Sunday, September 2, 2012


On one side over eating is sought to be discouraged because of the fear of obesity and all consequences associated with this body bloating syndrome. On the other hand many people waste food by not eating all they cook or buy due to many reasons and this is also a global issue of serious concern because almost one billion poor people in this Globe go to bed hungry every night! How can one bring about a balance under such a predicament faced by many nations, especially the ones which are wealthy? There are institutions like Food Banks in some countries which are active in making use of foods that are discarded while many non-government voluntary bodies are actively engaged in utilizing such foods to feed the poor. It is against such a background that the new initiative by a few eateries in some parts of the world to punish those indulging in food wastage, are to be appreciated. Here is a report which highlights such a practice on the part of a few courageous restaurants in some countries. 

A restaurant in Saudi Arabia is making headlines for its unusual policy of penalizing customers for 'wastage of food.' According to the owner of the restaurant based in Dammam, in the Eastern Province, the penalty was put into place after many customers failed to consume their large orders of food—the owners stress wasting food goes against the teachings of Islam. In a culture of excess, a 'food wastage' policy may sound absurd, but this isn't the first time a restaurant has opted for this kind of a penalty. Consider the £20 (Dh114) fee owners of the Chinese restaurant Kylin Buffet charge those diners who do not eat all the food of their plates. The restaurant's policy received much coverage after they fined Beverley Clark, a 40-year-old mother, after her son and niece left two onion rings, a prawn toast and a spring roll at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Or consider the standing policy in a Japanese restaurant in New York called Hayashi Ya which fines a customer 3 percent of their bill, if they do not finish what they serve themselves from the all-you-can-eat buffet. Other restaurants opt for forms of positive reinforcement to encourage good eating habits. A Japanese restaurant called Wafu just outside of Sydney, Australia, gives its customers a 30 percent discount if they eat all the food they ordered. The company's website begins with a special plea to its customers to: "Please be mindful of the amount of food you order – consider ordering just the right amount, in harmony with your appetite!" Food wastage fines isn't altogether a strange concept—but Kipp can't help but think it would be very strange if it was every enforced here in the Emirates. After all, for a city like Dubai which has given birth to the institution of the Friday all-you-can-eat-and-drink brunch, it is difficult to think of such penalties being put in place. Yet given the country's burgeoning obesity problem, perhaps a food wastage fee is exactly what is needed.

The initiative of these pioneers deserves kudos because they are swimming against the tide trying to establish and disseminate the bitter truth that wasting food is a social crime. It may difficult for these players to compete with conventional eateries where jumbo sizes and ad libitum food are the norms. Modern marketing mania depends largely on attracting customers using economic parameters, with low prices and large serving sizes ruling in the market place. The New York "rumblings" in the name of a proposed policy by the authorities to ban sale of jumbo size sugar laden beverages there, is a classical example of the dominance of quantity over quality! Probably the restaurants which impose fines for wastage or encourages lesser wastage through hefty discounts in the bills, have full confidence in the quality of their offerings and expect their customers to come back again even under such an environment. They do serve as a focal point to convey a vital message that "eat as much as you want but do not waste"!  


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