Reduce Your Restaurant’s Food Waste in 5 Steps
Food waste has become a major issue for restaurants in the United States. Though it happens worldwide, the U.S. restaurant industry alone generates approximately 22 to 33B pounds of waste every year. Compare this to schools, hotels and hospitals, which output around 7 to 11B annually, and you’ll begin to realize what a significant problem restaurant food waste has become.
Multiple root causes coalesce into a plethora of bad outcomes, however by identifying each main source of excess, we can begin to figure out how to reduce food waste across the board.
Causes and Detriments
Food waste is especially problematic because of the class disparity in America which results in homelessness and food deserts countrywide. When there are so many people going hungry, why waste billions of pounds of edible food every year?
One of the main contributors to exponentially higher food waste in recent years is portion sizes. They’re getting bigger over time, and now an average portion is between two to eight times larger than standard serving sizes as determined by the USDA and FDA. Poor management also leads to more waste as well as having more menu options to choose from. The blame lies partially on diners as well, since on average they leave 17% of food uneaten and 55% of those leftovers don’t go home in a takeout container. This is detrimental to the restaurant too, since they’re losing money by making food that nobody will finish. Preventing food waste on the front end of operations saves revenue down the line.
There are also macro-level repercussions if food isn’t consumed in the end. The amount of energy that goes into growing, harvesting, transporting and packaging food on a large scale produces a lot of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. If the food gets tossed, all that pollution was for nothing.
For each source of waste, there’s a way for restaurants to mitigate some of that damage. Food is much cheaper now due to mass production, so restaurants can buy more efficiently without sacrificing bulk ordering or the quality of their ingredients.
Restaurants need to alter their strategies to attenuate the damaging effects of food waste around the U.S.
1. Get to know the farm-to-table supply chain
The better you understand how the food in your kitchens made its way there, the more you’ll come to appreciate the value of each and every ingredient. Visit local farms and get educated on the supply chains that power your restaurant, and you’ll feel compelled to waste less of it when the food finally gets to you.
2. Educate staff
The more you speak to local growers and suppliers, the better you’ll understand the entire farm-to-table process — but that doesn’t mean your employees will share your newfound appreciation. It’s up to you as their leader to teach them the importance of preservation and waste management. After all, staff members are the ones who will be actually ordering, cooking and serving meals so it’s imperative that they’re appropriately educated about the negative impact that food waste has on the restaurant, the environment and hungry members of their own community. Transparency and honesty breeds compassion.
3. Buy less produce
Fresh produce is a necessity, and a delicious one, but it’s also a massive waste if it’s not cooked or used quickly enough. Produce rots and gets tossed quickly. Restaurants shouldn’t purchase it in bulk, but rather need to buy less produce more often and from local growers instead of buying from mass production sellers for cheap. Though more costly at face value, supporting local supply chains will produce more revenue in the long run. Don’t stock up; buy smarter.
4. Update Point of Sale
Your Point of Sale system can track your inventory for you — provided you have the right one. Inventory management capabilities are a huge asset brought by advancing technologies: Automated reporting in real-time monitors what you buy, use and waste, which gives you a better idea of where you need to cut costs or alter strategies within your organization
Additionally, advanced POS systems integrate with your online ordering platform which helps you reduce even more waste by circumventing the misfortune of human error. It’s inevitable that sometime, wrong orders will be rung up or inputted into the system. Consolidating your on- and off-premise ordering systems so that they both go directly to the POS will ensure increased accuracy which reduces food waste as well.
Ultimately, there’s no avoiding that you’ll have some leftovers at the end of the day, but that allows you to reduce waste by simply recycling it. As previously mentioned, food and class disparity exists rampantly in this country; Americans are going hungry. Gather what’s edible but which you would normally toss and donate it to local nonprofits that are helping out your community.
If you’re concerned about liability in the event of sickness or displeasure, don’t worry: Legislation protects restaurants that donate their edible foodstuffs. It’s always sustainable to help others.
Restaurants produce a massive amount of food waste every year, but yours doesn’t have to contribute to those thousands of pounds gone bad. With these five simple steps, you can significantly reduce food waste in your restaurant and simultaneously increase your own profits while creating a better, more sustainable world.