Changing awareness of food waste in Swiss restaurants during COVID-19 : uncertainties and existential fears could jeopardise sustainable development in the catering industry

Markoni, Evelyn; Götze, Franziska (8 September 2021). Changing awareness of food waste in Swiss restaurants during COVID-19 : uncertainties and existential fears could jeopardise sustainable development in the catering industry In: 20th Roundtable on Sustainable Consumption and Production (ERSCP 2021). Graz, Austria. September 8 – 10, 2021.

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Official URL: https://erscp2021.eu/

On 16 March 2020, the Federal Council declared the ‘extraordinary situation’ for Switzerland due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eating inside restaurants was no longer possible from then on, and food and drinks could only be offered as take-away. The shutdown as well as the changed consumer behaviour (e.g. cooking more at home) presented restaurateurs with various challenges. Restaurants had to quickly adjust and change their strategies, e.g. with regard to avoiding food waste. In a qualitative study, we interviewed restaurant owners, chefs and managers in Bern about their experiences during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic (in the late spring of 2020) and the impact of the crisis on their food waste strategies. According to the restaurant owners, less food waste was produced during the lockdown – this was due to the change of the menu to take-away after the ban on eating on site. Food waste also hardly affected the respondents' food storage, as instead of throwing food stocks away, it was e.g. distributed among employees or given to other businesses at a discount. In addition, long-life food stocks were often reduced, and more fresh products used instead. While the food waste problem was solved relatively well, the financial burden hit restaurant owners harder. Covering rental costs and keeping running costs under control became much more of a priority. One of the restaurant owners interviewed was at least able to achieve the suspension of the rent and another one received financial support from regular customers through the purchase of vouchers. Keeping staff motivated was also perceived as a challenge because the employees had to accept financial losses due to short-time work. One of the restaurant owners followed the strategy of gathering all employees once a week, even though the restaurant was not open for customers. That way, the work rhythm remained at least partially intact. For the restaurants interviewed, however, the biggest challenge was the reopening immediately after the end of the lockdown, as during this time there were often fewer guests which resulted again in financial losses. Strategic decisions could therefore only be made under difficult and uncertain conditions. When challenges such as financial uncertainty come to the fore, there is a risk that catering businesses struggle to survive and are less able, if at all, to dedicate themselves to producing a sustainable food offer. Especially in times of crisis, there is a danger that restaurants neglect or (have to) forget about sustainability altogether because financial concerns determine their day-to-day business. Future studies should therefore investigate how restaurants can be more resilient in times of crisis – financially but also, for example, in terms of avoiding food waste and other sustainability issues. Governments could create incentives here. So the right political framework is needed to help restaurants develop further their business sustainably. Especially now in the current crisis, financial support from governments could be linked to demands for more sustainability and sustainability business models in restaurants.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)

Division/Institute:

School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Consumer-focused Food Production
School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences HAFL > Consumer-focused Food Production > Sustainability of Food Systems

Name:

Markoni, Evelyn and
Götze, Franziska0000-0001-9022-0880

Subjects:

H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)

Language:

English

Submitter:

Franziska Götze

Date Deposited:

01 Oct 2021 11:20

Last Modified:

22 Jun 2022 10:41

Additional Information:

Die Erlaubnis, diese Datei im ARBOR-Repository zu veröffentlichen, wurde eingeholt

Uncontrolled Keywords:

COVID-19, restaurants, catering industry, food waste, sustainable development

ARBOR DOI:

10.24451/arbor.15504

URI:

https://arbor.bfh.ch/id/eprint/15504

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