Food waste in restaurants is a hot topic in the industry and with good cause. According to a 2016 analysis by the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) restaurants threw away about 84 percent of uneaten food due to spoilage, inefficient ordering methods, and poor menu planning.
Restaurants and food waste are also an important social issue. Your customers may want to know how you manage restaurant food wastage and will be more likely to frequent your establishment if you have solid food waste reduction policies in place. Whether your restaurant is donating food to homeless shelters, using a food scrap or composting system, or focusing on offering a menu with perfect portion sizes, these processes all lead to a better profit margin in the long run.
Food Waste Audit
The first step to restaurant food waste management is to complete a food audit. A food audit will give you these important facts:
• What is being thrown out
• How much is being disposed of
• Why it is being thrown away
There are pertinent details that need to be included with the data: who is throwing the food away, the time and date, and a description of the trashed food. There are restaurant food waste management software programs that can help with this task and analyze the data for you.
Food waste audits can give you the bigger picture to show you why food is being thrown away. Some of the main reasons for food waste are:
• Too much inventory
• Employee training issues
In addition to keeping a current log of all food waste, another key piece of information is to log all food waste from your customers. Although it may seem like extra work for your staff to have to log the leftovers on your guest’s plate, it will add an additional layer of pertinent data to your food waste audit. By analyzing your customer’s uneaten meals, you can adjust your menu to reduce this waste. For instance, if the numbers tell you that the black olives in your side salads are thrown away consistently then removing that ingredient is a good choice. If your meals are coming back with nothing but the plates, then you’re doing something right.
Plan For Change
Now that you know why your restaurant is creating food waste, it’s time to act to reduce your restaurant’s food waste. By finding solutions to these problem areas, your restaurant will be effective in streamlining your food usage:
Proper Food Storage
A big problem that many restaurants face is spoilage due to improper storage temperatures. Cold storage units should receive regular maintenance and food pantries should be well ventilated. Food should be stored in restaurant grade storage containers and labeled with the item name and date received. Teach your staff to use the first in first out (FIFO) method to ensure that the oldest item is used first and pulled to the front of the food storage unit.
Manage Your Inventory
Restaurant owners often wonder how to reduce food spoilage. An efficient way to cut food waste is to use the days on hand (DOH) system of inventory you can easily calculate how your kitchen is using the inventory and what needs to be ordered. A common reason that food spoils is that too much has been ordered. Knowing how much you have on hand and how quickly it will sell is important to know if you want to reduce food waste.
Train Your Employees
Your staff should be fully trained in food waste reduction. Front of house staff should be given guidelines on condiment and customer requested items such as extra butter or drink refills. Ensure that your kitchen staff is effective in food preparation. Your kitchen manager should be monitoring to make sure that the prep cooks aren’t preparing too much food in advance that will spoil before it’s used.
Once you’ve put your food waste reduction plan into place, take a second look to see what other areas that you may have missed. Consider revising your menu to offer a small portion option or promote daily specials to use up inventory that will be expiring soon. Try incorporating food items that can be used in several dishes instead of just one. Implement a composting system for food scraps that can’t be repurposed for soup stock or seasonings. Focus on the areas that were most compelling in your food waste audit and take control. Deciding to reduce your restaurant’s food waste will put money back in your pocket.