Variable portion sizes

In a nutshell

This tool aims to decrease food waste and help customers towards healthier eating habits. The food portions in public canteens are often too large for the customer to consume entirely, leading to increased food waste and/or unhealthy overeating. In response to these issues, public catering providers can adjust their portion sizes to offer more suitable “regular” and “small” portions. This aligns with EU health, climate, and circular economy policies.

Necessary Steps

  • Evaluate current portion sizes in terms of plate waste and consider adding a smaller portion size.
  • Decide on what “smaller” means, e.g. two ladlefuls of soup for the regular and one ladleful for the small meal. Consider also providing differently sized serving cutlery.
  • Decide on a pricing scheme for the smaller portion serving. It can either be made cheaper than the regular portion, or, instead of adjusting the price directly, extras such as a drink or dessert could be provided free of charge.
  • Plates can be provided in two different sizes, or regular plates used for both portion sizes. If you decide to provide differently sized plates, you can also use dessert plates, if available.
  • Inform the kitchen staff of the new approach and discuss it with them. Provide guidance material to help regulate portion sizes.
  • If necessary, add the new price for small portions to the cash register system.
  • Ensure the new portion size policy is communicated in all relevant detail (i.e. what it is, why it is being implemented, and how) to the customers.

More Issues To Consider

  • This scheme enjoyed very positive feedback from the staff in the canteens of the Environmental State Office in North Rhine-Westphalia.
  • One challenge facing caterers is that the number of small portions required can be very difficult to predict in the beginning. Consider introducing a pre-ordering system to determine demand.
  • The demand for smaller portion sizes may also decrease the volumes of food procured.
  • Small portions are often ordered in combination with a small salad and/ or a dessert.
  • This tool can also be used by public authorities, as the inclusion of two portion sizes can be a criterion in calls for tenders when procuring a new catering service.

Further Information

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