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In 2019, a large research project led by Wageningen University & Research (WUR) started. In twelve different cases, ranging from healthcare institutions and hospitals to hotels and recreational parks, it was investigated how relatively small interventions (the so-called nudges) can help guests/customers/patients make healthy food choices.
Within one of these cases, research was carried out at three Accor hotels in the Amsterdam/Schiphol region. This was done under the responsibility of the Sustainability Research Group of our Hotel Management School. Monique Medema was the project leader during the first year, and Ernst Jonker has led this project since 2020.
In addition to WUR, we worked together with BUAS (hotel school Breda) and Greendish (sustainable food consultancy firm).

In terms of sustainability and healthy food, Accor has been a committed group for many years – it wants to be at the forefront of the field of international hotel chains. The Planet21 programme was developed for this purpose. In this context, a transition from animal to vegetable proteins fits in, because this contributes specifically to a healthy and sustainable diet. This is why Accor was looking for ways to help both employees and guests with the protein transition. We were glad to be able to provide that help.

The aim of the project was to carry out a baseline measurement among employees and guests in the three hotels (Ibis Amsterdam Centre/Stopera, Ibis Schiphol Amsterdam Airport and Mercure City Amsterdam), then make adjustments to the food supply and then measure it again.

The zero measurement was carried out by means of a questionnaire among employees. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, research among guests has only taken place to a limited extent. Accor aims to do this in 2023, in order to arrive at appropriate interventions.
Nearly 100 employees were asked, among other things, how (sustainable and healthy) they perceive the food supply for both guests and employees. The ambition and willingness of these employees to implement healthier/more sustainable food in the hotels was also investigated. The 0-measurement in the three hotels showed that employees generally have basic knowledge of what healthy food is – e.g. sufficient fruit and vegetables. In terms of sustainability of food, much less knowledge was present or it varied much more. Also, the distinction between healthy and sustainable is often insufficiently made.

Inspiration sessions and cooking workshops
In order to stimulate and support employees to offer more healthy and sustainable food,  inspiration sessions for all employees and cooking workshops for F&B staff were organized in collaboration with Greendish. During the inspiration sessions, mostly vegetable-based snacks were tasted, while knowledge about the Planet21 program and healthy /sustainable food was offered. During the cooking workshops, F&B employees got to work themselves with offered – mainly – plant-based products with which they prepared attractive dishes for themselves and their guests. On both occasions, employees were asked if they could/wanted to change something in the offer for guests and employees with the knowledge and inspiration gained there. They came up with suggestions for adjustments. Based on this the offer in Ibis Schiphol has been adjusted with more healthy and sustainable dishes. For example, twice a week the regular snack at lunch has been replaced by a plant-based variant.

Employees as changemakers
One of the most important results of the research turned out to be: informing and inspiring employees is crucial to be able to make interventions in the offer. If staff see the benefit of healthy and sustainable food, this will have a major impact on the implementation of a healthier and more sustainable policy. Inspiration sessions, cooking workshops and knowledge transfer turned out to be the best ways to contribute to the insight and involvement of staff.

Sebastiaan van Rijgersma, General Manager of Ibis Schiphol Amsterdam Airport: “The research has provided valuable information for our hotel to focus more deeply on the impact of food on well-being and the environment.”

Close to completion
The results have been presented to Accor, the final report has been delivered to WUR and a scientific article about this research is nearing completion.

The online platform for food professionals ‘Food Inspiration’ recently published an article about the research (in Dutch): Uitkomsten van een onderzoek naar duurzamer eten bij AccorHotels en Landal GreenParks (