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Food waste and hospitality

By David Jackson, Head of Marketing at Winnow

There was a sense of urgency at COP24 in Katowice last month. During the opening ceremony, the naturalist and broadcaster David Attenborough said climate change is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years. Addressing world leaders, Sir David said: “The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now.”

If we are to deliver on Sir David’s call to arms, we must solve the man-made problem of food waste. Earlier this year project Drawdown identified food waste as the third most impactful solution to reverse the effects of climate change. Food waste is a global problem. A third of all food produced – 1.3bn tonnes per year – ends up being wasted, and this costs the global economy almost one trillion dollars annually.  If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after America and China.

A global problem requires a global response, and UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.” The third target under this goal is to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030.

Food waste is an estimated $100bn problem (source: Winnow) within the hospitality sector alone. It is a common misconception that most of the food waste in the hospitality sector comes from the customer’s plate. In an analysis of more than 450 kitchens using Winnow we have found that more than 70% of food waste happens before it gets to the customer. By focusing on overproduction, hospitality businesses can cut waste, costs, and their impact on the environment.

It is impossible to prepare food without wasting some, and it has always been notoriously difficult to measure in busy kitchens. It is also only recently that we have been able to understand where food waste happens in the production process in our kitchens. Traditional tracking methods involving waste sheets or weighing buckets fail to give the necessary detail.

This is traditionally seen as the sole responsibility of the kitchen. Research commissioned by Winnow in partnership with The Caterer found that 72% of those interviewed felt it was the job of the head chef and his or her team to minimise food waste.

Lacking the right tools to efficiently measure waste, however, it is no wonder that around 5%-15% of all food purchased ends up in the bin (source: Winnow). With the introduction of digital tools like Winnow, chefs are now able to automate many of the administrative tasks required to measure waste. This gives teams better visibility while also freeing up time for chefs to get back in the kitchen.

This new technology allows teams to identify specific stages where wastage occurs.

Analysing data from more than 450 kitchens using Winnow, we are able to shed light on where food waste happens and on what strategies chefs should adopt to make reductions.


Key highlights from the analysis include:

  • More than 70% of food waste occurs before it gets to the customer’s plate.

  • Overproduction accounts for ~80% of the cost of this waste.

  • Using this playbook, kitchens can expect to cut overproduction by 40% or more.


Working with thousands of chefs from all over the world, Winnow’s latest report also shares strategies to cut food waste at key stages such as:

  • Labelling techniques to minimise spoilage.
  • Developing standard recipe banks for your teams to reduce cooking errors.
  • Preparing food in smaller batches over service to reduce overproduction.


As the saying goes, ‘what gets measured gets managed’. The first step for any kitchen to capitalise on the opportunity food waste presents is to gather accurate data. Our vision for the kitchen of the future is one where waste management is automated, giving chefs more the information to make better decisions while also saving time.

Read the full insight report here.

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