For restauranteurs, owners, and managers, waste management should always be considered during operations. According to the World Food Programme, almost 1.3 billion tons of food are lost globally. That amounts to one-third of mass-produced food. Additionally, 70% of food is wasted before getting to a customer’s plate.
So how do you avoid contributing to this global problem? While you can’t eliminate it entirely, there are many ways to prevent food waste. That means developing an efficient strategy, from food storage to meal planning.
As you might infer, food waste refers to food or produce that has undergone quality assessment and should be fit for consumption—but is discarded before it is consumed. As any other type of waste does, it poses a considerable environmental challenge. The sheer amount of wasted food contributes to harmful greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide. Besides these drastic effects, food waste is also a social and humanitarian issue.
Restaurants are often susceptible to food waste because of the nature of their business. Money, labor, and other company resources end up drained alongside the waste. Your internal operations are affected just as heavily. That’s why restaurant owners continue to develop internal programs that help manage and reduce food waste within the establishment.
Managing your waste helps you save money and avoid the need to dispose of resources. Even if you can’t eliminate it, you can always work on reducing waste. Fortunately, you can take many business-forward approaches to consume less waste. Here are a few to start with:
Just as any other area of your food business requires constant scrutiny, food waste audits are essential. Waste audits can help you keep an eye out for instances of excessive production, stock control, inventory, and the like. Before you can implement solutions, you need to know the problems.
A food waste audit is the most efficient evaluation—it’s objective and finds your restaurant’s particular pain points. To conduct one, you can train or hire a team to be in charge, alongside other tasks. Their job would be to sort and segregate collected waste within your restaurant. Prepare protective tools and gear, such as latex gloves, masks, hand sanitizer, or alcohol.
Check which ingredients are discarded during preparation. You can perform a written analysis once the waste is sorted out—noting which food items suffer the most from spoilage past their expiration date. Once you’ve captured all this information in a notebook, you can start coming up with solutions.
Do you find yourself either under-purchasing or over-purchasing ingredients? If so, it’s time to get rid of that habit. Buying unused and eventually discarded ingredients contributes to the growing 70% of restaurant-food waste. For obvious reasons, having too few food items is bad business, but having too much of it will negatively affect your operations as well.
The first step to getting out of this situation is conducting continuous waste auditing. After that, you’re free to determine which food items cause the most waste in your kitchen. If this is the case, consider buying less of it. Create a shopping list whenever you make a trip to the grocery store. This ensures that you only buy the number of ingredients you need to avoid throwing food.
Additionally, you can start investing in an inventory management system. There are tons of online tools, such as inventory-forecasting software, that you can employ in your restaurant operations. These can help you be more mindful of stocks and tracking.
You might have excess ingredients, such as meat or produce, prone to spoilage. But don’t just disregard these items as food waste—you can still use them for other things. You can still use these to create more meals in the kitchen, such as a lunch or dinner special. Try to institute a rule: if the item is still edible food and safe to eat, then it should be “recycled” into a new dish. Don’t toss your vegetable scraps in the trash bin just yet. Eat leftovers by turning them into rice, soup, or even noodle dishes. You might be surprised with what you can make with throwaway ingredients. Find recipes with your excess meat, veggies, or whatever else you have in stock. You can even discover a dish that can be added to your restaurant’s permanent rotation.
“IQF,” which is short for “individual quick freezing,” is a preserving method that involves freezing pieces of fruits and vegetables separately to avoid clumping. Also commonly known as “flash freezing,” industries widely use this technique to keep food intact for extended periods.
Not all food can be stored at room temperature, so IQF is one of the most preferred solutions for product preservation. It is an efficient technology that can help reduce food waste because it slows down the process of spoilage. Examples of food that undergo this process regularly are frozen vegetables and fruits, meat, poultry, fish, and the like.
IQF is typically used for mass-produced food items since they are susceptible to spoiling too early. While fresh fruits and vegetables have their benefits, consider investing in IQF foods. This technology is beneficial when you have a large stock of ingredients that must be used before their expiration date.
If your restaurant is on the larger side, you’ll need more food items than most. This can make you more prone to food spoilage. Luckily, you can regulate your stocks, be more watchful of inventory, and buy more ingredients as needed.
Giving your resources an extended shelf life will help you immensely reduce food waste. Most IQF foods that are stored in the freezer can last from eight to twelve months. This means that the products you buy will not spoil for almost an entire year. They can remain in the freezer as long as they are ready to eat.
Here’s another advantage to food waste: You can purchase tons of frozen vegetables or fruits that are out-of-season—and utilize those in your food business. You don’t need to worry about acquiring unnecessary food waste if you use them in the expected timeframe.
There are many ways to prevent food waste, even if you’re in an industry where it’s inevitable. You can try out these solutions or even seek a food bank to donate extra food. Whatever it is, as long as you start taking steps to reduce waste, you’ll see a tangible change in your operations and the environment.