Food waste is staggering. In the United States, restaurants generate an estimated 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste every year, and institutions like schools, hotels, and hospitals are responsible for an additional 7 to 11 billion pounds. Pair these gigantic numbers with the fact that 12.3% of Americans experienced food insecurity in 2016, and you have a situation in which no one is winning.
According to Food Print, Food Alliance, and other industry sources, the main causes of waste include oversized portions, extensive menu choices, improper ingredient storage, over-preparation, and not making full use of food scraps and trimmings.
If you’re worried about food waste in your restaurant, we have come up with eight simple solutions to cut it down.
1. Train Your Staff in Food Waste Management
Get everyone on board with the savings game and emphasize that food waste not only hurts your bottom line, but the community and the environment. According to Food Rescue, food waste accounts for 6% of total global greenhouse gas emissions because decomposing food releases harmful gasses.
2. Prep Food More Precisely
Keep good data about what menu items are hot sellers and when. Then, employ that information, along with forecasting busy shifts and being careful to not over-prep to more accurately predict quantities.
3. Adopt the FIFO Model
First-in-first-out means you rotate newer items and store them toward the back of walk-in coolers and shelves, while you move older food toward the front. That extra labor at the outset pays off in the long run by minimizing waste. Furthermore, by regularly rotating your stock, you will know what’s readily on hand.
4. Run Weekly Specials
As you rotate the stock, notice what produce, dairy and meat staples may be about to expire soon. Use creative menu planning to develop new dishes – or bring back some golden oldies – to make use of those about-to-expire items.
5. Develop Proper Food Storage Habits
Label food packaging clearly so anyone can quickly identify items. Keep your walk-in cooler temperature set between 35 and 40F, monitor the humidity, and make sure your equipment is working properly. Consider installing a humidity control filter, such as FiltaCool, which offers a cost-effective and eco-friendly solution to control the moisture levels of your refrigeration units and walk-in coolers.
6. Optimize Your Menu
Let’s say there is a good bit of spinach that’s nearing the end of its life. You can use it in several menu items – offer a spinach artichoke appetizer, add an LTO raspberry spinach salad to the menu, or create a spinach ricotta dumpling for a main.
7. Seasonal and Ugly Produce
Search for fresh produce and farm-to-table options for in-season food. This cuts down on the possibility of food waste in transit, and local produce is almost guaranteed to be more fresh. If produce is an ingredient that will be cut up and combined, let your vendors know that you are open to receiving ugly or “misfit” produce – it will taste just the same!
8. Community Food Banks and Soup Kitchens
Get to know the community shelters, food banks and soup kitchens in your area and learn about their needs in terms of timing, delivery options and days they serve food. Often these community programs have volunteers that will come and pick up donated items which can save restaurants time and travel expenses. Also, research area farms that may accept donated food scraps for animals.
Together, we can reduce food waste in kitchens and help not only the environment, but neighbors in our community.