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Restaurant Food Waste: How to do everything right!

Akshay Shetty

With mouth-watering food comes eye-watering waste. Every year, tons and tons of food waste is produced in the hospitality industry. 400,000 tonnes of food waste is generated each year in the UK alone, and the numbers are still increasing according to a report by WRAP. Wondering how you can reduce food waste at your restaurant? Before we talk about solutions, let us learn a little more about the types of waste generated in a restaurant.

There are 3 types of waste produced in restaurants; Pre – Consumer Waste, Post – Consumer Waste & Disposable Waste. Pre – Consumer Waste consists of food that gets spoiled, expired, spilt or overcooked, and hence not fit for consumption. Post – Consumer Waste consists of food thrown away by the customers and leftovers. The last category is Disposable Waste, which is not entirely about food but is inclusive of napkins, tissue paper, plastic utensils, bags, etc. Now that we have established the types of waste produced, let’s talk about how to reduce it.

Fun Fact: A recent research states that restaurants saved $8 for every $1 invested in reducing food waste.


Pre-Consumer Waste

Food Waste Audit:

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Start by auditing the amount of food you are throwing away every day. Make a list of the quantity and items which find their way into the dustbin daily. You can do it manually by using a weighing scale and noting down every detail. Another option is to use software which will make your life 10 times more comfortable, especially during the rush hours of your kitchen. In either case, monitoring your daily food waste for 2 weeks or a month will give you a fair idea about how and where you can avoid waste while saving time, money & resources.

Organize your inventory:

Make sure that you don’t order more than what’s required. It’s vital to make sure that food doesn’t get thrown away before it is used. Apply the FIFO method (First In First Out) to manage your supplies better. Also, keep in mind to check the expiry labels on all the canned and packaged food which is ordered. Lastly, have regular maintenance checkups of your refrigerator and freezer.

Pro Tip: Keep products with the shortest expiry dates in the front of your storage. This way your staff need not check the expiry date of every product during rush hours of your restaurant.

Train your staff:

Train & educate your team on the price of ingredients and the importance of reducing food waste. So, they will appreciate the value of the food that’s being thrown away. You can motivate chefs to get creative in the kitchen. Leftover vegetables can be used to make the soup or as dressing in other cuisines.

Donate Leftovers:

Partnering with local NGOs or popular food apps can help you cut food waste further. Mobile applications like Too Good To Go and Karma allows you to sell the unsold food or cuisines for a lower price. Partnering with such companies will let you earn some return on investment while avoiding wastage. Also, remember to pack your food in recyclable plastic or paper bags to prevent plastic waste.


Post – Consumer Waste

Precise Menu:

Make sure your menu is up to date and provides adequate information on all the ingredients used in a dish. It will help your customers to make better decisions while ordering their choice of food and avoid unnecessary returns.

Serving Size:

Serve your customers in smaller plates so the portions look more prominent and your consumers don’t waste food. It will also help you increase your profits.

Recyclable Bags:

Offer your customers recyclable bags to take home the leftover food. In most cases, the customer won’t refuse, and it would be a win-win solution for both parties. Restaurants can also follow a strict no food waste policy to encourage customers to take their leftovers home.

Disposable Waste:

Use biodegradable or recyclable products wherever possible. Avoid plastic products as much as possible. Take away food can be packed in eco-friendly containers. If you own a cafe, you can also come up with discounts and incentive programs for customers who get their own mug.


Alternative Options for Food Disposal

Compost & Recycle:

If you have enough space, create your own compost site if not find a composter to take your scraps. Keep in mind to separate the compost materials from the regular garbage. It will be time-consuming and expensive to create a compost. But in the long run, it will provide you with a lot of benefits and help you save huge costs giving a boost to your revenue. Lastly, recycle as much as possible instead of throwing away.

Akshay Shetty