations can be streamlined with AI. Some avenues to consider include:

  • AI automation for digital business management.
  • AI automation for operations and logistics management.
  • AI supply chain automation.
  • AI robotic automation for warehouses.
  • AI robotic machinery for catering businesses.
  • AI robot cleaners for hotels.
  • AI automation for lights, air con and other utilities.
  • AI chatbots for online or after-hours customer comms.

Keep packaging in check

Complimentary toiletries, gift bags, takeaway containers – packaging is synonymous with hospitality. It’s a touch that lets a customer know that their needs are being catered for, and a great opportunity for businesses to show off a flair for brand design. But, it goes without saying, packaging costs money and creates a lot of waste.

Luckily, new alternatives are taking the industry by storm; hotels, restaurants, and cafes are using new materials that are both environmentally friendly and sustainable. Recently there has been a big shift towards high-tech biodegradable plastics made from plant-based fibres which can be composted along with other vegetable matter. One great example is Biopack, a company leading the way in sustainable packaging supplies for restaurants and hospitality. Their products include clamshell packaging, coffee cups and bags made from fermented plant starch like corn, cassava and sugarcane.

Innovation is fantastic, especially when it comes to minimising plastic waste across the hospitality industry to keep food fresh or hygiene products sterile, however, we shouldn’t forget the importance of recyclable materials such as paper, cardboard, bottles, cans and glass. Inventory managers should shop around for suppliers that use eco-friendly and/or recyclable packaging and even request less packaging on goods if suitable.

Another emerging trend and waste saver, is encouraging patrons to use reusable packing boxes, drink containers and/or coffee cups. These items are often designed to be a statement that shouts ‘eco-savvy business’. In addition to personal items, refillable containers for sauces, salt and pepper etc. save on single-use waste and let you order in bulk… And they can also add to the aesthetic of your establishment, who doesn’t like a classic salt and pepper mill on their table.

Smart energy practices

The hospitality industry is well known for large energy bills. It’s not cheap to run the symphony of electric amenities that keep customers happy, warm and fed. Examples such as air-con, heating, lighting, appliances for cleaning, cooking, and ventilation, all add up to draw a lot of power. Truth be told, many of these items can be automated as we already discussed. Energy and motion tracking apps save power by using smart thermostats in rooms that set the temperature and lighting only when needed. It’s the most simple way to reduce electricity consumption, without having to rely on patrons being responsible for their own use.

LED light bulbs need their own mention. You may be aware, but LEDs are a lot more efficient than incandescent bulbs, using up to 90% less energy and lasting up to 25 times longer. It’s a switch that’s worth it, head here for more information.

You might still be wondering how to save on electric bills, well, it’s time to consider the exterior of your building. The sun is a powerful thing, it will heat your hotel or restaurant if no shade is provided, and planting trees can provide some much-needed long-term respite and save on the amount of air-con needed. If you have a lot of sun, use it! Solar power can drastically reduce electricity bills, especially when combined with a battery system – and yes it may be an investment, but with Australian state government solar rebates, and generous loan incentives, such as Commonwealth’s low-interest Green Loan, becoming a clean energy, self-sustaining business is easier than ever.

Circular economy practices

If it can be reused – reuse it! Giving products a new life or new purpose minimises waste and maximises resource efficiency. Hospitality products and services can be adapted for repurposing, a great example being take-back programs and/or collaborating with suppliers to resource recycled or repurposed materials. Many essentials needed in the industry can be thrifted or sustainably bought. In 2024, we are spoilt for choice. Building materials and furniture, as well as environmentally friendly clothing or ‘eco clothes’, are great examples. Savvy chefs can even make use of waste products like stale bread for fermentation processes and incorporate fruit peels in brewing.

100% Clean Recycling Pickup Service

The easiest and most obvious choice on this list is recycling for hospitality businesses. Envirobank’s Pickup Service provides a seamless solution for hospitality businesses looking to recuperate costs. Using this service, businesses can easily recycle bottles and cans, earning 10¢ per container. When you consider the volume of containers a busy establishment handles, the recuperated funds can be substantial.

Imagine a bustling restaurant that disposes of 1000 bottles and cans per week. At 10¢ a container that’s $100 a week or $5200 a year, barely lifting a finger. No driving to RVMs and spending valuable time lining up.

It’s a tangible way to turn waste into revenue. In a world where every penny counts, recycling for hospitality helps to boost the bottom line and ensures businesses not only survive but thrive – while looking after the planet in the process.

Learn more about Envirobank’s 100% Clean Recycling Pickup Service.

By Luka Osborne