Exploring Plate Waste in UK Pubs: Quantities, Causes, and Opportunities for Reduction

Grantham Scholar Katie Sumner researches food waste in Hospitality and Food Service venues, most of which is avoidable. 

The project

Every year, 1.1 million tonnes of food is wasted in Hospitality and Food Service (HaFS) venues, 75% of which is edible or avoidable. This translates to 1.3 billion wasted meals per year – equal to throwing away 1 in every six meals served. This costs the sector £3.2 billion and releases the equivalent of 2.7 million tonnes of C02 into the atmosphere every year. At a time when 1 in 10 people in the UK are experiencing some level of hunger, this is something that we must tackle.

Plate waste refers to edible food left on a customer’s plate at the end of a meal, such as chips, sauces, or salad garnishes. Whilst hospitality businesses have a degree of control over food waste arising from preparation and spoilage, this is less so in terms of plate waste which largely depends on the customer and their behaviour.

Within the hospitality sector, pubs produce the most avoidable waste per meal served, yet research within this area is minimal. With the help of pubs in Sheffield and the surrounding area, this research will go some way towards bridging this gap.

Comment cards – filled in by customers directly after their meal – will be used to understand what food is being left in pubs, why it is being left, and to get customers’ views on the best ways to tackle plate waste. Interviews will then be conducted with members of the public to gain a more in-depth insight into customer behaviour surrounding out-of-home food waste

Katie Sumner’s outreach

Outreach Ambassador for TUoS Geography Department. For this role Katie works with students, teachers, educators and the public to showcase research and teaching at Sheffield.

Katie Sumner led a discussion on whether low carbon technologies are really enough to curb climate change. In this blog, she asks whether we need to reconsider how we think of energy in the first place. Read: Steering energy demand in the right direction.

In 2016 Katie helped organise a debate Clean Power for All as part of our Scholar outreach programme. You can watch this on our YouTube channel.

Grantham Scholars looked at using theories of practise to decarbonise transport in this week’s Journal Club. Katie Sumner reflects on their discussions. Read: Changing practices to decarbonise transport by Katie Sumner.

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Dr Matt Watson

Department of Geography


Dr Alastair Buckley

Department of Physics and Astronomy