Research Research and Practice Innovations| Volume 113, ISSUE 1, P141-145, January 2013

Impact on Plate Waste of Switching from a Tray to a Trayless Delivery System in a University Dining Hall and Employee Response to the Switch

Published:October 23, 2012DOI:


      A potential strategy for decreasing food waste in foodservice operations is trayless dining. The objective of this 2010 study was to compare the impact of using a tray vs a trayless system on plate waste and on employees' attitudes. To test the hypothesis that going trayless would reduce waste, liquid and solid plate waste were measured for 1 week with the then-existing tray system and again after a new trayless system was implemented in a buffet-style university dining hall serving roughly1,000 meals a day. Foodservice staff were invited to participate in a focus group about the impact on their jobs. The investigators calculated plate waste per patron under the two systems and used an independent samples t test to examine the significance of the difference. Comments from the focus group were analyzed for themes. A significant decrease in solid waste per patron (0.81 oz; P=0.001) was observed in switching from the tray to the trayless system (4.39±0.24 oz vs 3.58±0.08 oz per patron). A nonsignificant reduction was observed with liquid waste (49.77±2.62 mL vs 46.36±4.51 mL; P=0.18). Most of the employees preferred the trayless system as long as it did reduce waste, but felt that increased breakage of dishware and increased need to wipe down tables were possible concerns resulting from the switch. This study demonstrates that trayless dining can reduce plate waste, and that employees can be supportive of the change.


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      K. Thiagarajah is a lecturer, Department of Applied Health Science, Indiana University, Bloomington.


      V. M. Getty is senior lecturer and director, Didactic Program in Dietetics, Department of Applied Health Science, Indiana University, Bloomington.