Sustainability is a key aspect of growth; be it a society or a business. The hospitality industry is one of the major contributors to the economy. Hence, sustainability should a key focus area in this segment.
A few months back, I was invited to a boutique luxury resort in a hill station in Kerala. I was supposed to help them to improve their sustainability and they wanted my suggestions. My passion for management was my first inspiration to visit the property. The resort is made at a location which was completely a rocky mountain a few years before. They filled up the entire area with soil and made a green forest now. I was amazed by the green vegetation they created out of nothing.
Their huge rainwater harvest system provides water for the entire operations of the resort. Nicely done landscaping to attract birds and butterflies. We had only very few suggestions for improvement as far as the ecosystem is concerned. But there were few corrections in the room amenities part. Some were correctible and some not because of the architecture and planning.
There is a saying that you can enter the heart of someone through their mouth! Food is the magic at hotels. At times, this can be the area which is the most unsustainable too. We were invited for the dinner. I had my Naturalist friend also with me who takes care of our bio-diversity part in our Sustainability Consultancy. We were shocked to see the food spread they kept on our table just for the two of us. It should have been 10 times more than what we could eat. I did not want to discuss the subject with the boys who served us. We just requested them to take back many items as we could not think about wasting food.
The next day morning, we had a discussion with the Management team and I brought the food topic. I asked them why they waste food. Their answer was something related to customer behaviour. They said as their room rates are inclusive of at least one major meal, the guests may complain if there are not enough items in the food spread. To explain, the guests will complain that the resort is charging a heavy amount and the food spread is not acceptable. But how can we justify the un imaginable wastage of food? I knew very well that it was a case of our inexperience in managing customer behaviour.
It’s a fact that all customers have the same level of sustainability awareness and commitment. Roughly they can be divided into three groups as below:
- True Greens: Most dedicated, high education and income, ready for action. This group will react negatively if they see unsustainable products or situations.
- Sprouts: Positive & Negative attitude. Their behaviour is easily influenced. This group does not want to do evil in any given situation, provided they are informed and offered an alternative solution.
- Hedonistic: This group thinks sustainability is somebody else’s responsibility. They think that individuals can contribute to the improvement of social and environmental issues. The tough ones! Basically, the task of a hotelier will be to manage the visitor behaviour of the second and third categories. The second group is manageable by giving proper information on why we are involving some sustainability steps in all service areas. Basically, when they know that their cooperation and small actions will bring positive impacts, they will be ready to oblige to sustainable adaptations in given situations.
I know the hedonistic group is tough to handle. But here, the sustainability commitment of an organisation should come first. Transparency can play a big role here. If a given hotel wants to avoid food waste, they should declare this as their policy not to waste food. The customer should have proper information before they make a booking at this hotel. Many problems arise when the guests have surprises which may clash with their thinking.
Hotels also may avoid fixing a tariff which includes a major meal. Naturally, the visitors may order what they want and pay for it. Nobody will want to pay for what they cant eat. There are many ways to communicate nicely to customers about your sustainability policies. And still, if there are some customers who insist on unsustainable practices, the organisation can decide whether you want customers on your premises or not. But I repeat, there should be transparent communication before rejecting a customer.
My point here is not about food waste. It’s the excess food that is being served on the table on a meal plan which goes waste when the quantity is beyond the eating capacity of a customer. I am sure such wasted food cant be consumed by anyone else due to hygiene issues.
Another wastage I found is the huge buffet spreads. Recently I had a breakfast meeting with a friend. We were sitting in a five-star hotel in Kochi managed by an international brand. When I saw the breakfast spread, it spread through a decent hike route and I was surprised who can consume such a spread. The excuse was that you need to consume what you need only. But I can be sure that such a huge spread kept open for 4 hours in front of many guests may not be that hygienic to bring back to the deep freezers and serve the next day!
My point is simple. Let the guests eat as much as they want. But shouldn’t there be a way that the food is not wasted just because it’s being spread long and wide? There is a way if there is a will!
To conclude my topic for the week, I take you back to our discussion at the resort where I was doing the inspection. I requested the Food & Beverages head that they should find a solution for this unacceptable wastage of food.
The idea I suggested is to keep a minimum spread on the table of the guests to start with and provide extra quantity as per their further requirements. We will not ask any customer to go hungry. But we should also think about millions of hungry people across the globe. When we waste food, we are creating an extra load on our planet in different ways.
(George Scaria is Managing Director of Keralavoyages India Pvt Ltd, a Travelife certified tour operator company. He is one among what Kerala tourism is today. He is a GSTC Certified Sustainable Tourism Professional.)
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Partnersincrave.com. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.)