Food waste is a critical global issue. According to the United Nations Environment Programme’s (UNEP) Food Waste Index Report 2024, a staggering one billion tonnes of food is wasted each year, equating to one-fifth of all food available to consumers. In total, an estimated 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions are associated with food that is not consumed.

From independent cafes to fine dining restaurants, premium resorts to the local chippy, every hospitality business has a responsibility to tackle this issue.

Hilton’s Commitment to Reducing Waste

As one of the world’s leading hospitality companies, Hilton is not shying away from this challenge. We’ve already achieved a 50% reduction in all waste sent to landfill, in alignment with our Travel with Purpose 2030 goals, designed to advance responsible travel and tourism globally. Our focus now is to further those efforts, empowering our guests and implementing a food waste reduction programme in every hotel kitchen.

To raise awareness of these efforts, we recently launched our Taste of Zero Waste initiative to mark Stop Food Waste Day. This saw some of our leading chefs across the UK create zero and low-waste menus, bringing to life the ways in which professional kitchens can create exquisite dishes whilst dramatically reducing the amount of waste they produce.

The menus showcased a range of innovative techniques used by our chefs around the world every single day. From root-to-shoot and nose-to-tail cookery using ingredients such as salmon cheeks, ox hearts and vegetable offcuts and peelings, to pickling and fermenting, and giving a second life to items from the breakfast buffet, these techniques leave no stone unturned when it comes to reducing waste.

What’s important is that these techniques have relevance well beyond a commercial kitchen. Households are the single largest contributor of food waste globally, according to WRAP, making it crucial to extend these practices into the home too.

Simple techniques, such as preserving commonly wasted ingredients like carrot trimmings to make a sweet jam, or turning excess coffee grounds into a liqueur, show how everyday items can be transformed into flavourful dishes that anyone can recreate.

Hilton’s approach to combatting food waste

Behind these menus sits a three-fold approach to reducing food waste – an approach we implement in every kitchen.

Reduce

Limiting the amount of food waste produced from the outset is an important place to start. Many of our hotels have implemented Winnow, an innovative AI solution that tracks and analyses what food is being thrown away, so hotels can tailor what they prepare based on the insights it provides. Pilot studies in our hotels show a 62% reduction in pre and post-consumer food waste across breakfast operations as a result of using this technology.

Repurpose

Next on the list is rescuing items at risk of being thrown in the bin. Breakfast buffets are rich with delicious items that can easily be given a second life. From turning croissants and bread into delicious desserts, to using cooked tomatoes, mushrooms and eggs to add depth and flavour to soups and sauces – the possibilities are endless! And this doesn’t stop at the breakfast buffet – vegetable offcuts, fruit peel, bruised and overripe fruit can all be used to add flavour and flair to anything from stocks to smoothies, cocktail garnishes to caramels.

One of the most alarming things about food waste is the juxtaposition with the number of people who still go without good food across the world every day. For any oversupply, there are many opportunities to support valuable causes providing meals to those most in need.

One such example is Hilton London Metropole’s partnership with The Felix Project. The partnership began during the pandemic, when hotels across the country closed their doors to guests, leaving huge amounts of surplus ingredients. The hotel’s kitchen was transformed into a community kitchen hub, preparing thousands of meals for those in need across London, simultaneously diverting surplus food from landfill and supporting those most impacted by the pandemic. This partnership continues today, and the hotel has now cooked more than 75,000 meals for those in need.

Divert

Of course, there will always be some items that cannot be repurposed or rescued. For anything that cannot be eaten, it’s absolutely crucial to have a great waste management partner like SUEZ, to ensure any unavoidable food waste is collected in a responsible way and given a second life. SUEZ processes most of our waste through anaerobic digestion, producing renewable energy and biofertiliser.

Creating broader change

As one of the most recognisable brands in the hospitality industry, Hilton is committed to making meaningful change in the fight against food waste, but more can and must be done across the industry.

Every day, our chefs are finding new and innovative ways to reduce, repurpose and divert food waste. This is something everyone can do – and it is our responsibility to do so. Whether cooking for ourselves at home, or operating a banqueting kitchen in a hotel serving hundreds of guests every day, we all have a responsibility to consider what simple things we can do to avoid throwing food in the bin. Every small change adds up to make a massive difference and there’s no time to waste.

Emma Banks is Hilton’s VP of Food and Beverage Strategy & Development for EMEA