Last updated: 09:07 AM ET, Thu June 25 2015

Switzerland Hotel Uses Graphic Images to Deter Overzealous Buffet Goers

Hotel & Resort | Donald Wood | June 17, 2015

Switzerland Hotel Uses Graphic Images to Deter Overzealous Buffet Goers

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Wasting food in a world where so many go hungry is deplorable, but one luxury hotel general manager in Switzerland has decided she won’t take it anymore and has instituted a controversial tactic in the dining hall to fight a noble cause.

According to Joyce Ng of the Shanghaiist, Brigitte Heller, general manager of the four-star Monopol Hotel in Lucerne, Switzerland, posted photographs of emaciated children from Africa to deter guests from being wasteful at the restaurant buffet.

The sign at the buffet was written in both English and Chinese, and read, “The malnourished children die…and in Switzerland people waste food and throw it away. This is in Switzerland ethically and morally unacceptable,” and was accompanied by graphic images.

There are also signs on the tables which read, “Good morning dear guests. For ethical and moral reasons, in Switzerland we do not throw away any food. Please put on your plate only what you do eat. Thank you for your understanding.”

Blogger Jamison shared the hotel’s signs on Twitter:

Heller explained that the hotel buffet was not targeting any tourists in particular—although some Chinese guests felt  the signs were directed at them—and was only trying to make it clear that wasting food was not accepted behavior in their country.

Nor should it be. The amount of food wasted worldwide by first-world countries is almost as much as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa (222 million vs. 230 million tons). One report estimates that 1 in 4 calories intended for consumption is never eaten.

The graphic images have been taken down but the table placards remain, and have been an effective tool for cutting waste.

We don't have these images anymore. They were planned for the initial phase as a means of sensitising guests by having the information in images rather than in words," Heller said in a statement to TravelPulse. "Many guests don't understand English or another foreign language. We speak a lot of different languages, but Asian languages are naturally not as common. But in the meantime, our initial experience shows us that our measures are also having an effect without the aforementioned images."

Despite some media backlash about her usage of photographs of emaciated children on signs, Heller continues to stand by her methods and even reports this past week that the hotel has seen a 50 percent drop in wasted food over the last month and that responses to the approach have been "exclusively positive."

"On average, hotel guests now leave about 50 percent less in leftovers," she said. "This is a huge success, and I thank all the guests from the bottom of my heart for their great support and help. People are good, deep down, and that makes me very happy."

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