17 Tips to Reduce Restaurant Food Wastage

Restaurant Food Waste: Save Your Restaurant Money

Waste not, want not.

The old saying is a cliche because it’s true.

In a restaurant kitchen, it’s easy to forget about ingredients tucked away in the cooler or the walk-in.

When it is rediscovered, it’s well past its expiration date.

So into the garbage (or hopefully the compost bin) it goes.

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Restaurant Food Waste

Or perhaps a certain weekend special didn’t sell as well as expected; it might end being thrown out on Monday.

But this type of food waste is costly for restaurants.

With budgets tight restaurants need to save money whenever and wherever possible.

Reducing food waste is something that restaurants should be doing, even in a good economy.

Here are some simple tips to keep food waste in your restaurant kitchen to a minimum.

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Restaurant Food Waste

1. Buy Only What You Need

Your sales rep may try to get you to buy several cases of lettuce or tomatoes because they are on sale.

However if you won’t use more than one case in a week, then you run the risk of food spoilage. And that equals dollars lost.

Only buy produce on sale that you can definitely sell within a week.

If is something that isn’t on your regular menu, have a good idea of how you are going to serve it to customers.

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Restaurant Food Waste

2. Label Everything

This goes for everything in your walk-in cooler and freezer as well as in your dry storage.

Not only does it ensure food safety, it helps you use older food first (FIFO) before they spoil.

This should be part of your kitchen SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).

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Restaurant Food Waste

3. Inspect All Food Orders 

Often cases of fresh produce will arrive at your restaurant DOA.

That is, they are either spoiled or well on their way.

This is why it is important to inspect your incoming order.

If you (the owner) aren’t in charge of checking in the food delivery, make sure that whoever is knows that they can reject cases of wilted greens or spoiled veggies.

Don’t be afraid to send the food back and speak with your sales rep.

If happens repeatedly, it is time to start shopping for a new food vendor.

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Restaurant Food Waste

4. Regulate Beer and Wine Temperatures

Even though beer and wine are not fresh per say, they are still perishable.

Fluctuating temperatures can cause beer to have a “skunked” taste and makes wine bitter.

So make sure your dry storage area.

Or wherever you store your beer and wine, is set at a constant temperature food spoilage is almost impossible to escape in a restaurant kitchen.

But you can minimize it by staying organized and only buying what you need.

However, don’t get overzealous about tossing questionable foods.

When in doubt, throw it out. A little spoilage is better than risking your customers health.

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Restaurant Food Waste

5. Repurpose Ingredients 

Anyone who has spent time working in a restaurant knows that Monday’s soup special is usually recycled weekend specials.

There is nothing wrong with creating a new dish from a previous days specials.

Assuming the food is not past its expiration date – again, when it doubt, THROW IT OUT.

Repurposing leftovers into a new lunch or dinner special is a good way to reduce food waste.

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Restaurant Food Waste

6. Consider Composting

Food waste is not good for a restaurant budget or for the environment.

Creating new specials out of repurposed ingredients is a good way to stretch your food cost and reduce the amount of food that ends up in the garbage.

For those ingredients that you don’t catch in time, adding them to the compost bin instead of the trash bin is another way to reduce spoilage.

More and more restaurants are going green, implementing recycling and composting as part of their business model.

Even if you don’t have a restaurant garden to use compost, local farmers or gardeners would be happy to use it in their gardens.

This is a win-win for both of you.

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Restaurant Food Waste

7. Look at Expiration Dates

It is important to check expiration dates before you purchase a particular food item –and after it as well.

Choose products to purchase with the furthers expiration dates and keep a close eye on them once you bring those groceries home, using the closest expiration dates first.

Use dates with closer expiration dates first.

Make this easier by moving these items to the front of your refrigerator and pantry.

This reduces the food being thrown out because it is no longer safe to eat.

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Restaurant Food Waste

8. Measure

Measuring cups and measuring spoons are made to ensure that you insert the proper amount of ingredients not a recipe.

Use these kitchen tools and you will find far less waste in your home.

Restaurant Food Waste

9. Plan Ahead

It is amazing how much food is saved when you plan your meals.

When you know what you are going to prepare, you can buy only what you need.

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Restaurant Food Waste

10. Freeze It

When a product expiration date is nearing and you cannot prepare the item before this date.

Throw it in the freezer.

Most items will last at least 30 more days when properly stored inside of the refrigerator.

Restaurant Food Waste

11. Stop Cooking so Much

Know what you, and your family, will eat, and prepare only this amount when you cook.

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Restaurant Food Waste

12. Inspect Your Food

Before any food is purchased, ensure that it is propelled inspected.

Look for signs of produce that is going bad.

Meat that may have been on the shelf too long or for other signs of food that is about to spoil.

Restaurant Food Waste

13. Repackage Foods

If you buy in bulk or larger quantities.

Separate the meats and store individual portions inside of freezer bags.

His is a step that will greatly reduce waste.

Restaurant Food Waste

14. Take stock

Note upcoming expiration dates on foods you already have at home.

And plan meals around the products that are closest to their expiration.

On a similar note, keep a list of what’s in the freezer and when each item was frozen.

Place this on the freezer door for easy reference and use items before they pass their prime.

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Restaurant Food Waste

15. Blend it up

Blending up a nutrient-packed smoothie can be a delicious way to reduce food waste.

While the stems, ends and peels of produce may not be appetizing in their whole form.

Adding them to a smoothie is a way to reap their many benefits.

The stems of greens like kale and chard are packed with fiber and nutrients.

Making them a great addition to smoothies.

The tops of beets, strawberries and carrots also make great add-ins.

Other items that would otherwise be discarded can also be thrown into a nutritious blend, including fruit and vegetable peels, wilted herbs, overripe bananas and chopped broccoli stalks.

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Restaurant Food Waste

16. Get Friendly With Your Freezer

Freezing food is one of the easiest ways to preserve it, and the types of food that take well to freezing are endless.

For example, greens that are a bit too soft to be used in your favorite salad can be put in freezer-safe bags or containers and used at a later date in smoothies and other recipes.

An excess of herbs can be combined with olive oil and chopped garlic, then frozen in ice cube trays for a handy and delicious addition to sautés and other dishes.

You can freeze leftovers from meals, excess produce from your favorite farm stand, and bulk meals like soups and chilis.

It’s a great way to ensure you always have a healthy, home-cooked meal available.

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Restaurant Food Waste

17. Get Creative in the Kitchen

One of the great things about cooking your own food is that you can tweak recipes to your liking, adding new flavors and ingredients.

Including parts of foods that aren’t usually used is an excellent way to repurpose scraps when you’re experimenting in the kitchen.

Stems and stalks make tasty additions to sautés and baked dishes, while garlic and onion ends can bring flavor to stocks and sauces.

Whipping up a fresh pesto made with broccoli stalks, soft tomatoes, wilted spinach or cilantro rather than the traditional basil is an inventive way to add a tasty twist to favorite dishes.

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There are endless ways you can reduce, reuse and recycle your food waste.

Not only will the practical tips in this article help you waste less food, they may save you money and time as well.

By thinking more about the food your restaurant wastes every day, you can help create positive change to conserve some of the earth’s most valuable resources.

Even minimal changes to the way you shop, cook and consume food will help reduce your impact on the environment. It doesn’t have to be difficult.

With a small amount of effort, you can cut your food waste dramatically, save money and time, and help take some pressure off Mother Nature.

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