Swiss restaurant adopts a food waste fee

Is a fine an appropriate way to reduce food waste in restaurants? A Swiss buffet-style eatery is going down this path.
Is a fine an appropriate way to reduce food waste in restaurants? A Swiss buffet-style eatery is going down this path. Photo: Rebecca Hallas

Swiss diners whose eyes are bigger than their bellies will be the poorer for it with a buffet restaurant deciding to fine them if they leave food on their plates.

Local newspaper 20 Minuten reported restaurateur Giovanni Tafuro launched the punitive measure at the Patrizietta restaurant in Losone last week, warning that over-enthusiastic diners at the restaurant's twelve Swiss franc ($AUD 14) buffet lunch would be slapped with a five-franc surcharge ($AUD 6) for uneaten food.

Tafuro told the newspaper he wanted to send a "strong signal" to diners about food waste. “It made me sick to see so much food being thrown out.”

Tafuro's restaurant is not the first to adopt a fine-for-waste policy, with restaurants in South Shields in the UK and in New York City having also attracted media attention for fining customers. However, those running Australian buffet restaurants said they were unlikely to follow suit.

Isabelle Shee from China Bar Signature said signs in the businesses's three Melbourne all-you-can-eat restaurants currently implored customers not to take more food than they could consume. "It is definitely a big problem," Ms Shee said. "We have signs reminding customers to love food and avoid wastage, and to take only what they can actually eat."

"Some people are greedy [and] seem to forget the food is not going anywhere - that they can refill their plates if they do want more."

The New South Wales Environment Protection Agency claims Sydney businesses throw away 300,000 tonnes of food waste each year.

Shee, who is marketing and HR manager at China Bar Signature, said the practice of charging customers for leaving food uneaten had been common when she lived in Malaysia, with leftover food actually weighed at the table and customers charged a small amount.

However, she could not imagine adopting the policy in Australia. "As a business person all you want is return business ... We don't charge customers because we don't want to upset them." Shee said she did not think a charge would be accepted even if customers were fore-warned: "We come across a lot of unreasonable people."

A spokeswoman for Sheraton on the Park in Sydney said punitive measures were not appropriate as a means of reducing food waste, particularly in a "five-star hotel environment".

"It is not our place to educate customers," she said.

"Charging people for the amount they don't eat? That is just rude. It might be OK in a cheaper restaurant ... But I have never heard of it happening [in Australia]."

The New South Wales Environment Protection Agency claims Sydney businesses throw away 300,000 tonnes of food waste each year.

Now-closed Sydney Japanese restaurant Wafu was known for the strict customer behaviour guidelines implemented by owner-chef Yukako Ichikawa, designed to eliminate food waste.

Diners at Wafu had to undergo an orientation before booking at the restaurant, and were told to bring containers for any food they could not finish. Customers were granted a 30 per cent discount if they ate all the food they ordered.

Wafu closed in mid-2012, with Ichikawa blaming the many customers who were not abiding by the rules.

Do you think Australian restaurants should charge for food waste? If not, how else should food waste be tackled here? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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