According to Feeding America, the nation produces around 70 billion tons of food waste annually. Landfills are brimming with food that could have been put to more sustainable uses. Much of these wastes are produced by restaurants.
So, as a restaurateur, how do you do your part in helping the environment and improve the way you manage your restaurant’s food waste?
Keep track of your food waste
Give your kitchen staff the tools to keep track of the food getting thrown out; make it clear why it’s being thrown out and how much goes to waste. This can be a simple sheet of paper or an automated food waste tracking system that lets you track how much food you throw out, such as LeanPath and eBin.
Keep a separate log system for post-consumer waste, or food that customers pay for but do not eat. This kind of waste is harder to control, but keeping track of it is necessary in evaluating what gets thrown out, and how much the waste amounts to.
Gather as much data as possible, so you can have a solid basis on the changes your operation has to make to improve your food waste handling.
Reduce pre-consumer food waste
There are plenty of opportunities for positive change in this area, because you can control the factors involved in ordering, storing, and preparing ingredients, as well as the handling of surplus ingredients.
There are many ways to reduce pre-consumer food waste. For one, check for food that sits around in storage for too long and order less of it. To avoid wasting ingredients before they are even used, organize your stock and make sure that everything is stored properly. You can also repurpose ingredients, such as making day-old bread into croutons or putting leftover turkey meat into a soup.
If there is a small amount of ingredients left that are not enough for another dinner service, feed it to your staff for free, and this would raise their morale while preventing good food from being thrown away. If you have items that are safe for consumption but you can no longer use for some reason, donate them to a local food bank.
As for your food scraps, get in touch with local farmers to pick up your scraps for free, and they can process these into animal feed. There are also companies like GF Commodities that buy used cooking oil, grease, and animal fat to sell them to other industries that can utilize your refuse.
Reduce post-consumer waste
While you do not have as much control over it as pre-consumer waste, there are many ways to reduce your customer’s food waste.
For instance, if you often see lots of leftovers, your portions may be too big for customers. Ration your food by using a portion scale or portion spoons. If guests can’t finish their food, encourage takeout.
Manage your customers’ expectations. They will be less likely to send back a dish if you completely and accurately describe each dish on the menu. Make sure that the wait staff can also explain each menu item and answer the questions your guests may have.
It is important to consider the foods you make when running a restaurant, but it is just as important to consider what happens to the food left uneaten. This guide can help you become a smarter and more sustainable restaurateur. Or, even better, cook up your own unique ways to junk food waste.