Should restaurants fine customers who waste food?
If you go to Hachikyo, a seafood restaurant in Sapporo, Japan, make sure to go hungry. Not only because their bowl of rice with salmon roe is all-you-can eat (and looks amazing) but also because if you don't finish your meal you'll get slapped with a fine.
According to the explanation in the menu, the working conditions for fishermen are harsh and so dangerous that it’s not unknown for lives to be lost. To show our gratitude and appreciation for the food they provide, it is forbidden to leave even one grain of rice in your bowl. Customers who do not finish their tsukko meshi must give a donation.
Kind of harsh, but completely understandable. And, at least according to anecdotal evidence, it's working. Yokoyama's waitress told him: "Hardly anyone leaves their tsukko meshi unfinished."
While this restaurant uses the fine to show respect to fisherman, could restaurants lead the way in the fight against food waste with a simple fine for not finishing your meal? In Washington, D.C., where I live, the city imposed a plastic bag tax of 5 cents per bag at grocery stores. It's a minimal amount but it's dramatically reduced plastic bag use in the city.
Food waste, in the United States alone is a major, $165 billion a year, problem. Restaurants, of course, aren't the only places where food waste happens, but they do account for about 15 percent of all food waste. Putting a price on wasting food could curb that. On the other hand, if it's not implemented on a large scale, a restaurant that leads the way on a food waste tax would have to offer irresistible food, like Hachikyo, or risk losing customers.
Photo: Gold Rush
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