This blog post continues on the topic from last week of preventing food waste. Food waste occurs across all areas of the supply chain, of course, but in this post we’ll focus on what restaurant owners can do to reduce it. Minimizing food waste benefits the environment (because we are wasting less of the resources used to produce the food), but minimizing food waste also provides a greater profit for your restaurant.
If you’ll remember from a previous blog post, we mentioned two methods of lowering food waste that were recommended by ReFED (Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data) in their Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide. The recommendations below are a continuation of this guide.
Pay Less for Less Attractive Produce
By altering your existing produce requirements, you can lower food costs by purchasing blemished or misshapen produce at a lower cost. Some companies – such as Misfit Fruit and Rubies in the Rubble – have even transformed blemished produce into viable new businesses.
Of course, the ingredients you use should still meet food safety and quality standards. Before committing yourself fully, you can set up a pilot program to measure the potential financial benefit.
If you’re a small restaurant, identify those items that you are required to over-purchase because of a minimum size order. Engage the supplier to see if there is some flexibility in minimum size ordering or if they offer split packs.
If you are experiencing a lot of food waste due to product spoilage, look over the design of the product’s packaging. If it seems inefficient, research better packaging that increases the shelf life or maximizes how much product gets used.
One other way to reduce pre-consumer food waste is to ensure chefs have a simple and easy way to adjust their supply specifications.
Tweak the Menu to Help Customers Prevent Food Waste
Consumers waste food as well, and there’s a way you as a restaurateur can help with that (besides just providing them with a to-go box for their leftovers). Firstly, you can introduce a “reduced” size for certain menu items, rather like letting patrons order a cup (versus a bowl) of soup. Secondly. pay attention to those meals that always seem to have the most leftover and reduce the portion size.
In addition, consider offering a larger variety of sides to accommodate people’s tastes and dietetic requirements. If this isn’t possible (or in addition), on your menu make it clear that consumers can switch out sides so they can get exactly what they want.
Apply Your Imagination to Meals and Ingredients
Besides using different parts of a single ingredient in multiple menu items, you can look for opportunities to repurpose food prep trim (for example, using lemon peel to enhance cocktails). Also, when creating special or limited-time dishes, try to use standard ingredients when possible instead of purchasing exotic items that are of limited use. Along the same lines, use your unused food inventory to spark new ideas for those special, limited-time menu items.
Boost Training and Procedures to Address Food Waste
If food waste prevention is covered in training and procedures, it can be a strong and effective tactic. Record your kitchen’s best practices in operating and training manuals. Note in recipe books how many portions can be obtained from a packaged item. When training, make sure you cover best practices, such as cross-utilization, batch cooking, repurposing ingredients, and so forth.
This Isn’t All…
Surprisingly, there are even more ways to turn the tables around on food waste. For example, you can receive tax incentives for donated food, look into donation matching partnerships, and even recycle cooking oil!
Besides benefiting your restaurant by reducing food waste, you can find out more about helping the environment by either starting or increasing your food recycling. The ReFED’s Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide has more information on these and other food waste reduction actions.