Thursday, May 24, 2012


Wasting the food whether unconsciously or as a part of the life style cannot be defended under any circumstances and the fact that the quantity of waste generated by the affluent people can feed half the world must prick the conscience of every human being in this planet. Added to this the difference in calorie intake between those in affluent countries and others in poor countries is too wide to be ignored any more when almost one billion people in this globe go hungry every day for want of food or due to inaccessibility to food. In a country like Pakistan there is a regulation that is supposed to prevent people organizing ostentatious parties where large quantities of food are routinely wasted and India did experiment with a similar law called "Guest Control Order" some years ago. However not much impact could be made by such laws in the statute book because of tardy implementation. Here comes the news that some restaurants in the West are imposing a fine on those who leave large portions of food on their plates uneaten and probably this is a new initiative worth watching for its impact on food wastage. Here is a take on this interesting development.

With so many choices, the buffet table can be an overwhelming place. But those who overfill their plates may have to pay with more than just their pride at some restaurants. Kylin Buffet, a Chinese restaurant in the northeast of England, is now charging customers £20 ($32) for food wastage costs if diners leave food on their plates. According to the UK Daily Mail, the policy has upset some customers, including Beverley Clark, 40, who spoke out after being told she'd be fined when her son Sam, 10, and niece Toni, 6, allegedly left two onion rings, a piece of prawn toast and a spring roll on their plates. Clark opted to hide the leftovers in a napkin she placed in her bag so the wait staff would think the family cleaned their plates. She succeeded in hoodwinking them. Last year, reported about a similar policy at Marmar restaurant in Dammam, Saudi Arabia. "There are many clients who make large orders in order to impress the people around them and boost their social prestige," owner Fahad Al Anezi said. The policy was aimed at reducing food wastage and extravagance, with the fine being calculated according to the quantity of the leftovers.  Paying extra for unfinished food isn't unheard of stateside. Hayashi Ya Japanese restaurant in New York City charges diners 3 percent for not finishing a meal from the all-you-can-eat buffet. Manager Belson Lin told he doesn't believe customers get upset by the policy, because they know they'll be charged, and have the option to order a la carte. And, in case you think all this is in bad form, we found that etiquette guru Emily Post would agree that wasting food is a serious no-no. In her June 15, 1952 column, Post was firm: "Leaving food on your plate is not good manners — and never was because it not only shows lack of appreciation for your hostess' food, but also 'wanton' priorities. Wasting a precious commodity could never be an ethical choice."

In a fiercely competitive market environment how such a restrictive practice can succeed is not certain because this move may have the effect of diverting the business to those who do not charge additionally for wasting food. But in a buffet system such restrictions may be justified since the price of food served is fixed regardless of the quantity "consumed". While any one can "eat" ad libitum, this does not give the customer right to load the plate full indiscriminately and leave bulk of it unconsumed to be thrown away. It will be interesting as to what yardstick is used to punish such customers and what will be the criterion for deciding that food is wasted. Suppose a customer leaves  only 10% or 20% of the food on the plate will it be considered a waste? Who decides that a customer is wasting significant quantity of food on the plate? Will there be arguments and scuffles between the customer and the manager in such situations? These are practical problems that have to be faced when such new initiatives are adopted.


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