Hotel buffets should be illegal. Why is your plate laden with crayfish?

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When you add that extra spoon to your plate, will you eat it? Why do you feel hard done by when the chef only gives you just the one slice of roast beef?


Consider for a moment the amount of food waste that holidaymakers generate. Everyone wastes food at home to some extent but somehow, when on holiday, we feel we have the right. We try to get as much of eerything because we’ve paid for it. No one is saying you have to have the willpower of a runway model with an espresso and half a grapefruit for breakfast. 34% of food waste in hotels comes from the customer’s plate.


Keith Rissik, Operations Manager at Three Cities Group says. “Unfortunately that is our failing as humans. We eat with our eyes!”


The average guest produces 1 kilogram of waste per night of stay. Multiply that by the number of hotels and guests around the world and waste in the hospitality industry is overwhelming. (


Recently, on a break to the Sheraton in Krabi, Thailand, I was appalled at the waste I saw in the dining room. The resort typically catered to families. Mealtimes were a culinary experience. A sumptuous buffet of imported and local food. Our rate included the buffet breakfast.   By day two I dreaded going to eat. Plates were piled high with pastries, rolls and too much fruit.   Bacon and sausages for Africa! The bemused little Thai waitress then cleared away half of what had been taken to the table. Good food, wasted, untouched but ruined. Tray after tray of wasted good food and scraps methodically mixed and added to the recycling graveyard outside the kitchen doors.  The waitress cleared it away with a sweet smile. I studied her face. Was there any sign of what she may be thinking?

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“Sadly it is not acceptable to waste unnecessarily. Staff are trained to identify clients abusing the abundance of food. They bring this to our attention and sometimes we need to discuss the matter with a client face to face”. Mr. Rissik explained. “We try to get staff involved with the children at mealtimes and where possible guide the children and dish up for them”. Mr. Rissik continued.



  • Before you approach the buffet, think about how hungry you really are?
  • Walk the length of the buffet first, be present in that moment and think about what you would like to eat?
  • Choose a small plate or bowl. Taste as much as you like but serve up tiny portions. Why gorge on half a kilogram of blueberries to get your money and month’s worth of antioxidants.
  • If you are not sure that you’ll eat something exotic, then don’t try it. Especially where buffets are catering to Chinese and Japanese customers. Congee and dried fish is an example.
  • Challenge the hotel management discreetly if you see excessive waste.
  • Teach your children the etiquette of buffet and about waste.
  • Be responsible. Support and patronize conscious consumerism and hotels with sustainable policies.


Mr. Rissik said. “We are not in the business of educating people in dining etiquette, but as we apply ourselves to the problem, it is solvable. The manner in which we dispose of waste is important. Wet waste goes to pig farms as fodder and some is recycled to produce a gas by-product that we use in our kitchens”.


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The Mandarin Oriental Group has a clear corporate responsibility policy. The 2013 report states: “Mandarin Oriental is committed to contributing to the communities in which we operate and responsibly managing our environmental impacts and social commitments”.


Mr. Paul Tsuji, the Hotel Manager for the Sheraton Krabi Beach Resort explains. “We have started recycling the used cooking oil into biodiesel and have just received our first 20 liters that we are planning to use in the hotel tractor. A portion of our organic waste has been made into compost and is being used to fertilize the extensive resort gardens”.


In recent years, hotels have become more focused on waste management programs and incentivize their staff. It’s encouraging to see what is actually happening. However, it is a two-way street and holidaymakers need to take ownership as well.


The next time a sumptuous buffet is in front of you, think about what you are doing. Avoid the temptation to overeat. Everyone can reduce his/her own food print!



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