More than one-third of all available food goes uneaten through loss or waste every year in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This waste has has far-reaching impacts on food security, resource conservation and climate change, and the hotel industry has been an active participant in reducing the amount of waste in a variety of ways. 

The latest move in the battle against waste comes courtesy of IHG, which is aiming to reduce food waste at its hotels by 30 percent thanks to its new partnership with technology company Winnow. Seven hotels in its Europe, Middle East, Asia and Africa region have already installed the artificial intelligence-enabled Winnow Vision product, with another 30 to follow in the coming months.

Winnow Vision uses an intelligent camera, smart scales and AI-based smart meter technology to analyze ingredients during food preparation and food on plates returned to the kitchen. Based on this information it can assess which food items are most wasted and in what quantities, creating a bank of data for the hotel to use to shape its buying decisions, menus and food-preparation techniques.

“Food waste is a global issue, and one that kitchens around the world are struggling with,” Marc Zornes, founder and CEO of Winnow, said in a statement. “Without visibility into what is being wasted, kitchens are wasting far more food than they think.”

At one hotel, the InterContinental Fujairah Resort in United Arab Emirates, IHG said food waste was reduced by more than 50 percent in six months using the product. On top of the seven already using the product and the 30 set to begin using it, 60 IHG hotels in the EMEAA region have signaled interest in picking up the technology. The company is looking into introducing the product in hotels in the Americas and Greater China.

“Our partnership with Winnow will help our hotels be smarter and savvier in their approach to creating compelling menus that result in less waste whether it’s a grab-and-go breakfast, a family restaurant or a Michelin dining experience,” Kenneth Macpherson, CEO, EMEAA at IHG, said in a statement.

In 2018, Champions 12.3, a coalition of nearly 40 government, business and civil society leaders, published a report stating that for every $1 hotels invested in programs to reduce kitchen food waste, they saved an average of $7 in operating costs.

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After observing 42 hotels, it observed that within one year, hotels lowered their kitchen food waste 21 percent on average and more than 70 percent recouped their investment. After two years, that number rose to 95 percent.

In 2017, the American Hotel & Lodging Association partnered with the World Wildlife Fund to launch a series of pilot projects aimed at reducing food waste in the industry. With 10 hotel properties participating, the endeavor found that those who participated reduced food waste by at least 10 percent. In some cases, they lowered food costs by 3 percent or more.

The AH&LA and WWF recommended U.S. hotels do the following:

  • Measure food waste and set reduction goals from a baseline year.
  • Establish food donation strategies and community food recovery partnerships.
  • Set goals that ensure inedible food waste from hotels is diverted away from landfills.