Research collated by food waste app Too Good To Go suggests that 320 million meals are thrown away by British food establishments each year.
But what can operators do to reduce the amount that gets wasted and save money in the process?
Catering equipment distributor Alliance Online has put together nine expert tips to minimise restaurant food waste.
1. Introduce a food waste inventory
A general food inventory is protocol in most establishments, keeping track of the produce that comes into the restaurant is vital to keeping customers safe and measuring profitability. So, incorporating a way to measure food waste is the perfect place to start.
Documenting food waste can not only benefit the environment but positively impacts your usual tracking procedure and company spend.
Create a sheet or calendar for your food waste, mark how much produce was left over at the end of each day. Over time it will become clear if you need to cutback on purchases, have enough leftovers to reuse or need to reduce supplier deliveries, this could vary week to week.
2. Flexible portions
Customers are likely to leave food, especially if you are generous with portion sizes but there is also the possibility that someone could have eaten more. A simple way to please everyone and reduce leftovers is allow consumers to customise their order.
It doesn’t need to be extensive – a small medium or large option would work but other options include a light bites or tapas section on your menu or creating a bespoke order process so customers can add or remove items.
3. Excess food plan
If an item has not passed it’s ‘use by’ date it should be utilised. Why not offer a lunchtime special? This could include simple meals such as soups and salads, using up leftover produce from the previous evening.
Offering employees a meal during their lunch or evening break can also be incorporated into your excess food plan. This uses up excess portions while acting as a great benefit to hardworking staff.
Donations are also greatly appreciated if safety measures are in place and the food is in date. Professionals will collect surplus food from your restaurant and take it to the correct facility.
4. Streamline your menu
Coinciding with your food waste inventory, consider cutting out dishes that aren’t chosen often. You can try them again at a different date, but with the movement to become more conscious in mind – stick with what works for you. A limited menu could be particularly handy at quiet periods.
5. Purchase imperfections
Many supermarkets across the country offer vegetable ranges that aren’t perfect in shape and if your produce suppliers are participating in becoming eco-friendly, they will allow you to buy these items too.
Although this doesn’t directly affect your restaurant waste it has a huge impact on the environment and wider communities by using up items that would otherwise be thrown away immediately.
6. Give back
We saw Regenuary become a huge trend back in Winter 2021, it is important to carry on the initiative throughout the rest of the year and beyond. The purpose of this movement was to encourage meat eaters to shop locally and sustainably.
Try to shop as local as possible for all produce, helping to reduce your carbon emissions and support business owners.
To support further, you can donate left over vegetables and other foods to local farmers as animal feed – pigs especially would appreciate this gesture!
Employees need to be to be trained in managing food waste. A great deal of food is wasted during the preparation process, often to prioritise presentation. Kitchen staff should be trained in chopping vegetables correctly, measuring the amount of ingredients used in each dish and learn to utilise all parts of the produce.
Show the consequences of waste, to simplify the training split the issue into two sections pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste, helping to understand the relationship between your business and the issue of food wastage.
Allocate a member of your team to keep tabs on post-consumer waste and mark this in your inventory, this alongside chef training helps to collate data on where the main source of waste is coming from in your establishment.
8. Be creative
Introducing new procedures doesn’t mean you can’t stay authentic; in fact, you can have some fun with this new project. If you have the space, you could try growing your own produce, of course there are safety regulations to keep in mind – however it could be a fun venture for small businesses who are aiming for zero waste production chains and eliminate their carbon footprint.
Serve food to customers using their own packaging, adding a takeaway option is in fitting with the current pandemic and can combat food waste by giving your customers the opportunity to reduce portion size and eat their leftovers another day. Alternatively, you could offer compostable disposables for takeaway purposes.
9. Equipment & storage
Refrigeration is the number one priority in keeping food fresh and edible. Checks should be put in place in addition to government checks to ensure they are working correctly, and you are ensuring produce is preserved for the correct amount of time.
Temperature control is especially important in food displays, consider whether it is necessary to present food out in the open for long periods of time just for decoration or if this contributes to your overall waste.
All other appliances should be cleaned and checked regularly and thoroughly, to make sure no dishes or offerings are ruined and in turn wasted when a simple update of kitchen essentials could have been implemented.