Reducing food waste takes more effort than weighing portion sizes. Recently, the nonprofit Rethinking Food Waste (ReFED) reported that nearly 63 million tons of food are wasted across the U.S. each year with approximately 11.4 million tons coming from restaurants alone. This costs the industry about $25 billion per year. Though the statistics are grim, there is plenty that restaurant owners can do to reduce waste and help boost their bottom line in the process. Here are five tips to help you begin this process.
- Design menus to reduce the number of ingredients
The fewer specialty items you need in-house the less waste you will have. While this is more challenging in fine-dining where guests may come in to try special ingredients and vastly different dishes, the rest of us have no excuse. You should limit the number of ingredients that only go into one dish to a minimum. If you have multiple dishes each ingredient is included in it is much easier to avoid spoilage.
- Repurpose prep trim and overproduction
In ReFED’s Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide, they list several ways restaurants can repurpose prep trim and overproduced items in order to save on food costs. One way is to reuse fruit peels for cocktail garnishes. Incorporating weekly meetings with the kitchen staff to go over waste and overproduction practices is another way to identify discrepancies and correct them for the following week’s service.
- Use smaller plates
For those of you who own self-service and buffet-style restaurants, using smaller plates can reduce your food costs tremendously. Food psychology researchers at Cornell University found that customers typically find a 70 percent plate coverage to be visually appealing. Reducing the size of the plate, therefore, reduces the amount of food required to be visually appealing on that plate. Eliminating the use of trays will also discourage customers from overfilling their plate.
- Purchase product based on historic sales and food surplus data
This may sound like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you the amount of manager’s I’ve worked with who over-purchase product because they feel like they’re about to hit a busy week. Always check your previous year’s sales before purchasing. Full stop.
- Allow chef feedback for supply specifications
Just because you own your restaurant doesn’t mean you should make all of the final decisions, especially when it comes to your food supply. If you are not a chef-owner, then you need to set up a communication channel with your chef to work out your supply specifications. Everything from which distributors to use or ingredients can make a difference in your success.