Sep 21, 2022
A Comprehensive Guide to Track and Manage Food Waste in Restaurants

Every year, the world discards approximately 1.4 billion tonnes of food.  The statistics might stun you. Yes, an estimated 30-40% of the total food supply and over 80 billion pounds of food is wasted or thrown by Americans each year.

Food businesses, such as restaurants, play a significant role in skyrocketing these figures and propelling the United States to the top of the food waste category list. This enormous amount of food waste not only has a negative impact on the environment, but it may also result in significant revenue losses for food businesses. As a result, it's critical for restaurants to take the necessary steps and preventive measures to reduce food waste and ensure smooth running of business.

If you’re a restaurant owner looking out for ways to reduce food wastage in your establishment, we’ve got you covered.  Read on to find out what causes food waste in restaurants and a few pointers to help you protect your business from losses and permanent closure due to food waste.

What Causes Food Food Waste in Restaurants? 

When it comes to restaurant businesses, several different factors significantly contribute to food waste. Some of these most common food wastage factors include: 

  • Spoilage: Food may get spoiled and unfit for consumption due to several reasons like poor handling, improper storage, or bad packaging. For instance, if food is refrigerated at the wrong temperature or prepared for extending cooking time, it may lead to spoilage and wastage further. 
  • Inconsistent portions: Lack of training for kitchen staff can result in larger portion sizes than planned. Though the quantity may appeal to the customers, chances of leftovers in plates becomes high, which further results in more waste and losing margin on the orders. 
  • Refires: Generally, refires occur when a dish is half-cooked or wasn’t cooked as per the guest’s instructions and sent back to the kitchen to be prepared again. No matter whatever the reason is for the refire, it increases the quantity of food waste and costs restaurant kitchens twice as much to prepare one plate. 
  • Spillage: Food spillage during preparation or serving is known to be one of the most common incidents in restaurants. It may be caused due to the server dropping a tray or a prep cook stirring food in the pan. Such mistakes, no matter how small or big, can lead to food wastage and add up to monetary losses. 

Tips to Track and Reduce Food Waste in Restaurants 

When it comes to food wastage reduction, here are a few things that every restaurant should be following as a matter of course during the shift, to ensure the prevention of food from wastage, without fail. 

Conduct a food audit 

Creating a food waste tracker is one of the best and most effective ways to reduce food waste in restaurant businesses. Once you've obtained a tracker, begin accounting for all back-of-house and front-of-house food waste in your restaurant over a specified time period. Include the amount of each item, how and when it was wasted, and the name of the staff member who brought it to your attention. Keeping track of food waste through an audit will enable you in taking the necessary steps to prevent food from spoilage and wastage.

Manage inventory

Managing stock inventory can be a tough task, especially if you own a large restaurant. But, designating a few staff members to take inventory by hand or POS systems on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis will help you track and reduce food waste. Even though POS systems are great for order planning, data forecasting, and order reports, manually tracking inventory ensures that ingredients aren't over-ordered.

Buy only what you need 

To reduce food wastage, it’s recommended that you only purchase ingredients that you’re sure your business will use. It may appear tempting to stock up on items or buy in bulk at discounted prices, but doing so can leave you with excess inventory that you don't require. And if these items aren't used before the expiration date, they will spoil and go to waste.

Food should be stored correctly

Check that your freezers and refrigerators are set to safe temperatures to ensure that foods are stored properly. It not only preserves their quality but also keeps bacteria at bay. This is why low-risk foods should be stored on higher shelves than high-risk foods. Furthermore, keep the food storage areas clean and tidy.

Label everything 

When storing foods in containers, remember to label them with allergens, 'use-by' dates, and labels. Maintaining proper stock organization and labeling makes it much easier to keep track of stock and use 'soon to expire' items first. This eliminates room for error and allows you to reduce food waste in your restaurant.

Stick to the ‘FIFO’ rule 

Restaurants can significantly reduce food spoilage and make the business more eco-friendly, as well as, profitable by using the FIFO (First In, First Out) method. To ensure that your restaurant’s kitchen is FIFO compliant, make sure that you organize each item on shelves in such a way that the oldest items are used first. 

Go right with the portion size

One of the most effective ways to reduce leftovers and waste is to control portion size. Although most restaurants believe that serving large portions of food is a service to customers, the truth is that the excess food is discarded.This is why restaurants must standardize portion sizes for each menu item and serve the appropriate portions on a consistent basis.

Don’t throw, compost instead

It's always preferable to compost kitchen waste rather than dispose it in the garbage can. While it may sometimes seem complicated, it's one of the most effective ways to reduce waste in landfills. You can significantly reduce waste by incorporating recycling and composting into your restaurant business model. If your establishment doesn't have a garden, consider giving it away to gardeners or local farmers.

Wrapping it up 

Food waste reduction in commercial kitchens may appear daunting at first, but once you and your team get the hang of it, it becomes part of the routine. Now that you've learned the best practices for reducing food waste, consider implementing them in your restaurant. If you have any leftovers, you can provide free meals to your employees or donate food to a charity. Remember that throwing food in the trash serves no purpose and only harms your business and the environment. Make it a goal to save it because it’s critical to the success of your company.

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