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Food barbadi only at shaadi, please don’t serve us gyaan portions, say hotels


The government is planning to pre-determine portion sizes served at restaurants to reduce food wastage. While restaurateurs are still reeling under the 500m liquor ban, it’s food consumption that’s likely to get the axe next. The government is planning to fix portion sizes of dishes served in hotels and restaurants to control food wastage. Ram Vilas Paswan, minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, was quoted as saying in a report, “If a person can eat only two prawns, why should he or she be served six? It’s wastage of food and also money people pay for something that they don’t eat.” The minister’s statement comes a fortnight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised his concerns over wastage of food in his radio programme, Mann Ki Baat. Paswan added that the instructions would be applicable to “standard hotels” and not dhabas that “usually serve thalis”. The ministry is reportedly drafting a questionnaire for hotels and restaurants to explain what dish sizes they should serve to a customer. Restaurateurs react to this “hilarious” idea, saying that it is impossible to pre-determine how much dal or sabzi a person can eat.

‘The news is hilarious…nothing more to say!’
It is impossible to pre-decide the portions to be served by restaurants to avoid wastage, as how can one decide how much dal a diner will consume out of a bowl, or how much risotto a person can eat, ask restaurateurs. “The news that the government is now trying to fix portions of food served in restaurants is just hilarious. How are they going to implement this? Who will be monitoring how many pieces of chicken in one dish a restaurant is serving? The government is trying to decide the value for money, which is not possible,” says restaurateur Shiv Karan Singh. Another restaurateur, Joy Singh, adds, “Most restaurants follow the European style of plating, as per which 60% of the plate should be empty, and 40% should be used for decoration, etc. How should one reduce from that, where does the wastage happen in that? Also, how will the government control the number of dishes that customers order? If there are three dishes ordered, sometimes, the third dish is not even touched. That kind of wastage will still happen.”

For restaurateur Umang Tewari, assessing how much a person will eat on an average is “bizarre”. “Customers will soon start blaming us for overcharging. The minister says that if a person eats two prawns, why should he/she be served six. What will happen to the person who eats four? He will order another portion and the extra bit will be wasted. It is becoming difficult for us stay updated each day with such bizarre rules and orders. We are trying to do business and not terrorists who should be controlled and monitored always,” says Tewari.

‘What happens to food wasted at private parties and weddings?’
Hoteliers also argue that more than in restaurants and hotels, where a majority of customers prefers to take away the remaining meal, wastage happens at private parties and weddings. “What is the government going to do in the case of weddings? Are they going to ask the halwai to make only 2,000 rotis for a gathering, else he will be punished? There is so much food wasted at private parties and functions, that should be monitored first. It is again one of those things where the government’s intention is good, but the execution is very poor, just like the highway liquor ban,” says restaurateur Zorawar Kalra.

Saurabh Khanijo, a Delhi-based restaurateur, adds, “At weddings and private functions, caterers usually prepare 10 or more dishes for 50 people, not all 50 are going to consume everything. So a lot of food wastage happens there. In restaurants, how can they control the portion served, especially in case of Indian cuisine? A dal or kadhi will be served in a bowl, how can one reduce the quantity from that?”

Does one size fit all?
Rahul Singh, honourary secretary, National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI), says, “It’s common knowledge that wastage of any kind, like food, fuel, electricity, water, etc, is a national one, and all stakeholders have to exercise a sustainable and pragmatic approach towards it. As the media report suggests that the ministry will be calling upon industry experts to figure this out, we will certainly participate in the dialogue and try to figure the premise behind this move. Having a ‘one size fits all’ attitude is akin to having the same shirt size for everyone. I know people who can eat six idlis without a flutter and I struggle to finish even two. Restaurants portion and price their menu based on knowledge of the cuisine, consumer behaviour and demographics. Menus are altered regularly based on guest feedback, transactional intelligence and seasonal produce. I have never finished a full thali at an Udupi restaurant, and on the other hand, felt hungry after a Michelin-starred restaurant’s rather glamourous but tiny portion. Honestly, I love leftovers and get them packed to be eaten the next day. Not only does it taste great, I also get the bang for my buck.”

‘Government should set up centres for distribution of leftovers from restaurants’
Instead of coming up with “absurd and bizarre” rules and orders for the F&B industry, the government should proactively participate in coming up with practical solutions to problems, feel restaurant owners. Zorawar says that instead of limiting portions of food, the government should set up centres near major hubs like Connaught Place, Hauz Khas Village and Cyber Hub, to distribute food among the needy. “That’s what we do in our restaurants, we distribute our leftover food among the poor or we give it to orphanages. The government should set up such centres for food distribution, so that more restaurants and hotels can do this. Fixing portions of food is no solution to food wastage, in fact, if implemented, this will set a very wrong example for the rest of the world and we will be known for our most unfriendly policies towards F&B,” says Zorawar.

We choose restaurants on the basis of quantity served: Diners
“Quantity is one of the parameters to rate a restaurant. Whenever we go out for eating, we choose a restaurant depending on which serves better quantity. As Indians, we believe in sharing our food and in value for money. I think no one should decide the portion or how much one should eat at a restaurant, it is like limiting our freedom,” says Rohit Singh, a marketing professional from Delhi. Sneha Karmvar, an MBA student from Sector 23, Gurgaon, adds, “One day, I might eat only two idlis, and on another day, I might eat four. Even we are not sure about our appetite, then how can the government be?”
Source: Times of India

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