’Plate Waste’ Reducing Methods in Hotel Breakfast Buffets

Summary by: Tamás Szallabek


According to the UN Food Waste Index 2021, most data on food waste (FW) are available from households; there are fewer measurements being conducted in other sectors. In the hospitality sector, which is the third biggest source of FW, significant gaps exist in terms of data availability (UNEP 2021). Previous studies have shown that buffet-style catering generates large amounts of FW (HOTREC 2017), especially in luxury hotels. According to the European Commission’s report, the most common causes of food waste include lack of awareness and knowledge among both customers and workers. Other causes include poor planning and inadequate portion logistics, mainly due to shortcomings in the kitchen (EUROPEAN COMMISSION 2010).

There are several effective practices Internationally for reducing food waste (FW). Reducing the diameter of the plate by only 3 cm can decrease plate waste by 19.5%. Additionally, deploying warning signs to draw attention to the issue can reduce plate waste by 20.5%. Alternatively, having an open kitchen or a cook making eggs to order can also achieve similar results (Kallbekken – SÆLen 2013).

The best practices in a hotel breakfast buffet in Hungary were studied and their effectiveness measured (Nemes and Karakasné 2023). The FW generated by guests declined by 17.8% when warning signs with additional placemats were used.  Analysing guest behaviour many interesting findings were revealed: (1) a weak correlation (R=0.34) between the number of people in the restaurant and the generated food waste, which is in contrast with the believe that when more people are in the restaurant, they tend to waste more because they fear that their favourite meal will go out of stock, leading them to take bigger portions that they will not eat; (2) people are more likely to refuse food that is visually unappealing yet leaving food in the buffet after meals results in significant waste and keeping the displayed food fresh and warm is a challenge; (3) women tend to consume less food at once than men, but return to the buffet more frequently, however 27% of women admitted to leaving food on their plates, whereas only 4% of men did so; (4) regular customers often complained about the lack of diversity in the breakfast buffet, but considering that in the hotel where this test was conducted, which mainly caters to business people. Increasing meal variety can lead to more food waste as there are more food to leave at the buffet and a bigger stock that needs to be managed.

This Hungarian study (Nemes and Karakasné 2023) confirms that food waste in hotel buffets can be significantly reduced through the use of different ‘plate waste’ reducing methods and by increasing guest awareness. However, further measures are needed to promote sustainable consumption in hotels, such as addressing the problem of keeping food fresh and increasing the variety of breakfast buffet.

It is important to find solutions that not only reduce food waste, but also provide a better guest experience. This can not only make hotels more environmentally friendly but can also bring business benefits by encouraging sustainable consumption and improving the hotel experience.


EUROPEAN COMMISSION (2010). Preparatory study on food waste across EU 27 – Final report. Publications Office. Directorate-General for Environment. https://data.europa.eu/ doi/10.2779/85947

HOTREC (HOTELS, RESTAURANTS AND CAFÉS IN EUROPE) (2017). European hospitality industry guidelines to reduce Food Waste and Recommendations to Manage Food Donations. http://datas.com/hotrec/hospitalityguidelines-food-waste/index.html#1/z

KALLBEKKEN, S. – SÆLEN, H. (2013). ’Nudging’ hotel guests to reduce food waste as a winwin environmental measure. Economics Letters. 119(3). pp. 325–327.https://doi.org/10.1016/j. econlet.2013.03.019

Nemes, P. – Karakasné, K., M. (2023). An examination of ’plate waste’ reducing methods in case of buffet breakfast. Turizmus Bulletin. 23(4). DOI: 10.14267/TURBULL.2023v23n4.2

UNEP (United Nation Environmental Programme) (2021). Food Waste Index Report 2021. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Avenue. https://www. unep.org/resources/report/unep-food-wasteindex-report-2021

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