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Food Waste at Restaurants: How to Reduce it?

schedule 01 September share 26 Shares

Food waste accounts for about 20% of materials in landfills, most of which come from restaurants. The Restaurant industry is an essential factor in causing this problem. The Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) found that 84.3% of unused food in American restaurants eventually becomes waste.

Only one restaurant sends an average of 50,000 pounds of food to the landfill each year. Once in the landfill, food waste produces methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times stronger than carbon dioxide. But food waste is not only harmful to the environment but also detrimental to businesses.

A pound of food is equivalent to throwing away thousands of dollars in income. A study by Unilever shows that 80% of American diners worry about the amount of food thrown away every day in restaurants and coffee shops. Almost half of the people worry about spending more money on areas that actively reduce waste.

How Does Food Waste Hurt the Environment?

Food waste diverts a lot of space in landfills. Contrary to popular belief, nutrients never return to the soil. On the contrary, food will decay and produce methane, a greenhouse gas that is more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Food waste is one of the largest sources of methane emissions, and methane is one of the main factors leading to climate change. The waste food produced in the United States is equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 37 million cars.

What Causes Food Waste in Restaurants?

In the United States, an average of 80 billion pounds of food waste is thrown away every year. 1 Restaurant plays a vital role in this because there are many different reasons for wasting food every day.

Odering Too Much Food

Many restaurant managers do not track inventory properly, so they order too many ingredients for the kitchen. Employees cannot use all ordered perishable items before they deteriorate and are forced to dispose of them. For example, if you collect too many products and do not use them in less than a week. It is likely to deteriorate, which means that money is wasted.

Poor Portion Control

There are all kinds of chefs who do not measure or weigh ingredients but observe everything. Although they can make excellent dishes. The truth is that poor portion control is one of the leading causes of food waste in the industry. Many times, restaurants provide more significant portions than the standard portion size set by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), causing customers to be unable to finish the meal and throw away the leftovers.

Improperly Storing Ingredients

Restaurants that store food incorrectly will increase the rate at which the ingredients deteriorate before the shelf life, resulting in additional food waste. It is essential to store food correctly in the refrigerator or freezer to avoid food waste in foodservice establishments.


When chefs overestimate their expected sales of certain dishes, overproduction occurs. They prepare extra food and throw away what they haven’t eaten at the end of the night. A buffet is an excellent example because they often cook food and must discard perishable food that has been left at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

The Business Case for Reducing Food Waste in Restaurants

According to a recent study conducted by the Champions 12.3 Alliance and funded by the Walmart Foundation and the Ministry of Agriculture. Nature and Food Quality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Investing in reducing food waste can help restaurants make more money in some cases.

In their report “The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Restaurants. A review of 114 restaurants in 12 different countries/regions found that: 

  • The total investment of each restaurant can be kept below US$20,000
  • Almost all restaurants have achieved positive returns. In terms of reducing food waste in the kitchen, every 1 dollar invested can save an average of 7 dollars.
  • Within one year, restaurants have reduced kitchen food waste by an average of 26%. More than 75% of restaurants have recovered their investment.
  • Within two years, 89% of restaurants have recovered. “These figures confirm what we have seen at IKEA,” said Michael Lake, CEO of IKEA Food Services. 

We believe that fighting food waste is an opportunity to create a better world and a huge business opportunity.

 You don’t need an alliance of food scientists and corporate giants to understand that reducing food waste can save money. For any restaurant, food supply is one of the highest costs, if not the most considerable cost.

If your product is food, then food is as good as money; just like tracking your finances, tracking your food consumption and waste is also important. If you work hard to reduce food waste, you can reduce your company’s food costs by as much as 6%.

How to Reduce Food Waste 

Conduct a Waste Audit 

It is impossible to truly understand how much your restaurant is wasting without a waste audit due to current operations and your potential cost savings. Sleeve and go through the trash can. The following is how to conduct a waste audit.

 Every day of the week, before preparing for garbage collection, have a team open the bags and divide the garbage into the following categories: 

  • Paper products (paper towels, napkins, promotions/flyers, etc.)
  • Takeaway products (cups, plates, containers, etc.) 
  • Products (fruits, vegetables)
  • Meats (may include poultry and fish, and red meat) 
  • Plastics
  • Others (aluminum foil, shredded plates, etc.) 

Feel free to adjust these categories to suit your restaurant menu, specials, and junk food. Once everything has been sorted, weigh each battery on a scale and record their weight on a spreadsheet.

Then multiply each peso by the number of days your restaurant is open each year; this will give you a better understanding of the annual waste in each waste category. It’s time to analyze the results. The waste category with the highest weight is the area that needs the most attention.

For example, suppose you find that your meat or agricultural product residues are heavy. In that case, it may indicate that your current menu items are not as successful as you want. Your preparation chef is not thorough enough with their products and cuts, or you Obtained inferior products from dealers.

The information you get from your waste audit will positively impact many aspects of your restaurant’s operations by showing you what changes to make.

Start a Waste Journal

When you conduct a restaurant waste audit, record and track the restaurant’s efforts in the garbage log to reduce future food waste.

When you are ready to pick up the goods, ask the staff to record the weight of the garbage and recyclables. Encourage employees to write down descriptions of any noteworthy items thrown away, such as broken pint glasses, delivery trays, or rotten products.

Your restaurant’s trash diary allows you to track progress over some time and assess whether your efforts have impacted reducing restaurant waste.

Train Your Staff to Reduce Food Waste

Educate the front desk and management staff on ways to reduce food waste, and teach them strategies that can be easily implemented in their daily restaurant life.

The technology to produce the most products from a piece of meat, poultry, fish, vegetables, or other products. The more food you can use, the less food that ends up being wasted.

Stop Over-Prepping

If your restaurant’s garbage diary tells you that you pour a gallon of sauce every other day. Your kitchen is making too much sauce. Although some restaurant owners and managers prefer to have too many products rather than enough products by creating better predictions. Your kitchen will be able to predict the busy shifts or days they might need to stock-specific ingredients or give up orders. Prepare that meal.

Adopt the FIFO Method

To reduce waste in your restaurant, please use the FIFO method, also known as FIFO. In a kitchen that meets the first-out standard, the inventory will be organized and rotated to use the old kitchen items first, reducing food waste due to deterioration.

 Suppose you received a batch of hamburgers on Monday and Wednesday. According to the FIFO method, the burger rolls received on Monday will be used first.

Adhering to the FIFO process may mean that the delivery time will be longer. But the old inventory will be moved to the front of the shelf, and the new list will be placed at the back. It will ensure that you don’t just waste good products and discard unused food in the order of consumption.

Implement Restaurant Policies to Reduce Waste

Although some restaurants have successfully implemented zero waste policies to reduce food waste and costs. This is not the norm in the industry. It is more realistic to take small steps in every corner of the kitchen to set expectations that everyone is responsible for reducing food waste.

For Example:

Toast’s 2019 restaurant success report stated that 38% of restaurants reuse kitchen decorations to minimize waste. If you have not already done so, it is easy to get started. Vegetable scraps and bones leftover from the preparation process can be reused in broths and soups.

Things like bread slices can be given new life, and the extras that cannot be reused can be considered for composting. If you have space, you can use composted food waste to create nutrient-rich soil to support the growth of your herb and vegetable garden.

But remember: instead of finding ways to eliminate food waste after it has already occurred. It is better to reduce it in advance. For example, the preparatory chef needs to cut, clean, trim, and distribute food correctly. The waiter should always ask customers about their preferences and allergies as early as possible to eliminate the fire. Proper team training can significantly reduce food waste in restaurants.

Involve Your Employees 

Frontline employees often see waste,” said Gregg Rosenbloom, the founder of Fruitive, an organic fast-food casual restaurant certified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C., and Virginia.

They tend to have the best ideas. “So, talk to them and solicit their opinions on possible solutions. Fugitives found a way to gamify this process and involve all employees.

They hold a menu creation contest every quarter and challenge employees to submit one. The idea of ​​a new menu item is made of a series of seasonal ingredients while also solving the waste problem they see in the kitchen.

The winner will receive a cash prize, and their suggestions will be added to the menu. For example, an employee submitted an idea for bread tip bread pudding, and another employee suggested that employees use bread tip to test the product.

The latest contest winner came up with a super berry bowl with green seaweed. Fruitive also reuses fruit juice pulp in creative ways, such as adding it to beet burgers and making candied citrus peels from the citrus pulp.

Reuse Leftover Ingredients 

Like Fruititive, Chicago Honey Yellow Fried Chicken is committed to reducing food waste through creative menus.

We made a lot of chicken mash in the restaurant,” said Christine Cikowski, the executive chef and managing partner. So, we had a bucket of flour to uncover the chicken. We started frying it, and it turned into these crispy pieces.

We decorated our wings and whole grains. People have been eating sandwiches. The kitchen staff also pickled leftover kale stalks and made croutons from leftover cornbread.

We are not just trying to save food from reducing food waste,” Sikorsky said. We want to make sure they are delicious. “Fruitive uses a similar formula. The same method when they reuse fruit juice pulp or candied citrus peel in beet burgers.

Reduce Overproduction

Accurately tracking the performance of our local employers seems to be related to food waste. If you find inefficiency every day, please take action as soon as possible.

Changes in the way of doing business (significant in a buffet), changes in the way menus, ingredients are cooked or prepared. How restaurant services are promoted may have an unforeseen positive impact on the amount of wasted food.

Taking action in all these areas is crucial for restaurants. It would be wrong to underestimate the potential contribution of such business operating model changes.

Of the 1.3 billion tons of food wasted each year, about 520 million tons come from restaurants. Today, more and more charities have sprung up across the country, allowing restaurants to donate unused food.

 Even a law protects restaurants from being prosecuted for donating new food if it makes people sick (and there is no record of such litigation), as long as there is no intentional misconduct or negligence in handling the food.

Tax relief was received as a result of food donations. See the conditions for obtaining tax relief for donating leftovers to charity. Tax relief for charitable food donations is limited to less than 10% of your restaurant’s net income, but this may go a long way during tax season.

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