Home Innovate How the UAE’s Hilton Slashed Food Waste By 62%

How the UAE’s Hilton Slashed Food Waste By 62%

Inc. Arabia speaks to Emma Banks, Vice President F&B Strategy and Development Hilton Europe, Middle East, and Africa, about how Hilton’s Green Breakfast and Green Ramadan initiatives have slashed food waste--without compromising hospitality.

y bronze Author: yasmin

Last year, the Hilton UAE launched its Green Breakfast initiative in 13 hotels UAE in partnership with the UAE’s National Food Loss and Waste Initiative, ne’ma. Over the next 13 weeks, Hilton properties across the UAE saw a 62% reduction in food waste.

The initiative followed the highly successful Green Ramadan pilot, which applied the same principles to Iftar and Sohour buffets during Ramadan of 2023.

“Breakfast is the one unifying meal across most hotels, and we know that it is also one of the greatest contributors to food waste in the hospitality landscape,” Emma Banks, Vice President F&B Strategy and Development Hilton Europe, Middle East, and Africa, tells Inc. Arabia.

Emma Banks, Vice President F&B Strategy and Development Hilton Europe, Middle East, and Africa.Emma Banks, Vice President F&B Strategy and Development Hilton EMEA

“We serve 1.8 million breakfast meals a year in those 13 hotels. Now imagine that kind of reduction being replicated across Hilton’s estate and the whole hospitality sector,” she says. 

The initiatives aim to reduce food waste while raising awareness among staff and customers. Banks tells us that the initiative addresses the “defective choice architecture” built into the hospitality sector. This architecture, she explains, results in a “more is better” mentality, which she encourages guests to re-examine. Hospitality and food waste reduction, she stresses, are not mutually exclusive.  

“It makes commercial sense as well. You don’t want to pay for food, cook it, use energy and chemicals to wash and clean it, and then throw it all away,” she adds.

In addition to ne’ma, Hilton partnered with Winnow Solutions, a UK-based AI-powered food waste management company, the UAE’s The Waste Labs for composting, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) West Asia, and The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change in the UAE, among others.

Banks tells us that the team also wants to create a blueprint for best practices for food waste management in the hospitality industry.

From Green Ramadan to Green Breakfast

Inspired by UNEP’s Recipe of Change Campaign, which Hilton partnered with one year ago to launch its Green Ramadan pilot, the team has worked on what Banks tells us is a seven-pronged approach to reduce food waste. This includes increasing locally sourced food to a minimum of 30% of the hotel’s basket, practicing sustainable gastronomy, introducing behavioral interventions in dining rooms, reducing single-use plastic, measuring food waste, diverting safe leftovers to food banks or team member cafeterias, and composting organic waste.  

Following the success of its pilot last year, the team revived Green Ramadan in Ramadan 2024 in 32 Hilton properties across seven countries.

At buffets, the team placed tactful and discreet “messaging nudges” to make guests think about consumption and serve as a conversation starter with front-of-house staff.

In Ramadan 2024, the UNEP Recipe of Change message was “Half the food waste, double the blessings.”

“Ramadan is about generosity, hospitality, sharing, and breaking bread with your loved ones, and we found that using an artful message like that resonates with people and opens up the conversation in a respectful way,” says Banks.

Using AI to Slash Food Waste

Winnow, one of Hilton’s partners, uses an AI-powered system that includes a camera, a smart scale, and a tablet to identify up to 600 food items, weigh them, and calculate the cost of discarding them. Daily, weekly, and monthly reports are produced based on the data, helping kitchens understand how to optimize operations, where behavior changes are needed, and where there is room for innovation in preparation, cooking, and plating.

“Our data tells us that on average, 10% of the food purchased in a kitchen is wasted. Not because chefs want to throw food away, but because they rarely have the tools to know how much to produce and how much they waste. Chefs are expected to make complex forecasting decisions in stressful environments, without the right information,” Marc Zornes, CEO and co-founder of Winnow, tells Inc. Arabia in an emailed interview.

Winnow’s team trains kitchen staff to use the technology and introduces best practices to reduce food waste. It also quantifies the savings made on food waste reduction by using a Food Waste Profit and Loss (P&L) methodology, which helps operators identify specific cost savings and margin impacts resulting from food waste reduction initiatives, Zornes tells us.

Banks says that the data has helped deepen the team’s insights and take corrective action, resulting in a 62% reduction in food waste in trial and mid-initial trial pilot sites.

As a result, the team has downsized bakery items and cheeses, cutting fruit differently, and offering more live cooking stations.

Banks tells us that being able to measure and see the results of their work has driven the team’s motivation and excitement.

“It’s a huge change in the kitchen. Before we started, chefs would say we have no waste and you’d open the bin and see the waste. This is a huge reset for the industry as well as for consumers, who want to get their value for money from buffets. Now, consumers are thinking of conscious consumption,” says Banks.

Last update:
Publish date: