Digital Theses Archive


Tesi etd-07272021-103335

Type of thesis
Food waste reduction in the food services sector: Strategies to harvest the low-hanging fruit before it falls off the tree
Scientific disciplinary sector
Istituto di Management - MANAGEMENT
relatore Prof. IRALDO, FABIO
Membro Prof.ssa Michelini, Laura
Membro Prof. Martin-Rios, Carlos
Membro Prof.ssa SIGNORI, PAOLA
  • Food loss
  • Food service
  • Food waste
  • Hospitality
  • Restaurant
Exam session start date
Food systems need holistic solutions, capable of increasing productivity while ensuring environmental sustainability, high nutritional value and inclusiveness. In this context, reducing food waste in the foodservices sector is a low-hanging fruit, as it not only addresses this aspiration but also translates into a financial gain to all stakeholders involved in the process. The primary goal of this research was thus to advance the knowledge on food waste in the foodservices sector so as to help these establishments to curb it within their operations. To that end, three studies were conducted:<br>Considering that the literature on food waste reduction has organizational flaws that prevent those interested in this topic from: having an overview of the strategies proposed to reduce it, knowing which stages within the foodservice process they impact on, checking the scientific substantiation behind them and seeing to what extent practitioners and academics endorse them, Study 1 presents a literature review where 107 academic and grey articles are scanned. The outcomes include: (1) a complete picture of the strategies available, 180 of which were classified in 30 homogeneous groups; (2) A map of the impacts of these strategies on all stages of the foodservice process, which revealed a lack of strategies aimed at curbing leftover and serving waste; (3) A classification of the strategies based on a hierarchy of evidence, highlighting that 83% are grounded solely on exploratory studies; (4) A comparison between the prevalence of the strategies in the academic and grey literatures, which revealed a misalignment, as their top-10 recommendations have only five strategies in common.<br>Amid the findings of Study 1 two interesting patterns have emerged. First, academics and practitioners strongly rely on the idea that increasing awareness of the actors involved about the consequences of food waste (i.e., awareness campaigns and engaging staff) is an effective way to reduce it, despite the scarcity of evidence in support of this idea. Second, practitioners seem to have little interest in strategies to reduce food waste that require an intervention on customers’ behavior, in spite of the consistent scientific substantiation these measures have. <br>These two issues were explored in Study 2, where a generalized structural equation modelling was fit in a survey ran in Italy with nearly five hundred Horeca (hotels, restaurants and cafeterias) owners/chefs/managers. The results reveal that managerial awareness increases the number of strategies employed by the establishment to fight food waste only when associated with food waste measurement (indirect effect). Moreover, they confirm that Horeca outlets rarely adopt strategies that are aimed at reducing food waste by influencing consumer behavior. Although it is not clear why this happens, evidence in the literature suggests that managers avoid using these interventions because they believe that they could generate a negative impact on customer experience.<br>As no study tried to understand if these strategies actually upset the customers, Study 3 focused on that. In addition, it tested the association between various attitudinal and socio-demographic variables and plate waste in out-of-home settings. The results show that managers’ hesitation is only partially justified, as half of the strategies included in the study are supported by most of the consumers (namely, doggy bags, information dissemination through awareness campaigns, and sales in last minute markets) and half of them seem to, indeed, impact negatively on the experience (namely, portion size reduction without a corresponding price reduction, unsolicited advice on the quantity of food ordered, and limits on the number of options in the menu). Moreover, it reveals that awareness can play a dual role, as it is not only negatively associated with plate waste but also positively associated with the support to contentious strategies. Finally, the results suggest the existence of a gender bias in portion size definition, as women were found to waste more than man when eating out, but also complained considerably more about oversized portions. <br>This thesis makes four major contributions to the battle against food waste. First, it identifies, organizes and analyzes all the strategies to reduce food waste in the foodservices sector, providing managers with a toolbox of organized solutions and academics with a map of the research gaps in the literature. Second, it contributes to the understanding of the role played by “awareness raising” on food waste reduction, showing how increasing the awareness of consumers and staff about the problem can contribute also indirectly to its reduction. Third, this thesis calls attention for the fact that interventions on consumer behavior need – as much as proof of their effectiveness - reliable evidence that they are harmless to customer experience. Finally, this dissertation sheds light into role played by gender on plate waste, as the findings suggest that the widely debated “portion size problem” derives from (or is aggravated by) one-size-fits-all portion sizes based on male consumption.<br>