Hotels have always been obsessed about food.
After all, the hallmark of a good hotel is often the presence of
iconic restaurants or lavish banquets that symbolise their commitment to
guest satisfaction. However, this gastronomic focus has also led to a
staggering amount of waste.
On a global scale, approximately one-third of all food produced for
human consumption goes to waste, with wealthier countries contributing
even more to this alarming statistic, according to the Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. If food waste was a
country, it would rank as the third-biggest producer of carbon emissions
in the world, after the US and China.
Fortunately, a wave of conscientious hotels across Asia are
redefining their food obsession in another way – by curbing their
appetite for excesses and tackling waste head-on.
From installing on-site food digestors to organic fertiliser to
upcycling watermelon rinds, these hotels are becoming more serious and
creative in their endeavours to eliminate food waste in cool ways.
Advocates against food waste: Greenview’s Eric Ricaurte, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay’s Melvin Lim, The Athenee Hotel’s Choo Leng Goh.
You are what you measure
Eric Ricaurte, Founder of Greenview, a consultancy specialising in
sustainability programmes for the hospitality sector, underscores the
importance of measurement in improvement.
As hotels adopt sustainable practices, he observes that the areas of
food procurement, waste reduction and planning have emerged as pivotal
battlegrounds for conscientious properties looking to move the
sustainability needle beyond single-use plastics and recycling
Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay stands as an example, which is dubbed
a ‘garden in a hotel’ with its double-glazed glass skylight and an
indoor sky-lit atrium home to over 2,400 plants. Thanks to its 210
rooftop solar panels that generate over 350kwh of renewable energy per
day, which powers the hotel’s 13 lifts and emergency lightings, the
583-room hotel has curtailed its overall electrical usage by 1.4%.
We plan our menus months in advance in order to be able to identify and anticipate future food waste, and from there, we create new dishes making use of this food waste.
However, General Manager Melvin Lim believes that more can be done to
address food waste for Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay, working
together with Sustainability Director Elaine Chan and Executive Chef
Chan Tuck Wai to look at ways to creatively address the issue of food
“We conduct monthly food waste audits to identify areas for
improvement. We also track all discarded food quantities to measure
progress and ensure the reduction or maintenance of food waste figures,”
The Winnow Project adopted by Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong utilises AI-powered technology to monitor food waste management.
In addition, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay has installed food waste
digesters to break down waste into liquid that can be safely disposed
through the waste pipes, while surplus food is distributed internally to
associates to minimise wastage.
It’s a similar story at Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (MOHG), where
Director of Sustainability, Global Development Iris Lam – who herself
boasts an extensive F&B background – collaborates with key
stakeholders and executive chefs across the Hong Kong-based group to
redefine sustainability strategies.
These include partaking in the Winnow Project, utilising AI-powered
technology to monitor food waste management at the group’s flagship
property, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong.
At The Athenee Hotel in Bangkok, surplus fruits and vegetable trimmings are turned into jam.
Big in flavours, low on waste
With the direct involvement of the hotel kitchens in minimising
waste, menus take a creative spin as chefs look at new ways to repurpose
leftover food instead of throwing them out.
At The Athenee Hotel in Bangkok, chefs’ culinary ingenuity come in
the form of homemade jam turned from surplus fruits and vegetable
trimmings, flavourful stocks churned from meat processing, and even
candles crafted from bacon fat.
Meanwhile, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay turns watermelon rinds
into double-boiled soups, stir-fried with other vegetables, or stewed to
make kueh pie tee in replacement of turnips. Beef trimmings
are braised to make pasta ragu sauce, or used as toppings on braised
beef tarts, and fillings for beef quesadillas.
In Hong Kong, The Landmark Mandarin Oriental’s contemporary fine
dining restaurant Amber – which has a Michelin Green-star status – teams
up with local brewery Young Master to ferment amber dark toast wild ale
from upcycled, overtoasted sourdough bread, inspired by the
Lambic-style beers from Belgium. Only 360 bottles have been produced and
each bottle is exclusively numbered.
“Something that could have been discarded is now purposeful, and in a
circular way we create a new product that’s of interest to our guests,”
Live cooking stations at Momentus Hotel Alexandra’s buffets contribute to better portion and quality control.
Buffets go on a diet
Understanding the diner psychology has helped to curb food waste for guests’ favourite institution: the all-you-can-eat buffet.
Momentus Hotel Alexandra in Singapore adopts a curated presentation
approach to buffets, navigating the fine balance between offering
variety and avoiding over-provisioning. While a plethora of delectable
choices await diners for its weekend buffet dinners at Verandah Rooftop
Rotisserie, only the salad and seafood bar, soups, artisanal breads and
sweets displayed on the self-service line.
To control portion size and maintain food quality, chefs at the live
action kitchen carve rotisserie chicken and grills beef ribeye and wagyu
tomahawk a la minute, while the kitchen sends out freshly cooked
delights, such as grilled octopus and fish en papillote, from the a la
carte selection upon diners’ request.
Quality goes hand in hand with sustainability, and having less waste is part of the value proposition.
Smaller plates and bowls are now used at Parkroyal Collection Marina
Bay’s Peppermint buffet. “Our serving wares used come in multiple sizes,
which requires us to constantly top up with freshly cooked dishes,” Lim
explains. “This gives guests the impression that the food would never
run out as well, and guests would not rush to overly stack their plates
Even a simple measure like switching from a traditional chafing dish
system to the EcoBurner system, a new line of waterless and cableless
chafing dishes, has helped Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay saved a total
of 14,400 litres of water, prevented 2,738kg of waste from going to the
landfill, and reduced carbon emission by 12 tonnes in 2022.
Gone are the days when luxury is equated with decadence. “Quality
goes hand in hand with sustainability, and having less waste is part of
the value proposition,” says MOHG’s Lam, noting that today’s
well-informed guests are increasingly prioritising quality over
Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay turns watermelon rinds into kueh pie ti, a local dish usually stuffed with carrot and turnip.
Make food, not waste
Armed with the understanding of food wastage, hotels are now planning
the menus ahead to identify and anticipate future food waste.
Proactive menu planning emerges as a powerful tool against food
waste. Moreover, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay’s 150 sqm rooftop urban
garden is a fertile ground of inspiration and source of ingredients for
upcoming menus to align with festive seasons or promotions.
“When we plan our menus months in advance, we can anticipate the
vegetables, fruits, herbs, and edible flowers that we require, and we
will work closely with our Urban Farmers to grow our needs at their farm
in advance. When we are ready to launch the new menus, our Urban
Farmers will transplant all that have been grown to our Urban Farm. We
only grow and harvest what we need. This has helped us reduce food waste
Better planning of meals, according to Lim, has also helped reduce
food waste to less than 12% at Peppermint. The hotel’s procurement team
actively sources ingredients from local producers, including eggs from
N&N Agriculture, sustainably farmed barramundi from Kuhlbarra, and
vegetables, herbs, and fruits from Edible Garden City, a pioneering
social enterprise that champions food resilience in Singapore.
Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou partners with local bee farms to supply natural honey to its restaurants
Over in Bangkok, The Athenee Hotel’s general manager Choo Leng Goh
spearheads the property’s commitment to a procurement system that
“source ingredients with care”, placing emphasis on items that are both
sustainable and locally produced. For instance, the hotel sources
organic rice directly from the Satjatham organic rice farm in Amnat
Charoen Province, located in Northeastern Thailand.
By incorporating locally sourced, organic rice into our menus, we provide our guests and associates with nourishing, wholesome options. This approach echoes our commitment to not just culinary excellence but also the well-being of our local communities.
“This not only guarantees a stable income for the farmers but also
empowers them to become landowners, breaking free from the cycle of debt
often associated with traditional farming practices,” says Goh.
“Simultaneously, by incorporating this locally sourced, organic rice
into our menus, we provide our guests and associates with nourishing,
wholesome options. This approach echoes our commitment to not just
culinary excellence but also the well-being of our local communities.”
Seafood sourcing remains one of the most challenging areas in
procurement, Lam admits, but the Mandarin Oriental Group has taken an
active stance to avoid 19 endangered seafood types as aligned with the
WWF, constantly working with its suppliers to ensure responsibly sourced
groupers and sea cucumbers in its Chinese restaurants.
Ultimately, key indicators of a hotel with rigorous green efforts
will be its ability to support its claims through sustainability reports
and environmental management certification, as well as having all
levels of staff, from top executives right down to frontline and
service, engaged and are keenly able to share about the hotel’s
sustainability efforts, according to Ricaurte.