Ways to reduce food waste in your restaurant

Execute an operation food service requires a lot of thought. You need to order ingredients on time, balance your finances, and manage your people in a world of other worries. As important as it is to consider what food you are making, it is equally important to think about what happens to food that is not eaten. According to Feeding AmericaThe United States produces approximately 70 billion tons of food waste each year.

This is something that your customers care about, as evidenced by food waste statistics. A study of Unilever, revealed that 72% of American diners said they care about how food waste is handled. 47% are concerned enough that they are willing to spend more money to eat in a place that is actively trying to reduce the production of food waste. This makes it even more important to find ways to reduce food waste in the United States.

What is a food waste audit?

The first step in reducing waste is finding out how much waste you are wasting and what type of waste your establishment is producing. The primary goal of a waste audit is to identify where the waste from your operation comes from, so you can then find ways to reduce it.

How to do a food waste audit

There are two main factors to keep in mind when tracking food waste. You should consider how much food is wasted and how many people enter your restaurant. By collecting data for these two variables, you can get a better idea of ​​what your biggest source of waste is.

taking food inventory

Food registration system

Provide your staff with a simple sheet of paper where they can keep track of what's being thrown, why it's being thrown, and how much is wasted. As an alternative, there are waste tracking systems like LeanPath that use a specially designed scale with touch screen terminal and computer software to track the amount of food you are throwing away without the hassle of a pencil and paper.

Also, be sure to maintain a second registry system for post-consumer waste, or food customers pay but don't eat. This type of waste is much more difficult to control Because, ultimately, if that little boy at table 3 doesn't want the broccoli his mother ordered, he will most likely get it back, intact, when he leaves. Still, it is worth evaluating what is being thrown out and how much this amounts to. Gathering as much data as possible will only help you when it comes time to evaluate results and make changes to the way your operation handles food waste.

Traffic recording system

Another common tool that many use restaurants is a daily record of how much traffic the restaurant and what was the weather like. For example, a record may show that 280 guests were attended the Friday before Christmas and that the weather was 50 degrees and sunny.

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While this information may not seem immediately useful, it is immensely useful when it comes to planning next year's customer volume. If chefs can get a baseline of how much traffic to expect, based on the findings from the previous year, they'll have a better idea of ​​how much food to order.

As the years go by, this data becomes increasingly valuable as trends become clearer. Many POS systems have daily logging capabilities, so it's definitely something to look for when choosing a POS for your business.

Find food waste solutions

Once you know what is being wasted, talk to your staff and try to think of ways to improve. What are the biggest contributors to food waste in your kitchen? Why are specific items thrown away? These are the questions that must be in the back of your mind when looking at the data.

An easy way to think about the next steps is to divide the types of waste into three categories:

wasted food in dumpster

  • Pre-consumer waste -food that doesn't even come out of the kitchen
  • Post-consumer waste -food purchased by a customer, but not eaten
  • Disposable -things like paper items, plastic utensils and packaging

Then consider the following options and determine which ways make the most sense to implement as solutions for each type of waste:

Ways to reduce pre-consumption food waste

Pre-consumer waste is the area where you probably have the best chance for positive change because there are many factors under your control when it comes to ordering, storing and preparing your ingredients, as well as how you handle surplus ingredients.

  • Evaluate inventory If you find that food is stored too long, be sure not to order too much.
  • Maximizes shelf life -If the ingredients you need are getting worse before you have a chance to use them, make sure that perishables are stored properly so you don't waste the ingredients before they're cooked.
  • Find ways to reuse ingredients:Try making day-to-day bread on fried bread or putting leftover turkey meat in a soup. Similarly, an innovative chef will be able to transform excess ingredients into a daily special.


  • Train staff to reduce waste. Make sure your staff knows how much the ingredients cost. Train them to treat each ingredient as if they had bought it with their own money. Proper preparation techniques also help reduce the waste of perfectly good food.
  • Keep your stock organized Make sure your perishables are being used in a timely manner by developing a refrigerator rotation system. Many restaurants They call this the "first in, first out" system. Use stickers with the pack date clearly written or Use First “in large print to help staff recognize exactly which products need to be used quickly to prevent spoilage.
  • Offer meals to staff -If there is only a small amount of ingredients left that won't be enough for another dinner service, you can give it to your staff for free. Feeding your staff raises morale and prevents good food from being wasted.
  • Consider donating food If you have items that are still safe to eat but cannot be used for one reason or another, a local food bank may appreciate your contribution to feeding people in your community. Programs like Feeding America make it easy to use those non-salable leftovers. Food banks sometimes even come to your store and pick up free food, and you can claim these charitable donations on your tax return.
  • Food scraps can be used for animal feed. Many local farmers will provide free or low-cost trimmings for food scraps, which can be fed to pigs or other animals. If you follow this route, you will want to make sure you comply with local, state or federal regulations on what can and cannot be used for animal feed. It presents another opportunity to help the local economy and, at the same time, reduce food waste. EPA offers a guide covering some additional ways to do this.

Ways to reduce post-consumer waste

There's not much you can do with food once it comes out of your kitchen, but you can be sure to present guests with the necessary information and proper portion sizes, so that your customers know what to expect and can eat until they're done. comfortably filled.

  • Monitor serving sizes If your portions are too large for customers to finish, try portion scaleoo serving spoons to make sure your customers get an adequate amount of food. Standardizing recipes is one way to ensure that each of your staff is serving the same amount of food each time.

food in takeout container

  • Manage customer expectations: Guests are less likely to send a dish if it is fully and accurately described on the menu. Make sure the waiters explain all the elements of the menu and answer any questions that guests may have.
  • Follow the popularity of each dish: If certain menu items are not popular, you may consider adjusting the recipe or removing it from the menu.
  • Encourage guests to bring their food home with them. This is fairly standard practice in most restaurants. Make sure you have a variety of disposable containers on hand, so guests can take home what they can't finish.


While the use of disposable products helps reduce food waste in restaurantsThey are inherently designed to be thrown away, so keep in mind the disposable products you choose and try to think of ways to use them whenever possible.

  • Set up customer incentives -If you own a cafe or convenience store, you can set up a discount for customers who bring their own takeaway cups.
  • Test compostable productsIf there is no way to avoid using disposable items, try choose items that are biodegradable when it is possible.

Alternative waste disposal options

For foods that are simply not intended for consumption or for plastics, cardboard, and cans, consider alternative ways to dispose of waste that doesn't bury it in a landfill.

recycling bottles and cans

  • Composting If you are lucky enough to have the space, you can compost on site. If you don't have the space to run your own composting program, finding a composter to take your waste can be a more cost-effective alternative to traditional disposal methods. Essentially, all you have to do is separate the compost-worthy material from the normal “trash”.
  • Composting centers are still gaining ground and are therefore not as widespread as traditional landfills, but resources like findacomposter.com make it easy to find a site near you.
  • Recycling -Recycling is an easy way to deal with avoidable plastic, cardboard and glass waste, and many restaurants they already implement it to reduce their environmental footprints.

Schedule regular checks to control food waste

It is important to assess your food waste regularly so that you can constantly monitor trends and implement any changes that are necessary. No matter how delicious your recipe is, certain dishes can sometimes just go out of style as customers search for different and newer options. Staff members can move on, so you will have new employees to train and manage. There are so many factors that can contribute to more waste within your carefully thought-out system, so controlling them is only part of the process to reduce food waste in your restaurant.

Make alternative waste disposal work for you

There can be many benefits to using alternative methods of waste disposal, both environmental and financial. However, not all methods will be suitable for all restaurants. Fortunately, the EPA offers practical tools to control food waste management That can give you an idea of ​​how profitable some of the above methods can be and which ones might be right for your business.

What does it mean to be a zero waste restaurant?

Un restaurant with zero waste means that a restaurant It does not produce garbage or food waste that must be taken to a landfill. There are few zero-waste restaurants worldwide, but many food companies are taking many steps to implement zero-waste practices in order to minimize their global carbon footprint and adopt a completely green spirit.

Even if your business seems to have a good handle on food waste production, it's never a bad idea to dig a little deeper into the amount of waste you produce on a daily basis. If your waste production is higher than you thought, try taking a few simple steps to better monitor and minimize your waste production. Your community, your planet and your wallet will thank you.

I am a dreamer and in my dreams I believe that a better world is possible, that no one knows more than anyone, we all learn from everyone. I love gastronomy, numbers, teaching and sharing all the little I know, because by sharing I also learn. "Let's all go together from foundation to success"
waste of food
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