Food waste is an endemic problem in the United States. About 30-40% of America’s food supply is thrown out for a variety of reasons each year. According to Feeding America, this translates to around $408 billion dollars in total US food waste annually!
The restaurant industry is responsible for about $25 billion in food waste losses every year. This means that approximately 10% of food purchased by restaurants is actually wasted before it ever gets the chance to reach customers.
How To Reduce Food Waste and Become More Sustainable
If you've never stopped to imagine how much money your restaurant could save by reducing food waste, you might want to. A more sustainable food industry is in your and your customers’ best interests. But how can you get into the habit of restaurant sustainability practices?
We’re going to share top restaurant sustainability tips you can implement to help reduce food waste.
Conduct a Waste Audit
Before you can successfully reduce food waste in your restaurant, you need to conduct a waste audit. What’s a waste audit? Basically, it means separating your food waste into categories in bins that are then weighed.
So, how do you conduct a waste audit? It only takes a week, but it can make a real difference in your awareness of your food waste. First, you will want to decide on the categories you will use. Some examples include raw foods (such as potato peels, orange rinds, produce that’s gone bad, etc.), spoiled/improperly stored food, food and liquids spilled on the floor (in the kitchen), and leftovers from diner’s plates after they are finished eating.
Have your staff dispose of food waste in the correct receptacles for a week. Weigh each category bin at the end of the day for a week, then multiply this number by how many weeks you are open each year. This will give you a rough estimate of how much of each product/category is wasted annually.
Conducting a waste audit can pinpoint where changes need to be made, but that won’t necessarily tell you why that food is going to waste or how to reduce it. And one big way is spoilage.
Spoilage: A Major Contributor To Food Waste
Spoilage is one of the most common and most preventable causes of food waste, but there are practical things owners and staff alike can do to reduce it. But why does it happen?
More Supply Than Demand
One major cause of spoilage is too much inventory. Too many restaurants order more food than they can cook or serve in any given week; demand does not always necessitate such a large supply of food in a restaurant. If your waste audit finds too much unused food is going into the garbage due to spoilage, you may want to implement some inventory controls.
Look at your sales data, and use it to get into the practice of ordering to par instead of stocking up on everything in bulk; consider this one of your restaurant sustainability practices that will ensure you have enough to meet demand, with perhaps a little extra in case you see an uptick in business.
Not Paying Attention to Expiration Dates
Another cause of inventory-related waste is people not paying attention to the expiration/use by dates of perishable products. Even if you’ve only stocked up your inventory to par, some menu items won’t always be as popular as others. This could result in unused stock; if you’re not paying attention to the expiration dates, it could go bad before you know it.
What should you do if it seems like the demand for certain items has gone down and the expiration date is getting closer? Try offering certain menu items at a discount (for example, as a lunch or dinner special). This can ensure that you’re making money off of the inventory you’ve already paid for, rather than letting ingredients spoil and having to toss them out at a loss to you.
Finally, beware of improper storage since this can also contribute to food waste. Above all, try to invest in sustainable packaging that keeps food fresh for as long as possible. For example, using glass storage containers will allow you to keep food fresh and you can reuse them for longer periods than plastic. Not to mention, glass is much better for the environment since it can be used for a long time and then easily recycled.
Don’t forget your to-go boxes! Say goodbye to styrofoam boxes and invest in eco-friendly packaging like biodegradable containers made from recycled kraft paper. If you use sustainable packaging both in the kitchen and in your to-go boxes, you’ll help the environment and ensure your food isn’t wasted!
But, even with a good container, if you store food at the wrong temperature, it’s going to go bad fast…regardless of the expiration date. The key to keeping food/ingredients fresh for as long as possible is to store them in proper containers at the ideal temperature for them.
Other Causes of Food Waste
Yes, there are other causes of food waste, such as
- Miscalculating portions (serving too much food in one portion)
- Spillage (dropped trays, knocked-over drinks, etc.)
- Misfires (when something isn’t right with the dish and it needs to be remade)
While these can certainly add up to losses, they are arguably not as traceable (or preventable) as spoilage!
Other Restaurant Sustainability Tips
Here are a few more restaurant sustainability practices that can help make your restaurant more environmentally friendly.
- Ditch the single-use utensils. Wherever possible, opt forreusable, washable utensils. This significantly reduces the amount of plastic thrown away by customers. If you have a lot of to-go orders, consider getting biodegradable cutlery to hand out with meals.
- Switch to sustainable packaging. Along with biodegradable cutlery, take a look at your current packaging to see what swaps you can make to help the environment.
- Use organic or local produce. When you can, lower your carbon footprint by using organic and/or local products in your restaurant’s recipes.
- Buy energy-efficient equipment. By investing in energy-efficient equipment, you can consume less energy and lower your carbon footprint. These products may be more expensive upfront, but in the long run, they will perform better.
Keep Your Restaurant Staffed With Qwick!
Everyone doing their part to reduce food waste can help make a restaurant more sustainable and environmentally friendly which customers will appreciate. Customers will also appreciate a fully staffed restaurant. If your restaurant often has shifts that need to be filled but not enough staff or time to fill them, try Qwick.
Qwick is the future of hospitality staffing. With Qwick, owners and managers can find qualified and available talent when they need it, streamlining the way they fill shifts. And food service freelancers can use Qwick to connect with restaurants and kitchens in need of their expertise and experience.
Curious about the possibilities? Sign up for Qwick today!