Restaurant diners waste €125m of food a year

IT’S enough to cover the pitch at Croker eight times over and it’s costing Irish restaurants €125 million annually — yet the food waste we generate can easily be reduced if chefs and consumers pull together.

Research out today shows the role diners play in out-of-home food waste, with one-in-two admitting to regularly over-ordering when eating out.

The study of eating habits also reveals that:

- Plates piled high with food represents good value for 31% of Irish diners, even if it means food on the plate will go to waste.

- Four-out-of-five diners would like the option of smaller portions to help curb overeating and food waste.

- One-third of diners blame unfinished meals on oversized portions, compared to 27% who left food behind because they were dissatisfied.

- More than half (52%) of people who eat out regularly say that they would like the option of leaving certain items off their order (for example portions of bread or vegetables) even if it means paying the same price.

So while eyes are bigger than bellies for many diners, consumers are nonetheless aware that more can be done to combat the food waste that results in Irish restaurants each throwing out on average 4.5 tonnes of food waste a year, at a cost per establishment of €8,840.

The research, released by Unilever Food Solutions Ireland, found 53% of food wasted in restaurants is generated during preparation.

In an effort to get the food service industry to collaborate on reducing waste, Unilever will today host a “United Against Waste” event in Dublin, where MasterChef judge Dylan McGrath will create a “Great Irish Waste” menu, using food ingredients that have been thrown out, rejected or deemed inedible and turning them into restaurant-standard fare.

Mr McGrath said that while there will always be unavoidable food waste in a restaurant, such as bones or fat trimmings, there is still a big opportunity to reduce wastage through a better understanding of customers’ wants.

“A lot of people in Ireland still love big portions. As a chef and restaurateur we need to strike a careful balance between portion sizes and waste,” he said.

Mr McGrath said the majority of diners are “not fully aware of the environmental and the cost implications” of the waste on their plates.

In addition, if restaurateurs sacrificed quality for quantity in order to retain customers, wastage would continue, he said.

Today’s research findings will also show that more women than men are likely to leave food behind; that the older generation are more likely to clear their plates; that more food is wasted out-of-home in Connaught than in other provinces, and that more than a quarter (26%) eat out once a week.

A report published last week on foot of studies by the EU and UN showed we dump enough food every year to feed the world’s starving millions.


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