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Such food on plates makes up 34% of the food waste in the sector, and a new University of Otago study argues that action is needed, given the pandemic.
The study, recently published in online journal ‘‘Sustainability’’, surveyed 1001 people about food waste when dining out and found people wasted more food if the meal was expensive, longer in duration or at dinnertime.
Saving money was also found to be the key motivator among consumers to reduce food waste, followed by saving hungry people, saving the planet and preventing guilt.
Lead author Francesca Goodman-Smith, who completed the research after finishing her master of science degree at Otago, was surprised people wasted more of a costly meal.
This could be because people dining in expensive establishments might have more disposable income and the value they placed on food for survival might be less than someone facing food insecurity, she said.
An industry representative involved in the university’s Food Waste Innovation Research Theme, she said too many food waste reduction campaigns focused on environmental incentives rather than on cost savings.
The pandemic had hit the sector and cost savings were essential for firms and customers.
For every dollar businesses invested in activity to cut food waste the hospitality sector could gain $14 of benefit.
This was a chance for cafes to make zero food waste the ‘‘new normal’’, she said.
Co-author Associate Prof Miranda Mirosa, of the Otago department of food science, said businesses could help by providing doggy bags, and allowing entrees to be ordered as mains.
Consumers could save by ordering smaller portions, taking their left-overs away, and could feel good by supporting the country’s moves to cut food waste, she said.