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Customer not always right when it comes to food wastage

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

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Yes, your Gen Z wait staff are judging what you order for lunch, because they see how much of it ends up as waste.

Researchers from Edith Cowan University’s (ECU’s) School of Business and Law surveyed Gen Z hospitality workers and 98 per cent believed customers ordering too much food was the main driver of food wastage in the industry.

Our obsession with fresh produce was the second most common reason for wastage with 79 per cent of workers blaming health and safety regulations.

More than 7.3 million tonnes of food waste ends up in Australian landfill every year and a large portion can be attributed to the hospitality industry. Studies have estimated restaurants can over-cater by up to 30 per cent.

The team from ECU surveyed 52 hospitality workers employed in Australia. The researchers were particularly interested in ‘Gen Z’ workers born between 1995 and 1998.

Dr Edmund Goh led the research and said the workers face ethical dilemmas and many felt guilty about how much food was wasted.

“These workers were torn between wanting to serve customers with the best meals they possibly could and minimising the amount of food wasted,” he said.

“Several of our respondents wanted to raise the issue of customers ordering too much food or their employers serving portions that were too large.

“However the age old mantra that ‘the customer is always right’ is clearly still at the core of customer service and meant that workers didn’t say anything.”

The hospitality workers also blamed the industry and fellow workers for wastage in their workplace.

Other reasons for food wastage included:

  • poor storage (40 per cent)
  • poor stock control (34 per cent)
  • a lack of a take away policy (15 per cent)
  • a lack of time (13 per cent)

Dr Goh said the research results also pointed to a culture of wastage in the hospitality industry.

“Many of our respondents said they didn’t waste food at home and were taught to not throw food away by their parents – but at work it was the norm,” he said.

He said there were a number of easy fixes the industry could implement to reduce food wastage, including:

  • better portion control for meals;
  • food wastage training programs for kitchen and service staff;
  • provide leftover food to charitable groups; and
  • implementing a take away food policy.

The research was published in the International Journal of Hospitality Management’s July edition.

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