According to the Global Hunger Index 2021, India ranks 101st out of 116 countries, with a score of 27.5, indicating a serious level of hunger. India has 189.2 million undernourished people, the highest in the world. India also has high rates of child malnutrition, stunting, wasting, and anemia. Moreover, India faces the paradox of being self-sufficient in food production but not in food security, as millions of people lack access to adequate and nutritious food due to poverty, inequality, inefficiency, and wastage. Today we endeavour to write about Food Waste and a weakness as well as an opportunity that lies within our industry to support UNSDG 2 – Zero Hunger.

Food waste is a global problem that has significant economic, social, and environmental impacts. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about one-third of the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted every year, amounting to about 1.3 billion tons of food. This food waste represents a loss of resources, such as land, water, energy, labor, and capital, as well as a source of greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Food waste also contributes to food insecurity and malnutrition, especially in developing countries where millions of people suffer from hunger and poverty.

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The restaurant industry is one of the major contributors to food waste in India. According to the Food Waste Index Report 2021 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), India generates about 68.7 million tons of food waste per year, out of which 11.9 million tons come from the food service sector. This sector includes restaurants, hotels, caterers, canteens, and other establishments that serve food to customers. The food waste generated by this sector can be classified into three types: pre-consumer waste, which occurs during food preparation and storage; plate waste, which occurs when customers leave uneaten food on their plates; and post-consumer waste, which occurs when customers take away leftover food but do not consume it.

The causes of food waste in the restaurant industry in India are manifold and complex. Some of the main causes are:

Overproduction: Restaurants often prepare more food than needed to meet customer demand and avoid running out of stock. This leads to excess food that cannot be sold or consumed before it spoils or expires.

Portion size: Restaurants often serve large portions of food to customers to attract them and satisfy their expectations. However, this results in more food than customers can eat or want to eat, leading to plate waste.

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Menu variety: Restaurants often offer a wide variety of dishes and cuisines to cater to different tastes and preferences of customers. However, this also increases the complexity and cost of food preparation and storage, as well as the risk of spoilage and wastage.

Customer behaviour: Customers often order more food than they can eat or need, either due to lack of awareness, peer pressure, or impulse buying. They also tend to leave uneaten food on their plates or take away leftovers but do not consume them later.

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Lack of awareness: Restaurants and customers often lack awareness and knowledge about the causes and consequences of food waste, as well as the best practices and solutions to prevent and reduce it. They also lack incentives and motivation to take action against food waste.

The effects of food waste in the restaurant industry in India are detrimental to both the industry and the society. Some of the main effects are:

Economic loss: Food waste represents a loss of revenue and profit for restaurants, as well as a loss of income and livelihood for farmers and other actors in the food supply chain. It also increases the cost of waste management and disposal for restaurants and municipalities.

Social injustice: Food waste exacerbates the problem of food insecurity and malnutrition in India, where millions of people suffer from hunger and poverty. It also deprives the poor and marginalized groups of access to nutritious and affordable food.

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Environmental damage: Food waste contributes to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases such as methane and carbon dioxide during decomposition. It also consumes natural resources such as land, water, energy, and biodiversity that could be used for other purposes.

To address the problem of food waste in the restaurant industry in India, various strategies and interventions are needed at different levels and stages of the food supply chain. Some of the possible strategies and interventions are:

Prevention: Prevention is the most effective and efficient way to reduce food waste by avoiding its generation in the first place. Prevention strategies include improving planning, forecasting, and inventory management; optimizing portion size, menu variety, and pricing; educating and training staff and customers; promoting and implementing good practices and standards; adopting and using technology and innovation; etc.

Recovery: Recovery is the process of rescuing surplus or unsold food that is still safe and edible and redistributing it to those who need it. Recovery strategies include establishing and strengthening linkages and partnerships between restaurants and food banks, charities, or other organizations that provide food relief; facilitating and supporting donation and distribution systems; creating and enabling legal and regulatory frameworks and incentives for food donation; raising and spreading awareness and appreciation of food recovery and donation; etc.

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Recycling: Recycling is the process of transforming food waste into useful products or energy. Recycling strategies include composting and vermicomposting food waste into organic fertilizer; anaerobically digesting food waste into biogas and biofertilizer; converting food waste into animal feed; using food waste as a raw material for bioplastics, biofuels, or other bioproducts; etc.

Disposal: Disposal is the last resort for managing food waste when prevention, recovery, and recycling are not feasible or viable. Disposal strategies include disposing food waste in sanitary landfills or incinerators with proper treatment and control of emissions and leachate; minimizing the amount and toxicity of food waste that goes to disposal; monitoring and reporting the quantity and quality of food waste that goes to disposal; etc.

In a nutshell, food waste in India’s restaurant business is a major and complicated issue that demands immediate and collaborative action from all stakeholders. The restaurant sector may decrease its economic, social, and environmental consequences while also improving its competitiveness, reputation, and sustainability by adopting and executing effective methods and interventions to prevent, recover, recycle, and dispose of food waste.


(1) Food Loss and Waste in India: The Knowns and The Unknowns.

(2) Food waste in hospitality and food services: A systematic literature ….

(3) Trends and challenges in valorisation of food waste in developing ….