Picture this. It’s been a long day at work or school, and all you desperately want right now is some delicious sushi from that place across the street. As soon as you’re free, you head across the street and order a couple of rolls, because you deserve it. You take a few bites right as they arrive, but there’s something off. The rice is dry, there’s not enough cucumber – it tastes old, and it isn’t to your liking. You let your waiter know, he or she apologizes, and you have two fresh rolls instead, with the old ones heading towards the trash.
Many times, we don’t give this a second thought because we’re too busy enjoying our freshly made food. But this is where there’s a problem: we as customers tend to reject and complain about receiving stale food, and in the process, we waste what could be perfectly good food for our own satisfaction. It’s one thing if the food has been sitting out in unsanitary conditions for a while, or if it’s just not safe to eat anymore – but it’s another if something has been made only fifteen minutes prior, and we ask for something that’s completely new.
This summer, I worked at a pretzel shop that offered a 30-minute freshness guarantee, which might have made sense if we didn’t have a proper way to house the freshly-baked pretzels, but we had a warmer that kept food above the minimum temperature requirement. This meant that we were throwing away perfectly good pretzels, in an effort to uphold company facade and practice. The ‘expired’ pretzels would find their way into a trash can, along with the ones that some customers wanted to exchange for a new one.
Ultimately, by the very end of each day, we would end up wasting around 100 pretzels, which would all end up in a large dumpster because they weren’t deemed fresh enough by both the company and our customers. Sure, customer satisfaction always remains priority, and restaurants should take steps to ensure that they are satisfied with their service, but these guarantees towards product freshness and customer happiness are contributing to our already extensive food waste. Even though some food may not taste as fresh as they did a mere 15 or 30 minutes ago, they pose no harm as long as they’ve been kept to health standards and requirements.
To be fair, this may not be something that quickly comes to mind – I didn’t even consider it until I started working for them. But this is where we should start to raise awareness towards food waste, which, thankfully, is already gaining traction. One of the dining halls at my old school donates the unused food prepared each day to local food banks, in an effort to repurpose the would-be waste to a good cause. These are practices that need to be spread, especially to restaurants that give guarantees on product freshness – it’ll ensure that not everything that is made is just thrown away.
Perhaps we, too, as consumers shouldn’t always come to expect the best of the best when it comes to dining and eating. If there’s nothing that poses a health risk, then it should be pretty okay for you to eat. It may not be the same as getting something that came fresh out of the kitchen, but considering the amount of food you’re saving, it could make a difference.