Restaurant Waste Reduction

by Global Trash Solutions

Reducing wasted food in restaurants and eateries is an important part of an effective waste management plan. Whether you run a single dining destination or a franchise, restaurant waste reduction is a key factor in complying with local regulations, building a green brand reputation, and keeping your costs in line.

In the United States, studies estimate that 80 billion tons of food are wasted each year, which represents 30-40% of our food supply.1 As many as 80% of restaurant patrons stated that food waste in restaurants matters to them, and nearly 50% said they would be willing to pay more to eat at a restaurant that is actively trying to reduce waste.2 Food waste reduction is important to management planning for both economic and social reasons.

Understanding Restaurant Waste Streams

One of the first steps to successful restaurant waste reduction is understanding what kind of waste is generated and where. There are three main categories of waste in your restaurant:

  • Pre-consumer sources. Food that does not make it out of the kitchen is considered pre-consumer waste. Trimming, spoilage, and spillage are examples.
  • Post-consumer sources. This is food that is paid for by a customer but not consumed. Surplus food left on the plate falls into this category.
  • Disposable sources. Items intended to be thrown away become part of the restaurant waste disposal stream. This includes paper napkins, plastic utensils, straws, disposable cups, and other throwaways.

Conducting a Waste Stream Audit

Knowledge is power when it comes to waste management in the food industry. Understanding how much waste is produced in each of these categories will allow you to create a restaurant waste reduction plan to reduce the volume and cost to your business.

A Waste Management Consultant can help you organize a waste audit for your restaurant or food service business that will accurately identify where and at what volume food waste is being produced. This will involve:

  • Separating different types of garbage into different containers and weighing each weekly to identify areas of opportunity
  • Reviewing purchase orders and invoices related to perishable foods, disposables, and waste management costs
  • Analyzing existing equipment and identifying areas where compactors or balers will improve efficiency and cleanliness
  • Incentivizing employees to help reduce food waste, store food properly, and participate in the solid waste management plans your restaurant puts in place

Reducing Waste in the Kitchen

Managing food stores and inventory proactively can prevent a significant amount of loss due to spoilage. Some ways to offer only the freshest and highest quality menu items while keeping waste to a minimum include:

  • Train staff to follow the FIFO—first in, first out—rule when selecting ingredients from inventory.
  • Purchase flexible ingredients that are used in many dishes and consider eliminating menu items that use perishable specialty
  • Maintain food storage areas to maximize freshness. Keep dry goods in a cool, dark, dry place and refrigerators at 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve meats, fruits, and vegetables.
  • Repurpose ingredients by making stock, soups, croutons, garlic toast, salads, or hot sandwiches from leftover food in the kitchen.
  • Offer pre-packed, takeaway menu items for customers to encourage selection of foods that are already prepared.
  • Offer employee meals as a perk of employment, allowing them to choose from already prepared options or available weekly specials.
  • Donate food that is nearing its shelf life and ask volunteers or employees to offer leftover prepared food daily to a shelter or nonprofit group.

Reducing Waste in the Dining Room

There are two sources of waste in the dining room, which are uneaten food and disposable materials. Both of these can be reduced with better waste management plans:

  • If portion sizes are so large that food is consistently left behind, experiment with serving smaller portions by changing to smaller plates and bowls.
  • Watch for items that consistently remain on the plate when diners are finished and consider ways to eliminate things like inedible garnishes and decorative toothpicks.
  • Offer optional side dishes and encourage waitstaff to take detailed orders that eliminate or substitute items the customer does not want.
  • Switch to reusable cups, plates, silverware, napkins, or lined baskets rather than disposable serving materials.
  • Provide eco-friendly takeaway food containers and encourage guests to take doggie bags home with them.

Improving Restaurant and Food Waste Management

Dirty dishes on a table in a restaurant. After eating

Getting involved with community composting and organic waste disposal centers can have a big impact on reducing your garbage hauling costs. Using modern trash compactors designed for leak-proof food waste and balers for recyclable materials not only saves money, but improves your restaurant’s reputation for cleanliness and sustainable practices. Organic waste recycling, restaurant oil recycling, and local composting programs provide a way to keep food waste out of landfills and return these valuable materials to the earth.

Are you wondering how to create a restaurant waste reduction plan that will carry you into the future and work toward the zero-waste initiatives that are springing up across the country? Contact Global Trash Solutions for a free consultation, restaurant waste audit, and guidance in choosing cost-effective services and equipment to maximize profit while minimizing waste.



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