Smart Steps to Cut Down on Restaurant Food Waste

Smart Steps to Cut Down on Restaurant Food Waste
Restaurant Management - November 21, 2023 Written By: Krista Dinsmore

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No matter what type of bar or restaurant you run, there’s a high chance that food waste is a huge problem. In fact, according to RTS, the restaurant industry spends close to $162 billion on wasted food. 

This waste not only affects the bottom line of your business, but can also strain supply chains and the environment. 

The good news is that there are lots of clever ways your business can cut down on restaurant food waste. From creative culinary techniques to community engagement initiatives, the restaurant industry is stepping up, proving that delectable dishes and sustainability can go hand-in-hand. 

Here are just some ideas for your restaurant or bar to try:

  1. Use Every Bit of Your Vegetables

Chefs are increasingly adopting the root-to-stem cooking approach. For instance, broccoli stems, which are often discarded, can be peeled and sliced into delicious slaws or soups. Carrot tops can be turned into vibrant pesto, and celery leaves make flavorful garnishes. 

Restaurants are also experimenting with 'ugly' produce – fruits and vegetables that don’t meet the typical cosmetic standards but are perfectly good to eat. Embracing these practices not only reduces waste but also encourages a more sustainable food system.

  1. Serve the Right Portions

According to Cornell University, diners leave an average of 17% of their food on their plate and research shows that diners appreciate restaurants that offer flexible portion sizes.

Menus designed with small and large portion options cater to diverse appetites and reduce plate waste. Some restaurants even offer half-portions or encourage sharing to prevent excess food from being wasted. 

By tracking customer preferences and adjusting portion sizes accordingly, restaurants can find a balance that keeps diners satisfied while minimizing waste.

  1. Work With Local Farmers and Food Banks

Collaborating with local farmers supports regional agriculture and reduces the environmental impact of food transportation. It also ensures fresher produce, often harvested at its peak, enhancing the taste and quality of dishes. 

Moreover, partnerships with food banks and organizations fighting hunger provide a meaningful solution to excess food. Restaurants can implement systems to safely store surplus food, ensuring it reaches those in need, thereby addressing both food waste and food insecurity issues. While this may not reduce food costs, it will ensure that less food is being thrown out which can have a sustainable impact on the environment. 

  1. Preserve Food Smartly

Preservation techniques have evolved beyond pickling and canning. Chefs are exploring innovative methods like fermenting, dehydrating, and using vacuum sealing. 

Fermentation not only extends the shelf life of vegetables but also enhances their flavors. Dehydrating excess fruits creates snacks or garnishes, while vacuum sealing maintains food freshness for a longer time. 

Restaurants are embracing these techniques to transform surplus ingredients into unique offerings, minimizing waste and maximizing creativity.

  1. Teach Staff and Spread Awareness

Training staff about food waste reduction techniques and the environmental impact of waste is crucial. Simple practices, such as proper storage methods and first-in, first-out inventory systems, can significantly reduce waste. 

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In addition, restaurants are involving staff in brainstorming sessions, encouraging them to come up with innovative ideas to minimize waste in daily operations. By fostering a culture of awareness and engagement, restaurants create a motivated team dedicated to sustainability.

  1. Menu Engineering

Analyze sales data to identify the most and least popular dishes. By tweaking recipes or removing items that consistently go to waste, you can optimize your menu. Regular menu updates to incorporate seasonal ingredients also ensure that the kitchen utilizes fresh produce, reducing the chances of spoilage.

  1. Creative Specials and Staff Meals

Chefs can create daily specials based on leftover ingredients. These creative specials not only minimize waste but also showcase the chef’s ingenuity. Similarly, staff meals can be an excellent opportunity to utilize surplus ingredients. By allowing kitchen staff to experiment with leftovers, restaurants can transform excess food into flavorful meals, preventing it from going to waste.

  1. Composting and Recycling Programs

Implementing composting programs for food scraps and organic waste can significantly reduce the amount of trash sent to landfills. Composting not only helps in waste reduction but also produces nutrient-rich soil, promoting sustainability. Additionally, restaurants can set up recycling programs for materials like glass, plastic, and paper products, ensuring that these items are disposed of responsibly.

  1. Smarter Inventory Management

Using technology, restaurants can implement inventory management systems that track ingredient usage and expiration dates. These systems provide real-time data, enabling chefs to plan orders more efficiently, reducing over-purchasing and waste. In addition, regular inventory audits help identify slow-moving items, allowing restaurants to adjust their supply orders accordingly.

Interested in learning more about how you can reduce restaurant food waste? Contact Sculpture Hospitality’s team of inventory management specialists today. 

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A Complete Buyer's Guide to Food & Beverage Inventory Management Systems

With around 25 to 35 percent of a restaurant’s operating budget dedicated to purchasing food (that’s not even taking into account beverage inventory costs for the bar), proper inventory management can significantly improve expected revenue.

To maximize profits you need to improve visibility and control over your restaurant or bar’s inventory. 

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