How The Westin Calgary (@WestinCalgary) Teamed Up with The Chef Table to Feed The Hungry


the-westin-calgary-hotel

Introduction

Via Shawna McKinley’s “Sustainable Destinations” blog, I learned about a partnership between Westin Calgary and The Chef Table to supply surplus food to The Calgary Drop-In and Rehabilitation Centre. The surplus food goes to feed the hungry. “What a brilliant concept,” I said to myself.

People are hungry, while restaurants often produce surplus food. The Westin Calgary’s partnership with The Chef Table helps feed the hungry, while reducing waste at the same time. Win. Win.

Connecting with The Westin Calgary

On #GivingTuesday (November 27, 2012), I taking in all the giving (on Twitter) when I came across this tweet from The Westin Calgary:

Having read about their efforts in Shawna’s blog, I reached out to @WestinCalgary via a direct message on Twitter. I was put in touch with Michael Bitcon, Director of Food & Beverage at the hotel.

What follows is my interview with Michael on this wonderful program.

Background and Program Overview

Q: Tell us about your role at The Westin Calgary?

A: I am responsible for the food and  beverage operation.  This includes leading the Kitchen, In-Room dining, our restaurant – Essence, our lounge – Liquid, Starbucks, and Banquet teams.  A role that I have held with pride since February 2011.

Q: You started the partnership with The Chef Table in January 2012. What’s been the impact on The Westin Calgary?

“Our associates feel a greater sense of pride knowing that their efforts are helping to feed those in need.”

A: There have been many and all have been positive.  Our culinary associates create gourmet meals on a daily basis. There are times (especially for our Banquet & Catering functions) where we over produce. Prior to the program being launched, we would simply throw away this overproduction.

There is nothing more disheartening for our associates to see food go to waste, especially if you have been the one to prepare it. Since launching the program on January 27th, our associates feel a greater sense of pride knowing that their efforts are helping to feed those in need.  They have learned and buy into the program because it is to maintain; there is no real extra work to keep it alive.

We’re able to reduce what we put into our landfills and also; our customers  love the program.  When we speak about our partnership with The Chef’s Table and the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre and pre-events or on site visits, they encourage us to keep pushing for more hotels to get involved which in-turn, keeps our energy high and keeps us motivated.

Food Handling & Distribution

calgary-drop-in-and-rehab-centre

Q: Tell us about some of the meals that you’ve provided recently?

A: Our meal offerings that we provide are as extensive as our banquet and catering menus; here are a few items we have sent recently:   Seasonal vegetables, chicken, salmon, hash browns, pork sausages, three cheese  tortellini, and roasted turkey.

Q: Are there particular types of foods or meals that “travel” best (i.e. maintain their quality before reaching the recipient)?

“Everything we send travels well.”

A: This is the best part of the program. We adhere to strict policies when it comes to food safety and we only use food items that have not gone out into public space (i.e. onto a buffet). Once properly cooled, we freeze the items in aluminum containers and these containers are delivered via refrigeration truck to the Calgary Drop-In & Rehab Centre once a week (Friday). Everything we send travels well.

On Getting Other Hotels Involved

Q: If a colleague called to ask you whether to run a similar program at his/her hotel, what would you tell them?

A: I had a very similar call with a sister property just last week and said, “why aren’t you involved in the program already?” There really is nothing that I can see that would prevent or hurt a hotel from opting into this program and helping out their local community; it’s just that easy.

Q: What should colleagues NOT do when embarking on a similar program?

A: Be afraid to “do the right thing.”

Q: In addition to food, are there other items that hospitality providers could consider providing under a similar model?

A: One item that comes to mind especially for hotels and many have similar programs; would be the bath and shower amenities such as soap, shampoo, and toilet paper.  We donate ours to the Calgary Drop-in & Rehab Centre too.

Event and Meeting Professionals

Q: How can event and meeting professionals help further this cause?

A: Some of our meeting and event partners have been instrumental in helping us get the message out. Some have made mention of the program as a small statement during their event/convention and some have lobbied for us by calling other hotels in our city and saying they would not earn their business if they did not get in touch with us and learn more about the program. These efforts have been overwhelming and we’re very proud to have customers and partners that would do that.

Q: For 2013, what’s in store for event and meeting planners with regard to food and beverage?

the-westin-calgary-dining-room

Not to let too many secrets out of the “kitchen”; we recently hired a new Executive Chef. Meeting and event planners can look forward to a complete overhaul of our banquet & catering menus showcasing Chef Hoffmann’s passion for “cuisine” while we continue to focus on a “Eat Local, Think Global”  platform.

Many of our guests have unique dietary needs and we want to ensure we can help them stay well balanced while away from home or while attending an event. I certainly would like to extend an invitation to you and your readers to visit us at The Westin whenever their travels have them staying in Calgary.

Miscellaneous

Photo source: User Hobolens on flickr.

Q: I’ve never visited Calgary. When I come to visit, what are the 3 sights I must see?

Calgary is a beautiful city and one that I have called home for 16 years. Must sees are the Calgary Zoo, the Glenbow Museum, and cycling (or running) on the many pathways and trails that will guide you through natural parks and wonderful, romantic communities, such as Kensington and Inglewood.

Newspaper Article

Download a PDF of a newspaper article re-print, “Surplus hotel food feeds the needy” about The Westin Calgary:

http://allvirtual.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/surplus-hotel-food-feeds-the-needy-the-westin-calgary.pdf

Contact Michael

Feel free to contact Michael:

Michael Bitcon
Director of Food & Beverage
The Westin Calgary
320 4th Avenue S.W. Calgary, Alberta T2P 2S6 Canada
T 403.508.5213
F 403.265.7908
Michael.Bitcon@Westin.com

Note: I invite you to connect with me on .

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4 Responses to How The Westin Calgary (@WestinCalgary) Teamed Up with The Chef Table to Feed The Hungry

  1. Shawna McKinley says:

    Thanks for spreading the word about this program Dennis! I love this example because it highlights all the reasons why to do food donation, rather than the typical reason (i.e. myth) not to do it – that it’s illegal. Federal and provincial laws in the US and Canada are in place that allow properties like the Westin Calgary a safe option to do it. Great way to better manage food waste, too, which can be expensive to have hauled to landfill.

    • Dennis Shiao says:

      Shawna: my pleasure – and thank you for writing about this program on your blog. I would not have known about it otherwise. Let’s work to get more organizations on board!

  2. Hi Dennis – this is a great post! Thanks so much for spreading awareness about the issue. I particularly appreciate the comment about the impact on associates seeing their hard work go to waste (literally) – it’s a point that is often overlooked in this discussion.

    To expand on Shawna’s comment – a great resource in Canada about food donation regulations is here: http://charitytax.imaginecanada.ca/topics/other-requirements/requirements-other-legislation/legislation-focused-charities
    It outlines the regulations by province.

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