food waste

Food Waste in Restaurants: Three Ways to Reduce Unwanted Waste


Food waste is a long-standing global issue. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), people are wasting one-third of the world’s food every year, which accounts for 1.3 billion tons. All these wasted food often end up in landfills which could have been composted, donated, or repurposed.

Many organizations are blaming the restaurant industry for this food waste problem. In a study by FoodPrint, US restaurants produce around 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste every year. Sources of food waste in restaurants usually stem from extensive menu choices, oversized portions, and inflexible management of chain stores.

Due to the growing concerns over food waste, food establishments are finding ways to minimize their contribution to the problem. One example is the use of piston fillers in single and multiple head designs. These tools keep food waste at a minimum while maximizing the product and saving on costs.

When it comes to food waste concerns, the burden often falls on restaurant owners and food establishments that are prime contributors to food waste. Consumers have become eco-conscious more than ever, so it’s important to make extra efforts to reduce environmental impact. To help tackle food waste in your restaurant, here are ways to ensure food waste reduction.

Do a waste audit

Conducting a waste audit is a critical step to reducing food waste, yet many people fail to do this. Without a waste audit, there’s no way to know the amount of food waste your restaurant is throwing out from day-to-day operations and the cost of potential savings.

There are two ways to conduct a waste audit: hire a waste audit company or do the audit yourself. If you’re willing to dig out the trash, make sure to follow the right steps when conducting a waste audit because you’re going to do it every day for the entire week.

Before taking out the trash for pickup, have the employees inspect the trash every day and group it according to category. These include paper goods, takeout products, plastics, meat (e.g. fish and poultry), and produce (e.g., veggies and fruits). You can modify these categories depending on your restaurant’s waste and menu offerings.

Once you have sorted everything, use a scale to weigh each pile and record the data in a spreadsheet. Then, multiply every weight by the number of operating days within a year. The results will generate the amount of annual waste for each category.

After completing the audit, analyze the results by checking which category yields the highest amount of waste. This means you should pay attention to categories with the most number of food waste. For example, if your produce or meat waste is relatively heavy, this indicates your customers don’t like your menu lineup or you’re using low-quality products that often end up as waste.

Whatever insight you’ll gain from the waste audit can significantly affect various aspects of your food operations by revealing what kind of changes you need to make.

Find food waste solutions

food waste

Now you know which items are being wasted, it’s time to find ways how to tackle your food waste problem. You can start by working with the kitchen staff and ask questions about which specific food items they often throw out.

When seeking solutions, it’s best to consult your waste audit throughout the process. The categories themselves will give you an idea of how to handle each waste.

Pre-consumer waste involves all items involved in food storing, prepping, and ordering. Evaluate the inventory using an inventory tracking technology to identify if there are items that stay too long in the storage or ingredients people rarely ask for. Another way is to maximize shelf life by providing proper storage and repurposing unused ingredients as a new menu option.

For post-consumer waste, it’s important to standardize recipes to avoid unequal portions of every meal. You can also track the popularity of the dishes to discard the least popular recipes.

Follow alternative waste disposal techniques

Disposable waste, such as plastic utensils, paper goods, and other packaging, is usually the hardest to manage. Manufacturers inherently designed them for single-use, so it’s likely these products make up the highest portion of your waste audit.

There are two ways to reduce disposables in your restaurant: create customer incentives and use compostable products. If you’re running a convenience store or coffee shop, offer discounts for customers who bring their own cups or containers. But if there’s truly no way to reduce disposable items, use biodegradable products.

Tackling the food waste problem in your business can go a long way in your social responsibility efforts. Aside from the suggestions above, there are other numerous ways to reduce food waste, and all it takes is a little creativity. Not only are you working towards reducing environmental impact, but it can also decrease your restaurant’s food costs in significant portions.

Scroll to Top