Thai Hotels: Controlling Food Waste to Protect the Planet

Thailand, TCEB, sustainability, food waste

To be “green” in the hotel industry is to not only plant trees and optimise water usage and electricity consumption, but also to strive to reduce food waste — a task, which many hoteliers still ignore. However, Sampran Riverside hotel, in Thailand’s Nakhon Pathom province, is setting a new benchmark for the industry.

Sampran Riverside’s Managing Director Arrut Navaraj surely must be happy, after listening to the advice of Benjamin Lephilibert, head of Lightblue Environmental Consulting, a company which analyzes food waste in the hotel industry and provides tailor-made solutions for any property interested to better control waste in that field.

“This is an important step to assure sustainability and cut down on expenses in a hotel,” explains Benjamin Lephilibert. “Many hotels are not aware of the potential savings. When talking to chefs, they often quantify food waste to 250 grams per cover. But when we start to analyze food consumption, we quickly see that food waste per guest can go up to 500 gr. and even in some hotel to one kilo.”

A normal human consumes up to 500 gr. of food per meal. However, some hotels calculate the ratio per cover at 2.5 kg. By setting best practices in order, including storage, forecast, tracking, and recycling of food supply, hotels can expect to cut food consumption waste by between 20% and 40% without impacting on the quality of what they offer.

“For example,” adds Lephilibert, “for a hotel which has an average of 12,000 covers per month, the expected savings can reach US$30,000.”

While most hoteliers and hotel companies are fighting food waste, and understand the rational behind the move, implementing a reduction program is often more complicated. “It is opposed largely due to psychological reasons. For a hotel owner or hotelier, showing plenty of food in a hotel is a sign of quality and matches self-imposed standards,” says Benjamin Lephilibert.

With the endorsement of Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), Lightblue Consulting set up a cooperation with the Sampran Riverside hotel (ex. Rose Garden Riverside) in Nakhon Pathom province.

The hotel is well known already for its commitment to environment. In the last eight years, the hotel redefined totally its relation with suppliers by favouring local farmers in the hotel surrounding. Today, food supply comes to 70% from local organic farms. “We work with some 12 farms  in the area”, describes Managing Director, Arrut Navaraj.

The Sampran Riverside went than a step further and is now  the first organisation in Thailand to comply with the food waste prevention standard Under the program “the pledge on food waste”.

After one year of cooperation between Sampran Riverside and Lightblue Consulting, the results are obvious. According to Navaraj, the Sampran achieved food waste reduction by about 20 kg per day, and food cost reduction by three percentage points. “This translates for us into a twelve per cent reduction in food cost per cover. The hotel already managed to  save up to THB2 million (US$61,000) a year.

The most difficult part for controlling food waste is the educational aspect. “We had to explain to all the staff the benefits of such a program and how it does translate in the hotel daily management; and of course, we also have to implement educational work  with guests. In both cases, the ‘losing-face factor’ must be taken into consideration to have a sensitive approach,” Navaraj explains.

The hotel further implemented recycling programs in all fields of the food chain — cold storage, fresh-cut fruit and vegetables, guest dishes, and on the buffet line. “The majority of food waste came from guest dishes, representing as much as 60%, followed by buffet line (30%), and fruit and vegetables storage with 10%.

Recycling food waste has translated into turning fruits and vegetable into fertilizer, biodiesel, and/or vegetable oil. Leftover food in good condition is also given to people in-need.

According to Lightblue Consulting, the Sampran Riverside hotel’s Food Efficiency Indicator (FEI) — calculated with the ratio of total food waste to total food purchased — reached 90.7% during the first year of the program implementation.”We hope to reach 100% in the near future,” adds Arrut Navaraj.

The “pledge on food waste” is aligned with the United Nations’ Food Loss and Waste Draft Standard, and is endorsed by the Thailand Convention and Exhibition Bureau (TCEB), which wants to create new sustainability standards and practices for MICE companies. The official recognition of Sampran Riverside is a first step and shows the way for more hotels to help Thailand tourism industry to achieve its vision of becoming a total green destination in the future.

More information about the program can be found online at: www.thepledgeonfoodwaste.org