Overcoming our Fears of “Disappointing Customers” to End Food Waste
Christy Cook
Christy Cook
Sustainability Performance
& Field Support
Sodexo North America

In a previous blog post, we explored a concept called “social license” as it relates to food waste. This concept describes the need for our customers to support decisions we make to reduce waste.

I bet you’re thinking, “Support? Of course everyone wants to reduce food waste!   Let’s do everything we can to reduce food waste.” However, there are other things that influence whether or not customers accept certain practices. For example, if you walk into one of our restaurants ten minutes before closing, we want you to have the same experience you’d have if you walked in right at opening. Typically that means overflowing pans of food freshly prepared and just waiting for you to order. However, filling pans right before closing means that we are going to prepare more food than is needed, therefore wasting the embedded resources such as water to grow the food, energy to transport and store the food, not to mention the carbon footprint associated with each A simple change to prevent waste in this case would be to prepare your meal to order, but this takes additional time. If you, the customer, walked into our restaurant wanting our special of the day, you might not expect to wait the three minutes or so for preparation. When this happens, it could lead to lower customer satisfaction scores.

“While there are some financial savings for restaurants when less food is wasted, it’s not nearly enough to warrant disappointing a customer,” says Dana Gunders, Senior Scientist at the National Resources Defense Council in response to the interviews she’s conducted in the restaurant industry. “We need customers to be okay with, and perhaps even appreciate, the changes a restaurant is making in order to waste less.”

Oftentimes, topics of sustainability can be complicated and therefore overwhelming. Let’s think of a few things our industry can do, our clients can do, and also what we can do together in our restaurants to reduce food waste!

What can Industry do?

  • Talk about food waste in team meetings
  • Role-play customer service interactions to prepare employees for customer conversations
  • Display education and awareness signs in cafes and facilities
  • Donate delicious, edible surplus food to feed hungry people
  • Listen to customer feedback, discuss as a team, and determine any needed adjustments

How can you engage and gain support of clients or prospects?

  • Proactively share fact-based and data-rich information about the issue and the approach
  • Arm clients and prospects with resources to equally inform their own stakeholders
  • Encourage use of social media to openly discuss concerns or make recommendations around best practices
  • Ensure genuine consideration of feedback, and provide clarification or ensure that steps will be taken to address concerns and follow through

If you’re in the food service industry, what are your biggest concerns, challenges and solutions for avoiding food waste. Please share your feedback in the comments section below.



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