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Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Potential for using guest attendance forecasting in Swedish public catering to reduce overcatering

Malefors, Christopher; Strid, Ingrid; Hansson, Per-Anders; Eriksson, Mattias


Food waste is a significant problem within public catering establishments, caused mainly by serving waste arising from overcatering. Overcatering means that public catering establishments rarely run out of food but surplus ends up as food waste. The challenge is to find a solution that minimizes food waste while ensuring that sufficient food can be provided. A key element in this balancing act is to forecast accurately the number of meals needed and cook that amount. This study examined conventional forecasting methods (last-value forecasting, moving-average models) and more complex models (prophet model, neural network model) and calculated associated margins for all models. The best-performing model for each catering establishment was then used to evaluate the optimal number of portions based on stochastic inventory theory. Data used in the forecasting models are number of portions registered at 21 schools in the period 2010–2019. The past year was used for testing the models against real observations. The current business as usual scenario results in a mean average percentage error of 20–40%, whereas the best forecasting case around 2–3%. Irrespective of forecasting method, meal planning needed some safety margin in place for days when demand exceeded the forecast level. Conventional forecasting methods were simple to use and provided the best results in seven cases, but the neural network model performed best for 11 out of 21 kitchens studied. Forecasting can be one option on the road to achieve a more sustainable public catering sector.


Food waste; School kitchens; Inventory model; Forecasting; Neural network approach; System optimization

Published in

Sustainable Production and Consumption
2021, Volume: 25, pages: 162-172