Generation and prevention of food waste in the German food service sector in the COVID-19 pandemic - Digital approaches to encounter the pandemic related crisis

Socioecon Plann Sci. 2022 Aug;82:101104. doi: 10.1016/j.seps.2021.101104. Epub 2021 Jun 26.


The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the food service processes and operations in many ways, such as the use of contactless payment methods or ordering systems has increased. Despite the pandemic-related obstacles the sector faces, SDG12.3, halving food waste at the retail and consumer levels by 2030, needs to be achieved. This study therefore examines the two questions: How far has the pandemic affected the generation of food waste and the implementation of prevention measures? How does the use of digital technology, which has been increasingly accessed since the beginning of the pandemic, offer opportunities to further reduce food waste in the sector? Two online surveys were conducted. In the first survey, 84% of the 170 respondents indicated not to implement further food waste reduction measures since the start of the pandemic, while 11% do. They engaged in more targeted purchasing activities based on more conscious planning of the production volume, the reduction of menus offered, and the standardisation of menu components. In total, 91 food service companies provided data on the food wasted (in %) before and since the pandemic. Of the 179 entries made for the different waste categories, 47% indicated waste had not changed, while 42% and 11% indicated an increase/decrease, respectively. In the context of the ongoing digitalisation of the sector, possible fields of action for digital applications were identified, which are helpful in combating food waste in general and specifically during the pandemic. In this study, a classification scheme for digital food waste reduction approaches was developed. These approaches are systemised into four categories: forecasting, waste analysis, redistribution, and measures catalogue. Further, the process steps in which the applications are applied are indicated and direct and indirect effects on the generation of food waste are provided.

Keywords: COVID-19; Digital technologies; Digital transformation; Food service sector; Food waste; Sustainability.