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9 Ways to Reduce Food Waste in Your Restaurant

food waste in restaurants

Smart restaurant owners can use these great tips to reduce the amount of food that ends up in the dumpster out back.

Keeping a restaurant open hinges on keeping costs down. The food you make costs money and the food you waste costs even more. According to a University of Arizona study, food waste in restaurants ranges from three to ten percent. Waste comes from several sources. It may be food that spoils because it’s been in your kitchen too long. It may be food that drops on the floor and becomes unsanitary to serve. It may be food that your customers send back, either uneaten or as scraps of a satisfying meal. Managing your food waste improves several parts of your business. It saves you money, gives back to the community and can even bring in some good press for a new restaurant or a rebranding.

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9 Tips To Reduce Waste

1. Educate Your Staff

Good restaurant staff should be trained in the proper disposal of wastes in both the front and the back of the house. If your staff pays attention to what’s getting thrown out, you can adjust your intake of materials accordingly. Consider appointing a staff member as a waste manager to tell you how often and how much food goes out of the kitchen unused.


2. Be Wary Of Buying In Bulk

Bulk ingredients carry the idea that you’re saving money, but spoilage can eat up much of those savings. Fresh food vendors know that, which is why they want you to buy in bulk. Make sure you know how much you need when you enter into negotiations with a bulk vendor. Also, don’t forget to negotiate; some vendors will be willing to do things for you in return for buying from them. Inquire about whether a vendor is willing tofood waste in restaurants rotate their stock at the source and give you smaller but fresher deliveries rather than one giant drop-off.


3. Make Specials Special

Specials often drive business by hooking new customers and giving your regulars something novel to eat. Be sure to order the right amount of food to cover a special. It’s usually better to under order than over order when it comes to a dish like this. Customers are more understanding of specials being out by the end of the day. Of course, that can be a good sign that you should consider adding the dish to your regular menu.


4. Adjust Your Inventory

There are a lot of ways to reduce the waste of your regular supplies. If you order supplies that have some small bit end up in the trash due to spoilage, adjust your plate size to make sure it all gets used before it goes bad. If the vendor offers smaller packages of the item, consider buying the same amount in smaller packages. If you do the math, you might discover that whatever increase you pay for ordering smaller might be offset by the savings from not having to throw away excess food from a bulk package.


5. Fridge Filing System

food waste in restaurantsKeeping your refrigerator and freezer organized goes a lot way to ensure that the ingredients that have been in the kitchen the longest get used first. Clearly label ingredients with ordered or opened dates to confirm the age of your supplies. Most restaurants use some kind of variation of First In, First Out. Assign specific shelves for specific items and then arrange those items starting on the left with the oldest and moving to the right with the newest. That way, employees can see at a glance what needs to be used first when the door is open.


6. MacGyver Your Staples

Remember that show where the main character came up with scientific solutions to problems with just the items on hand? Your kitchen can be the site of similar experiments. Fast-food kitchens often use this trick with their monthly specials by combining ingredients on hand in new and different ways. Your chef is likely looking to experiment, so encourage the idea by coming up with specials that use things you already have in different ways that a new ingredient that might go bad if the dish underperforms. It’s rumored that such menu mainstays like nachos and buffalo wings were created by improvising like this.


7. Portion Control

It’s not just for customers watching their waistlines. Be sure your employees are plating foods per your guidelines. If they need help, consider investing in portion scales for the food prep line to help them keep track of what they are using. Another solution might be cosmetic but effective; use smaller plates to decrease portions organically.


8. Go Green to Get Green

Food waste initiatives go hand in hand with many eco-friendly ideas. Energy efficient restaurant equipment like new refrigerators reduces the amount of food that spoils. Consider composting food waste and trading it with a nearby farmer for some locally sourced ingredients. Properly sorted and recycled garbage cuts down on waste. Partnering with local farms and co-ops using organic techniques not only gets you better, fresher food, it also shows your support of other local businesses.


9. Donate Unused Food to Local Charities

Most cities have food banks that need food all year round. Donations to these banks are food waste in restaurantsbig during the holidays because big meals are in the public consciousness. Food banks need donations throughout the rest of the year and working up a deal with your local bank can let you write off some of your written off supplies as a charitable donation. Don’t forget to mention your partnership to your guests, too. Customers like to spend money at places that improve the community.

Controlling food waste improves things for everyone involved in your restaurant; management, employees and customers. Management controls costs through waste monitoring, inventory control and going green. Employees enjoy innovating new dishes and keeping an eye on what sells. Customers feel good supporting a business that cares for the environment and the community. Food waste affects everyone, but it’s in your hands to do something about it.

Image “Three Amigos” courtesy of Flickr user cliff_77 licensed under CC by 2.0Featured image courtesy of USDA. Image “Food Waste Recycling” courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons


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