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Biting off more than we can chew

Updated: 2016-06-16 07:50
By Xu Wei (China Daily)

Biting off more than we can chew

Obvious impact

Last year, Cheng's team of 140 researchers and volunteers monitored food wastage at 3,357 dining tables in 366 restaurants in the four cities chosen for the survey.

The researchers noted the obvious impact of the frugality drive on the catering sector and food wastage in restaurants, with some high-end eateries forced to close as a result of a decline in the number of customers and official banquets.

"Some even started offering boxed lunches and delivered food to customers," Liu said.

The researchers found that restaurants in Shanghai wasted an average 94.9 grams of food per person per meal, while consumers in Beijing wasted an average 79.2 grams.

"We were surprised to find that wasteful behavior is so common in restaurants in Shanghai, where the dishes are generally served on smaller plates than in the northern provincial areas," he said.

"Meanwhile, there are signs that Clean Your Plate campaign is having less impact in cities with a strong business environment, such as Shanghai."

Clean Your Plate campaign was initiated in 2013 by nongovernmental organizations and urged people to save food.

In Lhasa, the researchers witnessed another typical trend: although many tourists had lost their appetites because of the high altitude, they still wanted to try the local cuisine.

"That is typical of wasteful behavior by tourists across the country. It's common for them to try the local cuisine but to find it unappetizing," said Zhang Dan, another member of the research team.

According to an April 2014 report published by the China Cuisine Association, the catering sector's total revenue grew by 9 percent to 2.56 trillion yuan ($389 billion) in 2013, the weakest growth in more than 20 years. Meanwhile, 42 enterprises among the sector's top 100 businesses saw their net profit decline, while six suffered major losses.

Feng Enyuan, the association's vice-president, said that since the start of the frugality campaign, consumption by the general public now accounts for as much as 85 percent of the sector's turnover, although he admitted that the association has no statistics about the amount of food wasted in the sector every year.

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