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Student Wins Hospitality Innovator Award

September 21, 2018

One of Masdar Institute’s PhD students has won the Hospitality Innovator Award for an innovative approach to helping reduce food wastage in the UAE that she developed during her doctorate studies.

Sanaa Pirani, a Masdar Institute MSc in Materials Science and Engineering graduate and current Doctoral program student, was awarded the prize for her innovation  at the Hospitality Technology Forum 2015 in Dubai, which took place on 4 November.

“We have been researching food wastage as part of Masdar Institute’s focus on waste management and utilization, and found that it is estimated that nearly 3.27 million tons of food, worth more than USD3.45 billion, is wasted in the UAE every year. Food waste accounts for approximately one-third of all waste that ends up in landfills in Dubai. Given the UAE’s focus on food security and waste reduction, this presented a huge opportunity for improvement,” Pirani said.

To find out how to help reduce food waste in the UAE, over 50 hotels in the UAE were interviewed for their food waste management habits. Hospitality sector events were monitored in order to quantify the amount of food waste generated. Pirani won the Best Presentation Award when her work was presented at the World Resources Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2013.

Pirani and a team of researchers then developed a performance indicator called the Food Waste Rating for Events vis-à-vis Sustainability in the Hospitality sector (FRESH) Number. The goal was to provide a rating of the sustainability of food service at hospitality sector events.

“This metric is the first of its kind for the hospitality sector and has the potential to be used to rate events all around the world,” said Dr. Hassan Arafat, Associate Professor of Water and Environmental Engineering and Pirani’s faculty advisor.

The results of Pirani’s research have shown many factors that influence food wastage in hospitality, but one major source was the practice of serving mounded dishes of meat with carbohydrates, like rice, pasta, and potatoes, which is where Pirani got the inspiration for a novel dish design.

“We found that when a dish had a layer of meat on top of carbohydrates, like Ouzi or Mandi, people will usually pick out the meat first and leave behind the rest. The bulk of carbohydrates is then wasted,” Pirani explained.

The very simple solution she hit upon was to develop a dish that only gives the appearance of a mounded serving of food, so less of the carbohydrate base is needed to give the impression of abundance.

“The dish we designed achieves a better balance between the portions of protein and carbohydrates in the served amount, while ensuring that the meal looks bountiful, as is desired in the local culture,” she explained. Her research shows that the award-winning dish has the potential to save 73,000 kg of food waste annually in the UAE alone.

Pirani is now testing her innovative dish design in collaboration with a leading food catering company in Abu Dhabi.

Zarina Khan
Senior Editor
17 November 2015