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Sustainability in Food Service

Food service buys a lot of food, uses lots of energy and water and produces a a lot of waste. We explore reasons for change.
© International Culinary Studio

Hotels and food service operations consume a lot of non-renewable energy (electricity and gas) and water, and through the production process, generate a lot of waste. Consider these statistics:

  • United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that one-third the global food production is lost or wasted, yet almost 1 billion people are starving worldwide. Source: Aventri
  • Food production requires water. In the United States, food waste accounts for 25 percent of the country’s water use.
  • A faucet dripping one drop per minute wastes 12,000 liters of water a year.
  • The average beef hamburger takes 2400 liters of water to produce. Source: Change.Org
  • Restaurants use ten times more energy per square foot than any other commercial enterprise and waste $20 billion a year on utilities. Source Energy Star® Guide for Restaurants.
  • A loss of 30% of all food produced worldwide occurs along the value-added chain “from farm to fork” every year, which equates to about 1.3 billion tonnes of food waste. Source Sumas.
  • A study conducted estimated that around 8.3 billion plastic straws pollute the world’s beaches. Source National Geographic.
  • In 2016, in the EU, 45.5% of waste was sent to landfilled and 37.8% was recycled. Source Sumas.
  • Each year Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam cups. 500 years from now, the foam coffee cup you used this morning will still be sitting in a landfill.
  • The food wasted by the United States and Europe alone could feed the world three times. Source: The World Counts.
  • One-third of all food in the United States is wasted, with full-service restaurants responsible for 20 percent of that food waste and quick-service restaurants responsible for 13 percent. Food Waste Reduction Alliance.

Status of sustainability in the restaurant industry

In 2018 the National Restaurant Association in the United States researched the status of sustainability, surveying more than 500 restaurant owners. They found:

Energy_Water Waste

Source: Restaurant Sustainability Research Report (2018) National Restaurant Association.

These statistics show less than half of the restaurants surveyed were making significant inroads into managing their waste. They were, however, making better progress in energy and water consumption reduction, which could be due to economic factors (bringing down costs) instead of the desire to make a positively impacting the environment.

The aim

Hotels and food service operations require energy and water for their daily operations; cleaning, cooking, dish washing, heating, cooling. These all impact our natural resources and the organizations’ costs, ultimately affecting their profits. If a hotel or food service operation is nonprofitable, it will not survive long term, which will impact all stakeholders.

Reduce Energy Consumption

Reduce water consumption

The aim is therefore threefold:

  • Limit our impact on the environment by reducing dependency on limited renewable resources and changing to more sustainable forms of energy. To do this, organizations need to consider reducing water consumption, buying more sustainable products, and managing waste production and recycling, reducing the organization’s carbon footprint ,and lowering its carbon emissions.
  • Run a financially sustainable business that ensures it is profitable and can continue for years to come, supporting the owners and other stakeholders in the industry.
  • Have a positive impact socially, supporting the local community and economies.


Are there any other reasons that food service should be concerned about sustainability? Please share them in the discussion.

© International Culinary Studio
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Introduction to Sustainable Practices in Food Service

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