WRAP, a climate action nongovernmental organization based in the United Kingdom, has been focused on food waste and its causes for many years. A new report presents findings of research WRAP has carried out to understand citizen experiences when eating a sit-down meal out of home, and the attitudes and behaviors that lead to or prevent food waste. The report, “Citizen Food Waste Attitudes And Behaviors Out Of Home,” found “a strong association between portion sizes and levels of reported leftover food — both of which have increased since March 2020. Furthermore, there is a relationship between the number of courses ordered and the amount of food left uneaten.”
Levels of self-reported uneaten food are highest among 18- to 44-year-olds, diners with younger children, people eating as part of a large group, and those eating with work colleagues. By contrast, there is no link between food left uneaten and different kinds of food venues — the research suggests that food waste is occurring across all food venues. Potatoes/chips and salads and garnishes continue to be cited as the food items most likely to be left uneaten. The qualitative research also suggests that on some occasions garnishes are not even necessarily conceptualized as food that could be eaten (as opposed to a decorative element).
While the research indicates that, on the one hand, around three in five citizens are bothered by food waste in an out-of-home setting, it also shows that portion sizing is also closely intertwined with perceptions about the “value for money” of the meal, notes the WRAP report. “Addressing food waste associated with portioning must be approached with sensitivity to ensure that expectations of the consumer are balanced with appropriate action on plate waste. However, understanding plate waste (alongside other operational food waste areas) also presents an opportunity for cost savings within the business.”