RESTAURANT WASTE MANAGEMENT: WHERE TO START
Begin with a food waste audit: Identify where your restaurant’s food waste comes from, whether pre-consumer, post-consumer, or both — more on that below. Then identify strategies to reduce your restaurant's food waste.
Set restaurant waste reduction goals: Make a plan to decrease overall waste volume by increasing recycling rates or minimizing food waste. Determine specific targets and your timelines for reaching them.
Start a food log system: Create a system in which BOH can track waste. This will help you forecast your weekly ordering, well down the line.
Log customer traffic: Compare your customer traffic to your food log system. This will help you understand your busy and slow cycles and ensure you’re ordering just the right amount.
PRE-CONSUMER FOOD WASTE
This is food that doesn’t leave the kitchen. It’s also where you’ll find the most opportunity for changes and solutions for waste management through controlling, ordering, storing, prepping ingredients, and how you handle surplus.
Evaluate your inventory: If food sits in storage for too long, you’re ordering too much.
Optimize shelf-life: Make sure your perishable goods are stored properly.
Cross-utilize your ingredients: Plan your menu and purchases so items ordered can be cross-utilized to cut down on food waste and get more mileage out of our ingredients.
Train your staff to cut down on waste: Teach them proper storage techniques like flash-freezing, and prepping just the right amount.
Give your staff leftovers: Giving your staff the leftovers from prep is a win-win for your kitchen and your staff.
Donate leftover food and ingredients: Give leftover ingredients and meals that are safe for consumption to food banks and local organizations.
Order in season: Getting in the habit of ordering seasonal ingredients can ensure stock is used in a timely fashion.
Stick to the FIFO rule: First in, first out, or FIFO, is where you label and store foods in order of freshness. This system allows you to find your food quicker and use them more efficiently — and check your stocks frequently.
Give your food scraps to local organizations: Certain organizations will repurpose your kitchen scraps to feed livestock or to compost (following local regulations, of course).
Create specials: Use left-over ingredients to create dishes for your specials menu.
POST-CONSUMER FOOD WASTE
This is waste a customer generates, like organic waste, leftover food, disposable utensils, napkins, cups, and plates at the end of a consumer-product lifecycle. And while you can’t control how much your customers eat, you can control what you deliver to them.
Keep your portion sizes consistent: Standardizing recipes is one way to make sure every staff member plates the same amount of food every time.
Be accurate in your food descriptions, so guests will be less likely to send a plate back.
Track the popularity of each dish: Use the principles of menu engineering to cull less-popular items from time to time.
Encourage guests to take food home: You can even recommend guests bring their own take-home container through marketing efforts or by charging a small fee for disposable takeout boxes.
Cut down on disposables: Limit the use of one-time-use items such as paper goods, plastic utensils, and packaging.
Order compostable products: Many food service supply companies offer biodegradable products such as to-go boxes and cutlery.
REDUCE WASTE. BOOST YOUR BOTTOM LINE.
Around the world, restaurants are uncovering creative ways to reduce waste and lighten their impact on methane-producing landfills that contribute to global warming. Fortunately, even these small tweaks can have a big impact that your customers, the planet, and your bottom line will appreciate.
Sources:  Feeding America  RTS, “Food Waste in America in 2023”, 2023  Champion123.org, “The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Restaurants”, February 2019.  Tastewise, “Food and Beverage Sustainability Trends in 2020”, 2020  Gourmet Marketing, “Costing and Pricing Food in the Restaurant Industry”, March 2023