This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Exploring Restaurant Managers' Awareness, Attitudes, and Motivations towards Mitigating Food Waste




O'Neill, Sorcha

Type of Degree

Master's Thesis


Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management


Food waste is an enormous global issue with severe financial, environmental, and social implications (Williams et al., 2015). The U.S. restaurant industry is a sector known to significantly contribute to food waste (Gunders, 2012; ReFED, 2018). While this topic has gained considerable interest in recent years, it remains a much under-research topic. The relevant literature is mostly comprised of client-generated food waste. However, it has been found that the attitudes and behaviors of restaurant managers towards food waste can directly impact the amount of food waste generated (Gunders, 2012; Heikkilä et al., 2016). Therefore, understanding the causes of restaurant food waste, the mitigation practices used, and the managerial attitudes is required to effectively manage the problem (Heikkilä et al., 2016; Principato et al., 2018). The purpose of this study is to investigate and compare front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) restaurant managers’ awareness, attitudes, and motivations for food waste mitigation. Additionally, this study explored the operational aspects of food waste generated in restaurants to uncover the causes, mitigation practices employed, and barriers faced. A qualitative approach was utilized in this study. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with FOH and BOH managers of restaurants (n =13). The Upper Echelons Theory was applied to assess whether the different upper echelon characteristics, observable and psychological, of the two sets of managers (FOH (n = 6) and BOH (n = 7)) impacted their attitudes and motivations. The data was thematically analyzed to identify the overarching themes and subthemes. The results indicated that all participants were highly aware of food waste and displayed negative sentiment towards restaurant food waste. It was found that most participants developed a heightened awareness of food waste upon stepping into their management roles. Reducing costs was found to be the key motivating factor for the desire to lessen food waste. However, the majority of BOH participants were also motivated by profound respect and appreciation for the food itself. Additionally, the findings suggested that the FOH operational/functional area is responsible for a considerable proportion of restaurant food waste. The findings from this study provide valuable insight into the underlying cognitive base and values for restaurant managers’ awareness, attitudes, and motivations towards restaurant food waste. The theoretical and practical implications are discussed in detail.