Food Waste Management

A guide for chefs and restaurant owners on how to reduce food waste
Restaurant management Jan 19, 2021
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Food waste management is a fundamental aspect of the sustainability of your restaurant. Implementing a strategy to reduce food waste in restaurants helps boost revenues, minimize environmental impact, and ultimately, contributes to positive marketing.

Every year, US restaurants waste from 22 to 33 billion pounds of food. This means that approximately 4% to 10% of purchased goods from US restaurants do not reach the dining table. Numbers are even higher when considering the 7 to 11 additional billions of food wasted by kitchens in schools, hospitals, or hotels.

Many factors contribute to food waste in restaurants, including excessive menu options, over-preparation, or improper storage. Forwarding sustainable kitchen culture is (or should be) an important mission for every restaurant, especially because it ultimately translates into higher revenues.

For example, during our webinar on minimizing food waste, chef Matt Orlando from Amass, Copenhagen, talked about saving up to 90 liters of water a day, which turned into 10.000 $ of refunds for his restaurant during its first year of operations.

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However, establishing a complete and scalable plan to reduce food waste in restaurants is not an easy task. Here's what you can do.

1. Keep your menu small

One way to reduce food waste in your restaurant is to downsize your menu and plan it around a narrower selection of key ingredients. This means, if you are a burger and fries diner, you might want to take off soups from your daily offering.

This practice can also help your kitchen work more smoothly and also keep better track of those fewer goods' life cycles in your kitchen.

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A small menu is also more flexible: with regards to this point, Rogue Radish's menu from chef Max Snyder is a great example of how building a menu around fewer key ingredients makes your menu more adaptable to changes that are due to seasonality or supplies availability.

When thinking about flexibility, keeping the menu small is also a good practice to facilitate order customization, which is an increasingly popular trend due to higher awareness or sensitivity to health or to ethical reasons.

As more and more customers request to take off or add ingredients to your dishes, a small menu is a great solution for offering customizable meals that can suit different dietary requirements while helping you optimize operations like storing, tracking, or managing restaurant waste.

2. Follow a FIFO system

Most chefs already know what we're talking about - a First-in-First-out system is a great practice to monitor your ingredients and avoid spoilage.

It is one of the main rules to follow when working in a restaurant kitchen: items that were purchased first must be put at the front of your cupboard or shelf. And of course, they always have to be labeled, especially when there is "use-by date" information.

3. Optimize your flow

One way to help you find a more sustainable flow for your restaurant is to save time in operations: ordering less - or more smoothly -, sorting out your kitchen space and inventory more efficiently, and ultimately, end up having more time to dedicate to implement your restaurant sustainability.

4. Track, track, track

When dealing with restaurant sustainability, collecting data is one of the most important things to do. For example, observing how much and what type of food is left on the plate by your customers can help you make the right adjustments on recipes and portions.

A correct tracking process is also necessary when it comes to monitoring spoiled food. Tracking operations include clear labeling of raw ingredients or stored preparations, as well as regular inventory checks.

Many restaurants created their food waste recording sheet including information like date, amount - with this, a scale to track your wastes in order to make your restaurant more sustainable -, and other important checkboxes such as "pre-consumption" and "after-consumption" food waste.

Collecting this information is the first step to address the right questions about your ingredients - should you avoid buying certain goods? Or what can you can do to extend the life-cycle of those wasted items? Such questions can help you establish a plan of action to reduce food waste in your restaurant.

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Your restaurant sales can be an additional valuable source of data for you to prevent food spoilage and waste. This is particularly important for the most easily perishable items.

For example, if you notice an increase of 10% in avocado asparagus during weekends, you might want to avoid purchasing them on a Monday.

5. Use every part of your food

Don’t forget about the dear old “nose to tail” trend - a concept that also applies to fruits and vegetables, as chef Matt Orlando explained in our webinar by telling about his pumpkin seed oil recipe at Amass restaurant.

There is potential behind every inch of your food. And there are many culinary techniques and recipes to explore: whereas it’s about saving corn cobs and vegetable peels to make a flavoring broth, radish leaves to obtain a delicious pesto, or more complex processes involving fermentation, always remind yourself that you can play around and develop amazing recipes around parts of your food that would usually get wasted.

6. Don’t throw away

Before throwing away anything, you must ask yourself if there is a way to avoid doing it. An example is redirecting surplus meals to apps like Too Good to Go. You should always investigate what solutions are available to reuse your products, either within your restaurant kitchen or by partnering with local businesses that might use your outputs as inputs.

Making compost is another popular practice to reduce food waste in restaurants, that chefs like Matt Orlando or Max Snyder carry out either on-site or via local waste collectors. A growing trend concerning composting is the use of food waste digesters and dehydrators, as more and more restaurants are incorporating these machines into their space to minimize the amount of food waste that gets sent to landfills.

7. Get your team together

Reducing food waste in restaurants implies that you and your teammates should be responsible for labeling, tracking, managing waste correctly, discussing causes and solutions.

Ideally, both prep and cleaning staff members are involved in this process, as they are the ones most directly dealing with ingredients that are either used or trashed. Moreover, it is fundamental to get every staff member aligned with methods of tracking, storing, and recycling food.

How is the Choco app fighting against food waste?

In the US alone, 40% of all food produced goes uneaten, making up 133 billion pounds in landfills and totaling $161 billion of food waste per year. It's in this backdrop that Choco - an app providing free order management technology to restaurants and food suppliers - is working on different initiatives (such as events, webinars, and online campaigns) to fight against this problem.

The Choco app is also contributing to optimizing operations in restaurants - chefs and managers can now keep all their suppliers in one free app and save time, smoother communication, and decrease the chance of ordering mistakes.

Order from all your suppliers in one place

The Choco app is helping chefs and managers to save 2hrs per week, manage ordering across teams and locations, and eliminate delivery mistakes - for free.

Sign up for a demo to find out more!