As a measure to cut food costs and reduce the amount of wasted food, the trade magazine Restaurants & Institutions reports that many college and university dining programs are "going trayless."
Foodservice managers have found that when trays are eliminated from all-you-can-eat cafeterias, students take less food. As a result, less food also goes uneaten and ends up in the trash. Additional environmental benefits come from eliminating the need to wash the trays, resulting in less use of detergents and savings in energy and water.
The solution makes sense in the same way that Dr. Brian Wansink has shown how the size of a plate can influence portion size and how much a person eats. It begs the question as to whether going trayless may not only eliminate waste, but also lead students to cut back on their calorie intake. Could traylessness even spell the end of the dreaded "freshman 15"?
Aramark Higher Education, a provider of dining services to colleges and universities, claims that those schools which have removed their trays have seen a 25% to 30% drop in food waste per person. The company estimates that half of its 500 campus partners will be trayless by spring 2009.