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Waste in the catering industry, what if we acted?

Collective catering can become an exemplary lever in the evolution of our food models. A review to understand why professional actors and communities have a major role to play.

Waste in the catering industry, what if we acted?

State of the art

In France, according to ADEME, food losses and waste represent 10 million tons of products per year, with an estimated commercial value of 16 billion euros. Inefficient use of natural resources - arable land and water, avoidable greenhouse gas emissions, and public money. All stages of the food chain -production, processing, distribution and consumption- are concerned. According to a study by Ademe, here is the distribution of these losses and waste:

  • 32% for agricultural production;
  • 21% for processing ;
  • 14% for distribution;
  • 14% for catering (collective and commercial) ;
  • 19% for home consumption.

Collective catering: why do professionals and local authorities have a major role to play?

Collective catering can become a lever of example and a vector of awareness in the evolution of our food models. Indeed, opting for responsible collective catering means meeting environmental, economic, ethical and social challenges. It is both an obvious choice and a public health requirement. Because of the importance of its volumes, the collective catering industry also contributes to the governance of food and agricultural markets. The choice of products and packaging has a partial impact on the marketing of agricultural products.

In a context where French agriculture is trying to redefine its foundations to face the globalization of markets, collective catering represents a real opportunity for the agricultural sector to create local jobs, to guarantee local outlets and to regain a share of the added value of its products. It is also a way to think global by acting local, to differentiate its offer in a very competitive sector, and to reduce its costs.

How much does this waste cost?

Taking into account the meals that were not consumed by the guests, those produced in too large quantities by the kitchen team, as well as those discarded during the production phase, food waste is usually between 150 and 200 g per person according to the ADEME. For a restaurant serving 500 guests on average 200 days a year, the waste represents between 15 and 20 tons per year, which in terms of budget, means between 30,000 and 40,000 euros of annual losses. The recovery of food waste is a positive step, but its cost is added to the amount of losses.

Taking action

Many food service providers are eager to take action to limit waste without increasing operational costs and meal prices. 

Here are the key steps for taking action, based on the experience of a large catering group: 

Step 1: Analyze the causes of food waste by thinking in terms of product and consumer pathways; measure the associated economic losses and environmental impact (e.g. waste and associated carbon emissions). 

Step 2: Prioritize a pilot project on a specific theme (e.g., reuse of unsold goods), based on the associated and expected environmental and economic benefits; establish a clear roadmap, with deadlines, for its operational implementation.

Step 3: Sustain this pilot by deploying it in other restaurants based on this first success; highlight the associated performance indicators (KPIs) and the benefits obtained.


Step 4: Communicate in a transparent way on the actions implemented to the stakeholders (e.g.: guests, customers); share the key success factors and capitalize on this pilot project to position itself as a reference on the subject.

A successful project brings together all the local actors involved, from the elected official to the child, from the legal purchasing officer to the parents, from the cooks to the managers and nutritionists, to the local suppliers. It is necessary to identify all the stakeholders to bring to the table before and during the project to ensure the successful launch of a pilot project.

Global problem, local solutions 

Sustainable Purchasing:

Beesk: 1st distributor of "non-standard" food products for commercial and collective catering. Purchase from French producers and processors of first choice products, out of standard sizes or out of discontinued ranges. These products are offered to restaurant owners with recipes. To discover here 

Horsnormes: Organic, French and anti-gaspi fruit & vegetable baskets up to 40% cheaper (in short circuit). To discover here


Nu! For corporate catering, NU! offers up to 100 menus in its connected fridge: lunch formulas for the price of a meal ticket that can be subsidized, depending on your choice. Dishes delivered in reusable containers: no more disposable packaging during meals. Catering information, consumption statistics, real time stock, carbon impact report... it's all there! Discover it here

Prevention / waste management :

Moulinot : Complete offer of waste management (global management and recovery). To discover here

Meal Canteen: an application that proposes to reduce waste before consumption: consumers can order their appetizers, main course and dessert the day before on a virtual self. Result: the cooks only prepare what will be consumed the next day. Discover it here

Phenix : Helps professionals to reduce waste by revalorizing food and non-food surpluses destined for destruction. A second life is given to the unsold goods via the donation to associations, the promotion of short-dated products, animal feed, compost, etc... To discover here

The Alchemists : Sorting, collection and valorization of food waste. Collection and local composting of organic waste for professionals and individuals. To discover here

Vépluche: The first real circular economy loop applied to organic waste. Here we talk about fruits and vegetables, potting soil, and bike delivery, with an offer adapted for collective restaurants, Biodéchets contre terreau, which allows to save 50% in collection of biodéchets. To discover here

Winnow: Artificial intelligence comes into your kitchen to help you reduce food waste! Using a camera, a connected scale, and the same technology used in autonomous cars, their Winnow Vision technology is able to recognize waste thrown in the trash. Their solution maximizes operational efficiency and data accuracy, for both financial and environmental impact. Find out more here

Too Good To Go : Central kitchens, collective restaurants, cafeterias and self-service restaurants... the Too Good To Go solution allows you to reduce waste by promoting your surplus food and your anti-spoilage commitment to your employees and customers. Their application helps more than 200 collective catering sites to save their unsold food. Discover it here

Egalim law: new guarantees to be offered

Sourcing differently, with local and quality products, has become a priority topic, whether for civil society or collective catering. The EGAlim law, enacted in November 2018, provides for several very ambitious measures to improve the quality of meals served by collective catering, including the goal ofachieving a 50% supply rate of sustainable and quality products, including 20% of products from organic farming. The Ministry has collaborated with the National Center for Territorial Civil Servants (CNFPT) and the Interministerial Digital Delegation (DINUM) to support all those involved in the field of collective catering. Two new support tools are now available. They have been co-constructed with the actors of the National Council for Contract Catering (CNRC). 

  • The governmental digital information and support platform "Ma Cantine", currently being tested in the school catering sector. (To consult: The various measures of the EGAlim law, the new guide to public procurement for buyers in direct management )
  • "The CNFPT's resource package, which makes information easier by providing attractive and diversified resources.

However, the notion of sustainable food is not limited to organic and local purchases, we must also think about packaging waste.

Thus, to dig deeper into the subject, we propose you the replay of the webinar organized by the Metropole of Greater Paris and Circul'R on June 1st, on the stakes of the development of industrial solutions of reuse for the collective catering within the communities.  

Video available here

This article was written by :
Kevin Chen
Consulting Director at Circul'R