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Restaurateurs unable to digest Ram Vilas Paswan’s suggestions on portion control


Hotels and restaurants, already reeling from the effects of the Supreme Court’s highway liquor ban, haven’t taken too well to consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan’s suggestions on portion control.

“We hope the ministry will call us for a dialogue and we will explain why this is not possible,” said Riyaaz Amlani, president, National Restaurant Association of India.

Paswan, for his part, said on Tuesday that his comments were not in the nature of a diktat. But he wasn’t backing off from the overall message on curbing the wastage of food. “I have asked the department to examine the issue,” Paswan said. “We will hold a stakeholders’ meeting shortly where suggestions will be taken.

What we plan to do is to bring consumer awareness with this move.” The food and consumer affairs ministry wants hotels and restaurants to specify the quantity of food per plate on their menus to enable consumers to decide how much they want to order.

There was, however, no question of making such a move binding or subject to regulations, Paswan said. Hoteliers said the move may be a well-meaning one but implementing it would be close to impossible.

“This is unbelievable. You can’t reduce wastage through such an order. How do you do such portioning?” said restaurateur Zorawar Kalra, founder of Massive Restaurants, which owns and operates brands such as Farzi Cafe, Pa Pa Ya and Masala Library. “The costs to consumers will increase. The intention could be noble but implementing and executing such an order is wrong like the liquor ban. You cannot force charity.”

Restaurateur Saurabh Khanijo said he doesn’t understand how such a move would work in practice given how Indians tend to order in restaurants.

“There are pre-plated concepts but alarge number of Indians like family dining,” he said. “I do not see how we could regulate portions for Indian dishes particularly.”

Hoteliers said they are very conscious of food costs and wastage as they want to run their businesses profitably. “International brands particularly are very onscious of food cost controls and the percentage of food served and the cost is accounted for,” said Raj Rana, CEO for South Asia at the Carlson Rezidor hotel chain. “We have clear guidelines in place and our chefs and staff control and monitor wastage and adjust portions accordingly. The value and size of what is being served should be best left to be judged by the recipient and the businesses.”

Paswan clarified that the ministry was working toward consumer welfare and has in the past regulated the sale of packaged water and soft drinks at maximum retail price besides spreading awareness about service charges on food and drinks levied at hotels and restaurants.

Restaurants should mention how much they are serving to customers when they order food.

“There have been instances when a customer orders a soup or a food item and the quantity is so much that five people can have the meal,” he said. “A menu card of a hotel or restaurant should mention the portions of food.” Kalra said a much better way of doing things was for the government to establish a system by which food could be donated.

“The way to prevent food wastage is coming up with guidelines wherein hotels and restaurants can give away wasted food to certain centres controlled by the government,” he said. “The government has to take the onus for such measures.”

Source: Economic Times

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