The hospitality industry is wasting the equivalent of 1.3b meals a year, according to new research.
A study by the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) and restaurant booking platform Bookatable has revealed that annual food wastage in the hospitality sector amounts to 920,000 tonnes, at a cost of £2.5b.
While consumers are increasingly acting more sustainably at home by recycling and reusing products, it appears they are less likely to adopt the same attitude when eating out.
A poll of over 1,000 consumers who regularly eat in restaurants showed that only a third (32%) of people would feel guilty if they thought the meal they ordered came at an environmental or social cost. This contrasts with consumer attitudes in the home where 92% of people buy free range eggs, 72% select free range meat or poultry, 82% choose seasonal fruit and vegetables and 41% search for ethical certificates when buying food.
Many restaurant-goers assume it is the responsibility of restaurants to make sustainable choices for them. However, the SRA and Bookatable said that consumers also have a role to play. "For example, by asking for a doggy box to take home, diners can ensure that they not only don't waste a mouthful of their delicious meal, but can help to reduce the estimated £2.5 billion of food wastage every year generated by the hospitality industry," they declared.
The research also reveals that there is an appetite for more sustainability in the restaurant industry, with 78% of those polled claiming they would be willing to pay more for food they knew was of higher quality and 65% of restaurateurs claiming that their revenue has been boosted following the introduction of socially and environmentally responsible policies.
Joe Steele, chief executive of Bookatable, said: "The key issues for progress are consumer interest and awareness; diners have the power to drive change in the restaurant industry by expecting more and actively pursuing sustainable options. Some restaurants have already made huge progress in the areas of sustainability, but there is more work to be done".