Diners at The Ibnii Coorg will now pay for leftover food

At The Ibnii Coorg, the weighing scale comes to the table, and diners are billed for their waste

February 28, 2020 02:26 pm | Updated February 29, 2020 10:40 am IST

Weighing leftovers at the restaurant

Weighing leftovers at the restaurant

What is it about a holiday at The Ibnii in Coorg that has guests sharing pictures of clean plates with each other even after they return? Big on travelling sustainably, Bengaluru-based couple, Pinky Chandran and Girish Balachandran — armed with a thermos and steel glass even on holidays — visited the luxury resort last month and were in for a surprise. On arrival, they were informed that they would be charged for leftovers on the table as part of the ‘Weigh The Waste, Feed A Child’ initiative. “I was amazed at the bold move,” says Balachandran, adding, “The cost is not much [they charge ₹100 per 10 grams], but it makes you realise you are being called out for being wasteful. Our immediate reaction was to start ordering half and quarter portions,” says the entrepreneur, who found himself sharing pictures of his ‘clean’ plates with his wife.

Perhaps this was what Sherry Sebastian, the resort’s Managing Director, was aiming for when the idea came about at a breakfast meeting. The team noticed the copious amounts of food being wasted by guests. “We saw consciously-prepared food being thrown away, and thought of the huge population that’s still malnourished. We fuse science, logic, math, and heart to optimally use resources,” says Shreya Krishnan, CSR and Marketing Advisor, adding that all proceeds collected from this initiative goes to orphanages in Coorg.

How it works

Typically, at the 123-acre property, guests pay a tariff (between ₹15,000 and ₹20,000) that includes all meals — typically regional and continental favourites such as kuru curry, handmade ravioli and jaggery desserts. The resort, which opened in 2016, believes in leaving behind a minimal carbon footprint and all food is grown locally, sourced organically and no additives are used in cooking. “We let things grow at their own pace and cook food as nature meant for it to be,” says Krishnan. In fact, studies have shown that 25% of the world’s water is used to produce food that is never eaten.

Guests can eat as much as they want, and take as many refills. But once food is on the plate, and not eaten, it will be weighed in front of them and the amount is added to their bill. When the initiative launched, the resort faced a lot of questions. “Even now, we do get the odd entitled guest who feels he/she can waste food as it has been paid for. Some have paid as much as ₹8,000 towards food wasted during their entire stay. We do get the excuse about kids wasting food, but we have to educate children and change their attitude towards food, right?” asks Krishnan, adding, “When guests go back home and send us photos of clean plates, and tell us they have changed how they consumed food, it makes this worthwhile.”

On ground

From 14 composting bins (each can hold 550 kg) of food waste — including vegetable peels, coffee and tea dregs, egg shells and coconut shells — a day, the resort has come down to one bin a day. For instance, on February 24, approximately 15.56 kg of cooked ‘waste’ food was sent to the dump, as compared to the 79-odd kg wasted during the same period in 2018. “That’s a tremendous amount of food saved,” says Krishnan, who was once billed ₹90 for a piece of toast she dropped when dining at the resort.

Among other things, the resort had to train their kitchen and serving staff to wholeheartedly accept this change. “Since it came from the top, the trickle down was easy. We trained our staff to communicate the idea firmly, but kindly.” The move has been a hit among visitors and Twitterati has taken notice. Many are now calling for it to be a mandatory feature at all restaurants/resorts. Ibnii is therefore willing to share this as a ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ (SOP) with other players in the hospitality sector. “Yes, hospitality is an area where the guest comes first, but you can always nudge them towards the right thing to do,” says Krishnan.

Ambareen Junaid Sait, who runs three resorts in the Nilgiris under the SerendipityO brand, welcomes the Ibnii initiative. “It is criminal to waste food and this discipline is good. Many resorts are in inaccessible locations and even ferrying raw material there takes effort. There is always the possibility that guests who don’t share your view might post negative reviews, but that is something we should take in our stride. We faced something similar when we stopped handing out one-litre disposable water bottles,” she says.

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