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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Spread the love and excess food

Food outlets make the effort to reduce food wastage by donating leftovers, selling them cheap or giving to staff.
The Straits Times - July 10, 2013
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Spread the love and excess food

The abundance of food in Singapore has led to the problem of food wastage, with a new record set last year when 703,200 tonnes were chucked away. It is a 26 per cent spike from the 558,900 tonnes thrown out in 2007, according to figures from the National Environment Agency.

While it is difficult to track food wastage, restaurants that SundayLife! interviewed estimate the amount of waste to be about 5 per cent. On top of monitoring food sales and menu items, they add that they make a conscious effort to minimise the waste generated.

One of the latest companies to jump on board is Marina Bay Sands, which started its sustainability project late last month by donating unconsumed bread and pastries to Food From The Heart, a local charity.

The organisation, which was formed in November 2002, has volunteers delivering unsold bread to the needy.

The volume of bread that it distributes now has almost tripled from 10 years ago, from 120,000kg in 2003 to 320,000kg so far this year. It started out with 300 volunteers and now has 4,000.

About 23,000 people benefit from the food donations, more than double the 9,000 helped in 2003.

A Marina Bay Sands spokesman says it has put in place other ways to cut down on wastage. "Excess desserts and cakes from our hotel lobby restaurant Rise are distributed in our two 24-hour Team Member Dining Rooms, where they are consumed within the day. In addition, excess food left over each day from the two rooms and preparation kitchens are put through two in-house compost machines."

Other establishments in Singapore that have been working with Food From The Heart include The Ritz-Carlton, Millenia Singapore, Resorts World Sentosa, Grand Hyatt Singapore, The Fullerton Hotel and The Fullerton Bay Hotel Singapore, as well as Fairmont Singapore and Swissotel The Stamford.

Mr Edmund Toh, executive chef and assistant vice-president of culinary operations at Resorts World Sentosa, says: "We have a buy-one-get-one-free promotion for breads, pastries and sandwiches at the Rock Deli at Hard Rock Hotel Singapore after 8pm daily.

"We also monitor food consumption at our meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions events closely and monitor the food unconsumed after every event."

Orchard Hotel general manger Andrew Tan says there are two kinds of food waste: the avoidable and unavoidable.

He says: "Avoidable waste includes kitchen preparation work and waste from guests. About 3 to 5 per cent of leftovers have to be discarded
and categorised as unavoidable waste, due to sanitisation and hygiene guidelines."

The hotel, he says, uses meat trimmings for stocks and sauces. At its buffets, smaller plates are laid out for guests and live kitchen stations, where chefs cook dishes a la minute, allow them to portion out the food.

A spokesman for the Peperoni Pizzeria chain, which is owned by Les Amis Group, says: "We ask the service staff to strongly recommend dishes such as pre-cooked stews or items that are nearing the end of their shelf life.

"If they remain unsold after a long period, they are thrown away. Customers are also advised against ordering too much, as our portions are big."

The spokesman for Jumbo Group, which owns the Jumbo Seafood chain, says: "Our staff are trained to advise customers on their orders to minimise wastage. We do allow takeaways at no extra charge for food that cannot be finished. Unpopular menu items are phased out."

Royal Plaza On Scotts' general manager, Mr Patrick Fiat, says of its popular buffet restaurant Carousel: "The chefs at Carousel conduct food weighing at the end of buffets, four to five times a week. The standard is to keep leftovers from all buffet counters combined to below 4kg.
Under the National Environment Agency's standards, such food must be disposed of, as it has been exposed for more than four hours."

The RE&S group, which owns the Ichiban Sushi chain of restaurants and Kuriya Japanese Fresh Fish Market, offers takeaway sushi at discounted prices before the outlets close. Customers are advised to consume the items within four hours.

At its sister outlet at nex mall, Green Pumpkin Japanese Bakery, buns are sold at a discount at the end of the day. In addition, unsold toast bread is recycled into products such as rusk.

A spokesman for Bibigo, a casual Korean restaurant at Raffles City, says: "We use leftover food ingredients which are still very fresh for employee lunches or new menus. For example, after cutting kimchi for the side dish, we chop the leftovers for kimchi fried rice. This helps to save food costs too."

Korean buffet restaurant Todai at Marina Bay Sands says most of the premium seafood in its spread, such as crab and abalone, are consumed by customers. The leftovers of other dishes become staff meals.

The average amount left over is less than 5 per cent of the total buffet spread, says a spokesman for the restaurant.

He adds: "It can be hard to advise customers not to take too much food in a buffet restaurant. Once, an employee had to speak to a customer who was carrying an entire cake back to his table." The party of three did not finish the cake.

Some are thinking of new ways to re-use food waste.

Grand Hyatt Singapore is looking to get a machine to convert food waste into nonpotable water or biodegradable compost that it can use for its landscaping, pending funding approval from the National Environment Agency, says the hotel spokesman.

Despite all the efforts, the amount of waste produced is still high because a large chunk of the problem is linked to the food manufacturing and catering industries, as well as supermarkets and hawker centres.

But good management, creative ways of minimising leftovers and restraint help.

Housewife Anita Lee, 49, says: "It's a good idea for bakeries to sell their bread at a discount at the end of the day. After all, we're helping them to clear stock. I will go to Green Pumpkin Japanese Bakery to buy buns. I get to save some money too."

Communications manager Karen Lim, 29, says: "I used to overeat at buffets so I now pace myself and eat the items that I really want first. I will definitely eat sashimi and oysters, as well as seafood items. When I start feeling full, I stop taking hot food items and head to the dessert spread. By not taking too much food, I don't have the tendency to waste or overeat."

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