In 2019, WWF-Greece began supporting three hotel properties to measure, prevent and manage operational food waste. This work focused on the design and implementation of a 16-week pilot intervention with emphasis on measurement, staff engagement, operational adjustments, and guest messaging. With support from Unilever Food Solutions and WWF-US, WWF-Greece spent time on-site assisting with data collection and diagnosis of key food waste drivers.
This initial project period engaged three properties and supported them to conduct measurement projects for nine days in the Summer of 2019, and then again in Fall 2019. These nine-day periods included qualitative observation, statistical analysis of collected data, attention on key drivers of food waste during food preparation and buffet service, testing of staff messages in employee dining areas, and testing of guest-facing messages on tables and buffets. A digital guest survey was conducted, receiving positive feedback from visitors.
Once the measurement projects ended, WWF-Greece analyzed the results focusing on the per capita waste. Analysis of the results has shown an average of 10-25% food waste reduction resulting in some cases in a 9% cost reduction. Food waste during food preparation was reduced more than 40%, a 25% decrease was achieved in preparation of fruits and vegetables, while a 12-15% reduction in waste from buffet preparation occurred. The combination of qualitative and quantitative data along with the adoption of good practices proved that food waste can be reduced, however engagement and constant monitoring are crucial for initiative success. More than 250 employees were engaged in the program during the three projects, and thousands of visitors were exposed to the “WWF Hotel Kitchen: Here we value food” signs placed on the tables and buffets.
An engaged property task force is essential to maintaining employee engagement and adoption of new behaviors. Given differences in business volumes, staff culture, property size, and facilities, there is a need to adapt food waste initiatives to best fit each hotel. Once these conditions are considered, it’s important to carefully observe and listen to employees. The unique experience of staff members and teams can help identify creative ideas to reduce a property’s food waste. One executive chef shared that “I couldn’t have imagined the size of food waste in our hotel. One of the key benefits of the program was that it provided us with data so we could see through the implementation of good practices, whether they helped reducing food waste or not. If we had not measured food waste, everything would be vaguely estimated.”
At the end of the initial project period, two properties committed to continuing this work into 2020. One parent company announced that the remaining three hotels in their group would also take up the initiative, and another decided to expand the program to nine more hotel properties in Greece.
Following the pilots and announcement of results to Greek media, WWF-Greece organized three seminars for dozens of Greek hotels in February hosted by the Unilever Food Solutions Academy. The seminars were attended by hotel executives from across Greece. The WWF team presented the content and benefits of the program, while the participants explored the detailed program guide, discovering practical tips and easy methods for measuring, reducing and preventing food waste in their hotel units. Participants were among the first audience to learn the results from the three hotel pilots conducted in 2019.
While COVID-19 has significantly affected hospitality and tourism operations, WWF-Greece remains in close contact with engaged properties and will support the growth of this initiative into the future. Specifically, WWF-Greece is planning to host a webinar for hotel executives in November to present the project in the context of COVID-19 and the new realities of tourism. Seminars in two culinary schools are planned for November 2020 with the aim of training and engaging the next generation of chefs on food waste prevention.