Top 15 Best Tips on How to Reduce Food Waste in Restaurants

January 13, 2023
Tips and tricks

Food costs usually account for the bulk of food business expenses — particularly recently with food prices increasing. About 4% - 10% of foods bought by restaurants fail to get to diners, totaling around $1,000 of their revenue per 3.3 pounds of food waste. But, reducing wasted food is not all about reducing operating costs. It also helps decrease greenhouse gas emissions, which is a strong selling point for environmentally conscious guests, including millennials. The National Restaurant Association revealed that nearly 60% of people in this age group gravitate toward eateries that take sustainable practices. The following are the best ways to reduce food waste that your restaurant may consider for gaining ultimate benefits.

What causes restaurant wasted food? 

- Spoiled produce due to ordering too much food, improper refrigeration, and poor inventory management

- Larger portion sizes owing to inconsistent or incorrect kitchen training 

- Retires, for instance, the meals were not prepared to patrons’ liking. 

- Food spillage, for example, a staff dropping a tray of food on their way to the dining room

Practical tips to reduce food and save money 

1. Track food waste

A good way of reducing waste is creating a food waste tracker - this can be as uncomplicated as a sheet of paper. The tracker should record all the food waste for a certain time like a week. The item aside, include its amount or weight, how it became wasted food, the time and date, and the employee’s name who reported.

Then, compare the information on this tracker with data from your point of sale (POS)’s inventory reports. This way allows you to decide where your restaurant food waste comes from.

2. Promote sustainable preparation

Train your staff on proper food preparation methods. Doing so boosts the chance that perfectly good food will not wind up as food scraps. 

For instance, wash fruits and vegetables concurrently to conserve water. Thaw frozen food with a thaw rack as well. Besides, reuse any product you can - such as reusable napkins. You may also switch to a contactless menu like One2 Menu to become a sustainable restaurant. The paper menu is easily ripped or stained, which makes it need replacing often. 

One2's instant touchless menu

3. Avoid over-preparing for less food to be wasted

Use One2’s functionality of recording past sales data to forecast how preoccupied your eatery will be at various times and prepare accordingly. You can succeed in reducing food waste when buying ingredients through good planning and preparation like that. 

4. Sort waste by using different containers

Image: possector

You are recommended to sort waste into recyclable ones like plastic bottles, glass, and food packaging, food scraps, and leafy greens that can go to composting. Next, divide these categories into subcategories like meat, fruits and vegetables, small plastic bottles, and large ones. The categories and subcategories would give you a better idea of the type and amount of restaurant food waste and bring more recycling options.

5. Practice good stock control

Efficient ordering and inventory rotation is significant to minimize food waste. You may rotate your stock with the first-in, first-out (FIFO) technique. This means bringing older items to your storage area front and using them before they spoil (i.e., turning into stale bread, rotten produce, etc.). Place date labels on all of the items (i.e., use by dates) as well.

To better your stock control, calculate control inventory days on hand (DOH). In this way, you will control what and how much food you are bringing in from vendors more easily. For those wondering what DOH is, it is the average number of days you hold an item before selling it. For instance, should you order 150 pounds of chicken and use 30 pounds of chicken daily, 5 days is the DOH for that chicken. (150 pounds of chicken ÷ 30 pounds per day = 5 days ‘on hand’)

6. Train and engage staff

Some ideas for cutting food waste in this regard include:

- Train your employees in food safety.

- Taught them how to store food properly, cook meals correctly, maintain the clean status of the premises, and prevent cross-contamination. 

- Educate them about methods of recycling.

- For better commitment and performance, explain to the staff why they are doing waste audits and what perks they will receive when managing to reduce waste.

7. Figure any food delivery against the order specification

With any delivery arriving at your eatery, it is significant that you only accept foods you ordered to avoid excess food. Besides, reject those with noticeable damage or spoilage or delivered at the wrong storage temperature. Such items will only spoil further and end up as waste later in the day.

8. Store food properly

Image: possector

Some ideas for reducing food waste in this sense include:

- Check storage directions on item labels

- Keep your refrigerator temperature below or at 40° F.

- Do not let leftovers that were once hot) and other foods that require refrigeration sit at room temperature for more than two hours if the ambient temperature is above 90° F.

- Store frozen foods at 0° F.

- Make a backup plan for what to do should something happens, for instance, how to tackle perishables in case of a power outage. Refrigerated food is usually safe provided that the electricity is not out for over four hours and the fridge door was kept shut.

- Apply the rule “right to left”. This means storing new foods on the fridge’s right side and moving existing food further to the left. 

- Store low-risk foods like fruits and vegetables on higher shelves than high-risk foods such as meat and fish. 

- Keep food storage areas clean. 

9. Be wary of oversized food portions

According to the Recycle Track Systems RTS, the average restaurant portion size was about 2 to 8 times bigger than standard servings specified by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) or Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Implementing strategies like creating smaller plates can lead to smaller portions and in turn, a reduction in your restaurant food waste.

A tip is setting smaller plates with food on more sizable plates, which allows portions to look bigger. Nevertheless, do not let your diners stay hungry!

Another idea for reducing waste this way is having indications on your menu - like “Ideal for sharing”, “For small appetites”, or "For 2 people." You can customize the menu using One2 Menu.

10. Repurpose ingredients

Work with your kitchen employees to discover innovative ways of repurposing food that would otherwise turn into wasted food. For example, you may make day-old bread croutons. Or, use the chicken carcass and vegetable peels to make soup stock.

Besides, we hope you know that lots of customers (probably including yours) pay attention to sustainability. It is great to engage them in the process. For instance, take to social media to learn about how they repurpose foods in their home kitchens. Hold a contest and offer free meals to the winner to improve customer loyalty

Other than that, McDonald fueling their delivery vehicles by recycling cooking oil and grease is a creative way to reduce food waste. You can establish a rendering service for used grease and cooking oil as well. Another suggestion is donating fuel to local school buses.

11. Multi-use menu items to avoid food waste

Find out which ingredients you can cross-use in multiple dishes - for instance, items often stocked and/or in large quantities. 

Remember that defining multi-use items can become harder owing to too many menu items on hand. You may use One2’s contactless menu which should be easier to manage.

12. Pay attention to food seasonality

Out-of-season ingredients (e.g., should you be in Minnesota, those include peaches) likely spoil fast. Thus, avoid using that kind of imperfect produce in your meal plan. Whether you restructure your menu around in-season ingredients or simply buy fewer ones that are out of season, you can ensure that you always provide the freshest foods.

13. Run weekly specials to aid in your efforts of reducing food waste

Produce ideas for specials that feature items you need to use before they spoil. We suggest taking this opportunity to develop a team culture and engage your employees in the experience. Offer a prize to the ones who think up the most weekly special ideas or can sell the most specials. When it comes to setting up discounted prices and updating specials quickly and effectively, you may use One2 Menu.

14. Don’t give trays should you have a self-service counter or buffet

Food loss can be because of those being overly zealous at the buffet. Should guests be only provided with plates, there will be less chance that they pile on more than enough food or get side dishes that they are not indeed able to eat.

15. Ask if customers want to take uneaten food home

Image: highspeedtraining

According to a case study that assesses consumer attitudes towards taking home their restaurant meal leftovers, diners seemed to have no problem using a doggy bag for food leftover takeouts. Hence, do not be shy to offer them to take their leftovers home. 

In this way, you can save money related to disposal. While not every food can be wrapped up for eating later, you can easily put slices of pizza, for example, into a takeaway package.

16. Offer staff meals 

Staff meals are unsurprisingly a great perk of working for a food business. Not only that, they can also help you reduce waste. 

Particularly, how to reduce food waste in this regard? Unleash your creativity and make meals for staff with leftover ingredients. By doing so, nobody will be hangry at work.

17. Donate leftovers to a local charity

Donating extra food to charity should ensure that your edible food is not wasted but goes to a good home.

Aside from donating, you may form a partnership with an organization that works to distribute your surplus food to people experiencing food insecurity. Food Rescue US is an option to consider.

Else, offer your meat, vegetable scraps, etc., at discounted prices through digital platforms such as Too Good To Go. This enables you to reduce food waste and even still earn extra profit.

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