A Guide to Cutting Food Waste at Your Restaurant
The statistics on food waste are staggering…
- “About 1/3 of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year (about 1.3 billion tons) gets lost or wasted” (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN)
- $218 billion of food is discarded each year in the United States alone (Feeding America)
- Half of all produce in the US is thrown away: 60 million tons, or $160 billion (The Atlantic)
- “Four to 10 percent of food purchased by a restaurant or foodservice operation is discarded before ever reaching a guest” (Leanpath)
Food waste is an economic, social, and environmental issue that can be felt and fought on both the individual and the global scale. In fact, according to a Unilever study: “47% of US diners care enough that they would be willing to spend more money to eat at a place that actively tries to reduce its food waste production.”
So, we turn to a critical battleground in the war against waste: your kitchens. Eliminating food waste not only helps your restaurant with sustainability goals in the larger sense, but can also cut food costs by a significant percentage.
17 Ways To Reduce Waste Across Your Restaurant Operations
Cut Food Waste, Cut Food Costs
1. Conduct food waste audits on a regular basis. Track all food waste, and find out exactly how much food is wasted and where it comes from. Waste patterns may shift seasonally, and so your tactics will need to be adjusted periodically to match.
2. Try to use every part or as much of each ingredient as possible. Engineer a menu with symbiotic recipes: your rotisserie chicken sandwich might leave behind bones perfect for a broth.
3. Adopt technology that optimizes order accuracy. Self-order solutions including self-service kiosks and touchscreen drive thrus have been shown to reduce miscommunications, leading to fewer orders being sent back to the kitchen.
4. Create LTOs for items that will spoil soon. Feature those menu items on digital menu boards, self order kiosks, and your websites and apps.
5. Automate inventory reports to be delivered to your inbox. That way, you can keep a close eye on purchasing patterns and prevent overbuying.
6. Ensure staff examines every food shipment and refuses food that is spoiled or close to spoiling.
7. Pre-cool hot items before putting them in the fridge to reduce the chances of bacteria growing on it.
8. Store inventory properly so as to maximize shelf life. Make inventory best practices an important part of employee training.
9. Adopt the FIFO (First In, First Out) Inventory method. Keep everything properly labeled and organized so you know what needs to be used first and what will expire soon.
10. Ensure that your staff offers to-go boxes or doggy bags to every single guest with leftovers. Consistency is key.
11. Examine your portion sizes to see if any dishes can be made smaller.
12. Train your employees on proper knife work. Cutting vegetables properly, for example, will not only prevent unnecessary waste, but will also help to ensure even cooking.
13. Find local food banks to which you can donate food that will go uneaten. Here’s a good place to start looking.
14. If you don’t have enough leftover food to donate to a food bank, offer it as an employee perk between shifts.
15. Find local farmers to donate to so that they can feed your restaurant’s scraps to their livestock.
16. Compost scraps instead of throwing them out. You can even show off the green policy with impressively lush indoor or outdoor gardens.
17. Talk to your staff about food waste often. Tell your team about your goals and efforts. Transparency will go a long way toward getting everyone on board with all your waste reduction strategies.