Food waste generated by the Mauritian hotel industry

Cheetra Bhajan (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Hudaa Neetoo (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Shane Hardowar (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Navindra Boodia (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Marie Françoise Driver (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Mahindra Chooneea (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Brinda Ramasawmy (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Dayawatee Goburdhun (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)
Arvind Ruggoo (Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius, Reduit, Mauritius)

Tourism Critiques

ISSN: 2633-1225

Article publication date: 14 September 2022

Issue publication date: 13 December 2022

6061

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to shed light on the phenomenon of food waste generation by the food and beverage sector of hotels of Mauritius as well as examine the current status of food waste management.

Keywords

Citation

Bhajan, C., Neetoo, H., Hardowar, S., Boodia, N., Driver, M.F., Chooneea, M., Ramasawmy, B., Goburdhun, D. and Ruggoo, A. (2022), "Food waste generated by the Mauritian hotel industry", Tourism Critiques, Vol. 3 No. 2, pp. 120-137. https://doi.org/10.1108/TRC-04-2022-0010

Publisher

:

Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Cheetra Bhajan, Hudaa Neetoo, Shane Hardowar, Navindra Boodia, Marie Françoise Driver, Mahindra Chooneea, Brinda Ramasawmy, Dayawatee Goburdhun and Arvind Ruggoo.

License

Published in Tourism Critiques: Practice and Theory. Published by Emerald Publishing Limited. This article is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) licence. Anyone may reproduce, distribute, translate and create derivative works of this article (for both commercial and non-commercial purposes), subject to full attribution to the original publication and authors. The full terms of this licence may be seen at http://creativecommons.org/licences/by/4.0/legalcode


Introduction

Food production is expected to increase by 70% between 2005 and 2050 to feed a projected global population of 9.1 billion people (Silva, 2018). However, achieving this target may be hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Every year, roughly one-third, or approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, of the edible parts of food produced for human consumption are lost or wasted globally. Food loss and waste have become a complex phenomenon, attracting the attention of scientists and activists alike. It is a global paradox that so much emphasis is placed on agriculture to improve food security while one-third of all food produced is wasted (Conserve energy future, 2017). Although the terms “food loss” and “food waste” are sometimes used interchangeably, they have different origins and scope. According to FAO (2014), food waste is defined as food originally intended for human consumption but not consumed by humans. Food loss, on the other hand, refers to food that is considered unfit for human consumption due to a decrease in the quantity and quality of food (Irani et al., 2017). The subject of food waste is a multidimensional issue with environmental, economic and social dimensions.

The environmental impact of food waste is due to the fact that the production of food is considerably resource-intensive. The overall amount of water needed for food production is estimated to be 250 cubic kilometers, which accounts for 70% of the earth’s water (Silvennoinen et al., 2014). Moreover, the total amount of land used in producing food on earth is around 1.4 billion hectares, which accounts for about 28% of the world’s total area. In addition, the transportation of food materials from one country to another requires a large amount of fossil fuel, and its storage uses electricity (FAO, 2013a, 2013b). Hence, food that is not consumed translates to a waste of natural resources used in its production. On the other hand, a reduction in food losses and waste automatically increases the availability of food for human consumption and reduces the burden on farmers. Mourad (2016) mentioned that food waste is accompanied by a range of environmental concomitants, such as soil erosion, deforestation, water and air pollution as well as greenhouse gas emissions that occur in the processes of food production, storage, transportation and waste management.

Apart from its adverse environmental impacts, food waste is also costly in terms of raw materials, labor, production, storage, serving as well as disposal (Waste and Resource Action Programme, WRAP, 2012). Because food waste can create unpleasant smells, attract bugs and hence give rise to diseases, it is important that the waste is properly disposed of by professional companies that are paid to collect it. Because food waste disposal is a frequent activity, this creates an overall heavy economic burden. Moreover, when any food item is discarded, the money invested in its production is also wasted. According to Baldwin and Shakman (2012), the food industry loses about 4%–10% of its investment in food production every day, and this has a significant toll on the company’s turnover.

The social dimension of food waste should also not be overlooked because food insecurity is tightly linked to social problems such as famine and undernourishment. It is estimated that 795 million individuals suffer from chronic undernutrition worldwide, and this number is expected to increase in the future (World Hunger News, 2016). If the food wasted that occurs all over the world could be saved, it would be enough to feed all the hungry people that exist because most of the foods that are wasted are perfectly edible (FAO, 2017a, 2017b). If recovered, these foods could even feed animals. Reducing food loss and waste is thus garnering increased global interest and actions by governments, food supply chain actors and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

According to Pirani and Arafat (2016a), the tourism industry is thought to contribute toward 9% of the total food waste generated by the food sector. Worldwide, hotels produce an average of 289,700 tonnes of waste each year, including 79,000 tonnes of food waste. Indeed, recent studies have demonstrated that the food and beverage (F&B) sector contributes nearly 12% of total food waste (Tostivint et al., 2016). Mauritius is a popular tourist destination, attracting an average of 1.8 million visitors per year (Statistics Mauritius, 2019). Yet, there is currently a dearth of information concerning food waste generation in the hospitality sector of Mauritius. The latter, being a member of the United Nations (UN), needs to contribute toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), one of which is to “halve the per capita food waste at the retail and consumer level and reduce food loss along production and supply chains by 2030.” Moreover, there is a lack of published data on food wastage specifically produced by the hospitality sector.

The study is therefore aimed at shedding light on the food waste problem of the F&B sector of the hotel industry in Mauritius through qualitative (interviews and visual observations) and quantitative methods of data collection. Given the complexity and multidimensional nature of the food wastage problem, it is hoped that baseline data gathered from the study will be an eye-opener for hoteliers and various actors in the food supply chain as well as social and environmental NGOs. Furthermore, this research may also reinforce the commitments of the different partners toward achieving several of the UN SDGs.

Literature review

Tourism has become an important springboard for economic development in a large number of Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Mauritius is an example of such a SIDS which emphasizes quality tourism and high value addition within the local economy (Wing et al., 1995). In addition to the central role of the tourism sector in the local economy, Mauritius is also well positioned in the European market, having a positive gap between overall perceptions and expectations of tourists (Naidoo and Ramseook-Munhurrun, 2012). Studies measuring the brand image attributes of Mauritius as a holiday destination, have revealed several positive functional and psychological attributes such as “white beaches,” “cultural and historical sites,” “ecotourism and nature-based activities,” “family activities,” “standard of hotels,” “local cuisine,” “festivals, events and handicrafts,” “cultural diversity,” “nightlife,” “spa facilities” and “golf and water sports,” which together motivate tourists to travel long distances to reach the destination (Naidoo and Ramseook-Munhurrun, 2012). It is thus not surprising that the tourism industry of Mauritius represents one of the most important pillars of the country’s economy.

The tourism and hotel industry is a sector that functions in annual cycles based on seasons, with the peak months spanning the months of June till August. Hotel attendance is estimated to be significantly higher during that period while the off-peak period is between the months of November to March (S. Archaraz, personal communication, November 2019). The two main factors that influence seasonality of the hotel industry are usually climate and the institution (Guinefolleau, 2019). European countries have typically been the main feeders of the Mauritian hotel industry and contributed 59% of tourist arrivals in 2018 (Price Water House Coopers, 2020). In fact, the number of international visitor arrivals has grown at a compounded annual rate of 3.9% over the past 10 years (Price Water House Coopers, 2020).

The tourism industry of the island Mauritius is also known for its eclectic gastronomy after its pleasant climate and picturesque scenery (Republic of Mauritius, 2018). Each tourist views food in a different way, as along with satisfying a basic human need, food can also deliver a unique experience. For some tourists, exploring a destination’s cuisine can even be a primary motivator for travel because it can act to experience the cultural heritage and identity of a particular destination. Even when the reason behind travel is not food, it can serve as an enjoyable contributing factor in the tourism industry (Berbel-Pineda et al., 2019). While some travellers are attracted by the authenticity of local cuisine during their journeys, others may prefer to enjoy more familiar foods to avoid unpleasant risks. Additional elements that are thought to contribute to a tourist’s food consumption behavior include religious and cultural background (Mak et al., 2012).

Unfortunately, a concomitant of the tourism industry is the generation of a large percentage of food waste and the expansion of Mauritian hotel sector would almost certainly contribute to an increase in food waste generation. A food item becomes waste when it fails to be used by an employee or a consumer of a food service (Santeramo and Lamonaca, 2021). Not only does it include food thrown away, but food waste also includes food consumed in excess that is more than 2,000 kcal per day (Sundin et al., 2021). In the longer run, overconsumption of food causes obesity and other health problems, contributes to the country’s burden of noncommunicable diseases, and is thus an unsustainable practice (Hall and Scott, 2018). Food wastage incorporates not only solid food but also liquid products such as milk and juice. Even waste generated by the kitchen, for instance, eggshells, peels of fruits and vegetables and unused animal grease, are considered food waste. In fact, food wastage can be categorized into avoidable, partially avoidable and nonavoidable (unavoidable) food wastage (Cuglin et al., 2017). Avoidable food wastage represents wastage that could have been completely prevented and includes overproduction of food due to poor planning, leftovers, serving of large portion sizes, cooking mistakes or poor inventory management leading to expiration of food (WRAP, 2020). Unavoidable food wastage includes inedible parts of food, such as eggshells. Most of these wastes are not hazardous and can be composted or separated into different categories before being sent to various waste treatment plants. Partially avoidable food wastage includes food wastage such as carcasses, which can be reused in the making of stew (Voća, 2014). In terms of the environmental impact of the hotel industry, the International Hotel Environmental Initiative estimated that on average, an amount of 0.8–1.2 kg of waste is generated daily per guest, which typically doubles on checkout days (Abdulredha et al., 2018). Although most of this quantity is made up of solid waste (e.g. packaging), food waste accounts for a significant portion (more than one-third), with approximately 75% of it still being edible.

As a SIDS that is geographically isolated from major economic markets, Mauritius already faces inherent vulnerabilities and limited natural resources (UN, 2021). This is exacerbated by the country’s self-sufficiency in a few food crops and highly reliance on remote markets for food supplies (Ramasawmy and Neetoo, 2021). As Pirani and Arafat (2016b) pointed out, the tourism industry should play a major role in addressing the food wastage problem by identifying the contributing inputs and factors. The tourism sector of Mauritius in particular, will need to evolve rapidly in the face of various emerging challenges such as climate change (Sultan, 2021), the COVID-19 pandemic and geopolitical conflicts which disproportionately affect SIDS economies. Actors in the F&B industry will need to adopt more sustainable practices, with a focus on food services that take into account the nuances of the local food as well as cultural food norms.

Unfortunately, to date, there is a scarcity of research on food waste management in the hospitality sector of SIDS, including Mauritius, with the majority of studies being conducted in nonisland economies and developed countries (Papargyropoulou et al., 2019). Although there is a wide array of publications characterizing the tourism sector of Mauritius (Juwaheer and Lee Ross, 2003; Naidoo and Ramseook-Munhurrun, 2012) and even broad aspects of sustainable tourism (Makoondlall-Chadee et al., 2021), there is a dearth of specific data on sustainable food production and management practices and food wastage in hotels. Moreover, while food waste has been extensively discussed in the local media, it has yet to receive adequate academic attention (Filimonau and De Coteau, 2018). The objectives of the study were therefore to explore the food waste generation and management strategies by the F&B sector of hotels of Mauritius having different star ratings, during both peak and off-peak seasons.

Methodology

The methodological approach adopted was a mixed method, comprising of semistructured and in-depth interviews, visual observations on-site and quantitative data collection (Figure 1). The units of analysis for the research were six hotels that were agreeable to participate in the case study, given the complexity of obtaining a random sample in this situation (Table 1). The hotels were situated in the north, east, south and west of Mauritius. Being a tropical island surrounded by the sea, most tourist hotels of Mauritius are situated along the coast. Figure 2 shows the geographical location of the hotels from which data was collected. A facility tour was done at each hotel to delineate the different departments such as the store, kitchen, buffet and dining hall and to understand the flow of food materials and food waste across these departments (Figure 3). Food waste generation was studied from the time of purchase of raw food supplies, through food storage, preparation and cooking, consumption and, finally, discarding of food waste (Papargyropoulou et al., 2019).

Semistructured and in-depth interviews

Interviews were conducted with F&B managers, chefs and waiters at the six hotels to gather information on:

  1. their general knowledge and awareness of the problem of food wastage in hotels;

  2. drivers of food wastage; and

  3. the preventive practices for food waste management.

F&B managers, chefs and waiters were the preferred participants in the interview because they had immediate access to data on food waste generated on a daily basis. At the beginning of each interview session, a brief description of the study objectives was explained. The questions of interview are summarized in Table 2.

Visual observations on-site

Data collection also involved recording and categorizing the different types of food wasted in the F&B sector of the hotels under study. Categorization is an important step in determining the best waste management option for various types of food waste. To characterize the types of food waste, qualitative assessment was performed. This was done by determining the type of food being discarded for a period of 10 consecutive days. Food wasted was classified as:

Quantification of food waste

A material flow analysis (MFA) method as previously used by Pirani and Arafat (2016b) was adopted for quantitative data collection. MFA is a “systematic assessment of the state and change of materials flow and stock in space and time” (Brunner and Rechberger, 2017). Quantification of food waste generated by each department was monitored over a period of 10 days. The length of the waste quantification exercise exceeded the recommended three-day duration by WRAP and the Sustainable Restaurant Association, to improve data reliability (Reynolds et al., 2019). Waste from the different sections of the kitchen, dining hall leftovers and buffet leftovers were manually sorted to separate food from nonfood items in bags of garbage. Food waste materials were weighed directly using a portable electronic scale(s) with a capacity of 1–150 kg (CAS).

Results and discussion

Semistructured and in-depth interviews with hotel personnel

From the interviews, most of the respondents acknowledged that there was a food wastage problem at the hotels, albeit to different extents. Most F&B managers interviewed (five out of six) indicated that prolonged storage of food raw materials, physical damage, browning, staling and fungal growth were significant causes of food waste at the preparation stage. Moreover, the general challenge felt across all hotels was being able to strike a balance between preparing the correct amount of food to satisfy all customers while keeping wastage to a strict minimum. Indeed, the contribution of overproduction to food wastage was also reiterated by the main chef of Clarion Hotel Helsinki, Finland during his interview about the causes of food waste (Linh, 2018). F&B managers further mentioned that staff behavior was another influential driver of food waste. For instance, newly recruited staffs who were still being trained had a tendency to make mistakes during food preparation thereby resulting in food wastage. In addition, F&B managers described the employees as being poorly skilled at fruit and vegetable peeling and they threw away parts of fresh produce which were still edible. Heikkilä et al. (2016) identified eight key elements influencing production of food waste, one of which was related to the employees’ professional skills. The author explained that mistakes made by an untrained employee could be due to incorrect or heedless interpretation or reading of a recipe. Care, meticulousness and the ability to follow instructions were regarded as important considerations of professional skills (Heikkilä et al., 2016). Another major driver for food waste that was mentioned during interviews was the daily provision of buffet spreads. Buffets involve having the food ready and available for customers to help themselves. Mauritius has classically been regarded as a major tourist destination with a focus essentially on the sun, sand and sea paradigm (Dabeedooal, 2021). The author indicated that this type of resort tourism relies on beachfront hotels providing excellent hospitality. With the rich cultural diversity of Mauritius, there is a strong interest to additionally position Mauritius as a culinary tourism destination (Republic of Mauritius, 2018). As such, expected standards from tourists are high and rapidly changing (Juwaheer and Lee Ross, 2003), causing hotels to invest largely on food. According to the F&B managers, hotels offer buffet spreads, especially during important events where a large variety of food is prepared to render the buffet more attractive and to satisfy customers. Not to mention that a variety of cuisine themes and decorative foods are additionally organized to give hotel residents a chance to feast, especially during periods of religious and national festivities. Interview participants also indicated that the food displayed should always look fresh and appealing, thus compelling the staff to refill the buffet so that it always looks plentiful. Replenishing is typically done till the end of the buffet even when the number of customers declines. According to the interview participants, this type of service in the hospitality industry poses a major challenge with respect to food waste reduction. Juvan et al. (2017) also noted that the buffet-style of catering has an important influence on the amount of waste generated. The F&B managers also mentioned that as we are living in a digital age, bad reviews on sites such as Booking.com and Trip advisor can tarnish the reputation of a particular hotel. Hence, they refrain from interfering with customers’ behavior, including food wasting behavior, because there is a risk of getting a poor review on online hotel rating sites. Another driver of buffet-associated wastage mentioned by the F&B personnel is the fact that many guests, especially those originating from European countries, had a tendency to make conservative choices for continental breakfast items such as toasts, pastries and pancakes, highlighting the role of familiarity and cultural proximity in food selection. As a result, the staff mentioned considerable leftover of non-Western breakfast items such as fritters, rice and curries. Similarly, occidental food items such as pizzas and pastas were found to be more appealing to guests from Western countries, resulting in large amounts of leftover of more oriental dishes on the menu. Another important consideration that was mentioned by the chefs of hotels when serving buffet spreads is the need to respect a standard “hold time” of 3 h due to food safety concerns. Thus, food left on buffet tables for longer than 3 h are no longer considered fit for consumption and have to be thrown away. The high turnover of food is also another major contributory factor of food waste.

Further to shedding light on drivers of food waste, the participants were also asked about preventive practices against food wastage. For instance, the personnel of the different hotels indicated that in the store, a color-coding system was used. Such a system tagged products that were closer to expiry dates, with a specific color to allow them to be used prior to other products. The system made sure that all products were used timeously before expiration to avoid wastage. Second, the “First-In, First-Out” approach was also used ensuring that products received earlier were given priority. This method was considered effective by the interviewees as it significantly reduces the chance for product spoilage, hence minimizing food waste. In one of the five-star hotels, the F&B manager mentioned keeping the cold storage under 24 h surveillance so that in case of power outage, the person in charge would be alerted via mail or short message service. Necessary actions could thus be taken to avoid the occurrence of temperature abuse leading to food spoilage. Furthermore, in one of the four-star hotels, the chef mentioned using ozonated water to wash food items such as meat, seafood, fruits and vegetables to extend their shelf life. Ozone washing systems are very effective at cleaning food items. This can be attributed to the capacity of ozone in creating hydroxyl radicals that inhibits the growth of pathogens on the surface of food products (Sarron et al., 2021).

Visual observation on-site at hotels

In addition to interviews, visual observation of the flow of raw materials and food products along the different F&B sections (Figure 3) was also conducted. At each hotel, meat and fish were prepared in the butchery section, bread and desserts in the pastry area, fruits and vegetables in the vegetable area and the main courses in the main kitchen. The stores for raw materials were found to be equipped with chill rooms set at a temperature of 5–6°C and a deep freezer set at −20°C for the storage of chilled (fruit juice, cheese, etc.) and frozen (meat, seafood, etc.) food, respectively. From the store, the raw materials were distributed to the hotels’ kitchens, which consisted of different compartments (butchery, vegetable area, pastry and main kitchen). After preparation in the kitchen, food was then displayed on the buffet table for consumers. In all hotels studied, food was served at all three meal times of the day, i.e. breakfast, lunch and dinner.

It was generally observed that hotel guests were major contributors to food waste. In fact, customers have often been blamed for the high food waste generation rates in restaurants (Evans, 2011). In this study, they were often observed to be oblivious of the consequences of food waste and this could likely be attributed to a lack of sensitization on this sensitive matter. In fact, no notice or signs were observed in any of the dining halls of hotels discouraging this practice. Hence, lack of knowledge could likely be the principal driver of food waste among consumers.

As far as remedial measures against food wastage are concerned, it was observed that in five-star hotels, leftovers at the food preparation stage were sorted allowing some products to be used again. Indeed, “re-use” is one of the three R’s of the waste hierarchy (Simon, 2013) and foods that were in good condition were transformed into other products. For example, fruits and vegetables were used to make jams and some animal carcasses were used to make stew. Similarly, offals which refer to carcasses as well as internal organs of animals were salvaged after butchering or skinning to make certain niche dishes. In international cuisine, some offal dishes such as foie gras, pâté and sweetbreads are actually considered as gourmet food (Young, 2018). Insect repelling devices were also used widely in the restaurants of hotels to prevent insects from entering food, thus avoiding contamination (Mezes, 2018) that would otherwise lead to unnecessary wastage. Moreover, hotels were also found to set up live cooking stations at buffets, where chefs prepared dishes fresh on demand. Live cooking prevents the need for producing a large amount of food as consumers only take the food item(s) of their choice with their desired portion size leading to less food waste (Sandaruwani and Gnanapala, 2016). At the same time, live cooking stations provide an opportunity for guests to interact with hotel chefs while enjoying intense visual impressions that tantalize all senses. One of the three-star hotels practiced donation of consumers’ leftovers to farmers who in turn, used them as feed for livestock animals. Along with alleviating the scourge of food wastage, farmers also save money which would otherwise be spent in buying animal feed. Being an omnivorous animal, swine is usually best suited for feeding on food waste. One five-star hotel was also certified “Green Key,” a leading international eco-label awarded to accommodations and other hospitality facilities that commit to sustainable business practices (Ilina et al., 2019). Awarded establishments must comply with strict criteria and are independently monitored through regular on-site audits. Figure 4 represents the most to least practiced food waste management strategies observed at the studied hotels.

Characterization of food waste

The main types of food waste observed at the different stages of food preparation are listed in Table 3. Food waste that occurred during preparation was found to be mostly “unavoidable” and “partially avoidable” while food waste that occurred on buffet and consumers’ plates was mostly “avoidable.” The findings of the study agree with Costello et al. (2016), who also divided food waste into edible and inedible wastes. Inedible waste refers to food waste that occurs before consumption and includes organic material, such as animal skin, that is thrown away during food preparation. The other type is food waste after consumption, which is the food remaining on the guests’ plates while still being perfectly edible. Other studies have similarly classified food waste into several categories based on the edibility and noted that food waste can be avoidable (edible parts of the food), unavoidable (inedible parts of the food, such as bones and fruit skin) or possibly avoidable (WRAP, 2020). “Possibly avoidable waste” refers to those food items that are consumed by some based on personal preferences. For instance, bread crusts and potato skins are consumed by some people but not by others. Edible or avoidable food waste generally represents a considerable percentage of total food waste (Marthinsen et al., 2012). Possible reasons for generation of a large amount of edible, avoidable waste can be because of poor sensorial quality of the food, personal preferences of consumers or incorrect judgment of the ability to consume all the food that has been dished out on the plates (Cox and Downing, 2007; Lam, 2010).

Quantification of food waste

Table 4 compares the total amount of food waste generated in the F&B section of hotels of different ratings. It can be seen from the data collected that on a daily basis, above 100 kg of food was lost in all studied hotels, both during peak and off-peak seasons. In fact, more than 200 kg of food was wasted in two of the hotels studied. One likely explanation for the sheer amount of food wasted could be because hotel guests tended to serve themselves larger amounts at hotels and restaurants than at home whereby only a limited variety of food is prepared. Indeed, Wansink and van Ittersum (2013) indicated that people eat 45% more food and waste 135% more food at buffets when large plates are available. The tendency for hotel guests to fill up their plates could be attributed to a number of reasons, such as the feeling of “being entitled because of having paid for the service,” the feeling that they can indulge on their “cheat day” as well as the perceived abundance and diversity of food, ultimately leading to greater food wastage. World Bank (2018) reported that around 1,500 people suffer from hunger in Mauritius. According to CEIC (2020), there are around 100 hotels in Mauritius. Therefore, it can be estimated that the total amount of food wasted by the hotel industry of Mauritius, if preserved correctly, could curtail food insecurity in the country.

The relative contribution of the different sections of the F&B department to food waste is shown in Figure 5 and indeed customers were by far the biggest contributors to food waste (Evans, 2011). Table 5 compares the amount of food waste at the level of consumers’ plates in hotels of different ratings. Again, the quantity of food waste generated was higher during the peak season than the off-peak season. This can be related to the occupancy rates at the hotels, which were on average higher during the peak season. Because more food waste occurred on consumers’ plates, a higher number of guests at the hotel would explain the increase in food waste during peak season. The amount of food wasted at the consumers’ plates ranged from 0.16 kg to 0.66 kg per day per guest, with guests from three-star hotels wasting more than four- or five-star hotel residents. Although these figures are less alarming than statistics (0.8–1.2 kg) reported by the International Hotel Environmental Initiative, the impact of this phenomenon cannot be ignored for a country such as Mauritius which is a net importer of food and is still recovering from the COVID-19-induced contraction.

According to Papargyropoulou et al. (2014), food waste in hotels can be up to eight times higher among wasteful customers than less wasteful ones. However, when hotel occupancy rates are high, people with greater food wasting behavior tend to influence those who are less wasteful. In fact, Juvan et al. (2017) explained that hotel guests generate more food waste in restaurants when crowded due to a higher perceived anonymity (Bucciol et al., 2015). With greater anonymity of customers, there is less communication among guests and hotel staffs, ultimately leading to a “let go” attitude.

To foster a “Zero food wastage culture” in the hotel sector of Mauritius, a positive change in the mindset is required from both actors in the hospitality sector as well as customers. Customer education remains key and it therefore calls for aggressive sensitization on this issue of great environmental and socioeconomic importance. It is also hoped that associations of hoteliers in Mauritius take the lead to harmonize best practices for sustainable food management. These practices could include keeping a “food waste diary,” shifting to “portion plates” and regular training of staff among others. Moreover, hotels should work in concert with NGOs and charity organizations to mount robust food rescue programs to allow overproduced foods to be donated to the needy in a timely and safe manner. With tourism becoming an increasingly important economic plank for the country’s development, the hospitality sector will need to stay abreast of latest cutting-edge technologies such as Internet 4.0 to become more sustainable. For example, the use of Internet of Things in the management of supply chains could help to reduce food waste and reinforce our national food security strategy.

Conclusion

Food waste comes at an exorbitant cost for the hotel industry and this is more pronounced for Mauritius, a resource-limited small island developing state. This study has unveiled various factors responsible for food waste generation in the F&B departments of hotels. Moreover, findings from this research have also shed light on the habits and practices of personnel and hotel guests that contribute to food waste. To our knowledge, our study is the first to report hotel seasonality, star-ratings of hotels, food familiarity and cultural proximity of guests as factors influencing amount of food wasted. It is also worth mentioning that although food wastage occurred at all stages of the food preparation chain, as high as 40% of the overall food wasted daily occurred at the level of the consumers’ plate. This could be attributed to lack of awareness and sensitization of consumers on the environmental, social and economic impacts of food waste. Baseline data gathered from this study are of immediate relevance to hoteliers and can be used to inform policymaking. Moreover, this study serves as a precursor for future research where new metrics can be devised to calculate and predict food waste based on well-characterized indicators such as planning and portion size indicators as well as new indicators reported in this study. With the growing importance of Mauritius as an increasingly popular holiday destination, this report will help the tourism industry better manage the growing problem of food waste by identifying the inputs and factors that contribute to the problem and assist hotels in acquiring a green hotel label.

Figures

Methodological approach adopted in the study

Figure 1.

Methodological approach adopted in the study

Location of participating hotels belonging to different categories

Figure 2.

Location of participating hotels belonging to different categories

Flow of raw materials and food products along the different F&B sections of studied hotels

Figure 3.

Flow of raw materials and food products along the different F&B sections of studied hotels

Most to least practiced food waste management strategies in studied hotels

Figure 4.

Most to least practiced food waste management strategies in studied hotels

Breakdown of average food wasted daily (kg) in the different food sections of six hotels

Figure 5.

Breakdown of average food wasted daily (kg) in the different food sections of six hotels

Details of hotels approached for the study

Hotel star-rating Period of study Type of clientele No. of case study units
3-star hotels Peak and off-peak seasons Tourists mainly 2
4-star hotels 2
5-star hotels 2
Total 6

Interview questions

Question no. Questions list
 1. Do you think that there is a food wastage problem at the hotel?
 2. In which of the following categories would you classify most of the food waste?
  • Nonavoidable (eggs shells, vegetable skins, animal bones)

  • Avoidable (uneaten food from client plates, cooking mistakes)

  • Possibly avoidable (expired food, over ripe fruits)

 3. According to you, during which meal of the day is food most wasted?
 4. Do you think that during the period of festivities (Christmas, New Year, Diwali, etc.), the amount food waste on the buffet increases?
 5. Does difference in ethnicity usually have an impact on buffet food wastage?
 6. What according to you are the main causes of food wastage?
 7. Do you think staffs are trained enough (in terms of food preparation, food storage and cooking skills) to minimize food wastage at the hotel?
 8. Do you think that buffet leftover food is still safe for consumption?
 9. Does the hotel currently have a program in place for food waste management?
10. We are interested in gathering the best ideas from around the country for cutting down on food waste. Do you have any to share?

Main types of food waste at different F&B sections of studied hotels

Area Examples of food waste Types of food waste
Store Rejected items due to product expiration Avoidable
Product damage, presence of molds in food, dented food cans Unavoidable
Butchery Animal skin, carcasses, bones, fish fines Unavoidable
Vegetable area Fruits and vegetables skin, moldy fruits Unavoidable
Remnants from carved fruits, deformed whole fruits Partially avoidable
Pastry Fruits and vegetables skin, egg shells Unavoidable
Main kitchen Waste due to cooking, cutting errors, e.g. burnt food Partially avoidable
Buffet Food exposed but not consumed – leftovers Partially avoidable
Consumer’s plate Uneaten food Avoidable

Average mass of food waste generated in the F&B section of hotels of different ratings

Rate of food wastage 3 Star 4 Star 5 Star
H1 H2 H1 H2 H1 H2
Total amount of food wasted over two weeks (kg) Peak 1,294 1,378 2,372 1,774 2,521 1,239
Off peak 1,278 1,282 1,161 1,204 1,886 1,005
Mean mass of food wasted daily (kg per day) Peak 129 ± 5.43 138 ± 4.93 237 ± 3.34 177 ± 3.16 252 ± 2.57 123 ± 3.80
Off peak 127 ± 1.08 128 ± 2.75 116 ± 3.58 120 ± 3.50 188 ± 6.35 100 ± 5.54

Average mass of food wasted at consumers’ plate in hotels of different ratings

Parameter Season 3 Star 4 Star 5 Star
Breakfast Lunch Dinner Total Breakfast Lunch Dinner Total Breakfast Lunch Dinner Total
Rate of food wastage (kg per day) Peak 15.9 ± 1.6 17.3 ± 1.2 18.4 ± 1.1 59.7 ± 3.5 27.0 ± 1.1 27.7 ± 1.0 27.1 ± 1.1 81.8±1.9 24.0 ± 2.41 26.7 ± 1.46 32.6 ± 3.65 98.2 ± 3.34
Off Peak 9.4 ± 2.4 13.4 ± 2.6 17.0 ± 1.8 44.1 ± 3.6 17.9 ± 2.6 19.3 ± 2.9 28.4 ± 3.4 55.1 ± 4.0 22.8 ± 6.7 24.6 ± 2.7 30.0 ± 3.0 83.9 ± 11.4
Number of guests Peak 95 374 317
Off Peak 67 334 297
Rate of food wasted per guest (kg per day per guest) Peak
0.17 0.18 0.19 0.63 0.07 0.07 0.07 0.22 0.08 0.08 0.10 0.31
Off Peak 0.14 0.20 0.25 0.66 0.05 0.06 0.09 0.16 0.08 0.08 0.10 0.28

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to the University of Mauritius for funding this project (RA 010). The support of the hotel personnel who provided their time, information and insight is deeply acknowledged. The team is also thankful to Mr Vishw Mangar for assisting in data collection at selected hotels.

Corresponding author

Hudaa Neetoo can be contacted at: s.neetoo@uom.ac.mu

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