Why worry about food waste?
Food waste is an enormous environmental issue that modern businesses can’t afford to ignore. The United Nations Environment Programme's 2021 Food Waste Index has found that an estimated 931 million tonnes of food goes to waste every year, 26% of which comes from foodservice. This incredible volume burdens waste management systems and is a major contributor to global crises including climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and food insecurity. Growing, producing and transporting food use huge amounts of water, fossil fuel and energy in themselves; when that food is wasted, so are these resources. Furthermore, the disposal of food waste to landfill is one of the biggest contributors of methane to our atmosphere.
In addition to the (weighty) environmental argument, there are other, more immediate reasons why it’s smart to slash your food waste:
- When food goes unused in your kitchen, you’re wasting good money on disposal — and that’s on top of the costs incurred by ordering, prepping and cooking the food.
- Today’s customer is concerned about climate issues and more discerning in choosing which businesses to support. Installing a thorough food waste policy shows that you care, and is a positive selling point you can shout about on your website and/or social media.
How to cut your kitchen waste
The best way to deal with food waste is to prevent it from happening in the first instance, maximising financial and carbon savings by preventing raw materials being used unnecessarily. Read on for advice on how to achieve a real reduction in the amount of food waste produced in your kitchen.
- Perform a waste audit. Monitoring and measuring is the first step in identifying the biggest sources of waste in your kitchen. The ‘three bin’ approach is an easy way to accomplish this. Install labelled bins to collect food waste from three areas: kitchen prep, spoiled food and customer plates. Monitor how much waste is collected in each bin over a specified period of time — say, one week of service. Once you’ve identified where your biggest problems lie, you can introduce targeted measures to tackle them.
- Get staff involved. Emphasise the importance of reducing food waste across your company and ensure that employees understand how waste should be segregated; you may also wish to appoint a designated food waste manager or team to encourage ownership. Empower your staff to reduce waste wherever possible and offer incentives for doing so. Be sure to ask for feedback — some of the most innovative ideas can come from kitchen and front-of-house staff.
- Store foods correctly. Check that fridges and freezers are running at the right temperatures, ensure that low risk foods are always stored on higher shelves than high risk foods and keep storage areas clean and tidy. Ensure all containers are clearly labelled with product descriptions, allergens and date information.
- Keep a stock inventory. You should always know what you’re purchasing and what you have to hand. Maintain a running list of the foods in all of your storage areas, including use-by dates, for easy reference.
- Practise stock rotation. Use the ‘first in, first out’ method when storing food, placing newer stock to the back to ensure that older items are used first. Check use-by dates on a daily basis.
- Careful menu design is one of the most effective ways to reduce food waste. Rationalise the number of items in your order by ensuring certain ingredients can be used in different ways across a number of dishes. Introduce a daily special, specifically designed to use up ingredients that might otherwise go to waste. If possible, review your menu regularly and remove dishes that aren’t proving popular.
- Order with caution. Ensure that you only purchase ingredients at a volume that you know your kitchen will use. It can be tempting to buy in bulk, but doing so can leave you with more food than you can utilise — especially where non-perishable items are concerned. Inspect all orders as they arrive; if the food looks like it is close to spoiling, don’t accept the order.
- Predict food orders. Having a system in place to help you accurately predict food orders — whether manually or with the help of a digital system — means more accurate data, a better understanding of order patterns and more control, which ultimately leads to less waste and more money saved.
- Prep with care. Think carefully about how much food your restaurant needs to prepare in advance. Batch cooking may save time but, if not properly considered, it can be a waste of both money and food.
- Keep a close eye on portion control. Be wary of oversized food portions — quality is more important than quantity. If your menu has items that are consistently left unfinished, it’s time to reduce those portions to prevent food ending up in the bin.
- Be smart about excess ingredients. Don’t be quick to throw away leftover food, as you might be able to make use of it somewhere else. Use vegetable peelings and animal bones to make stocks and soups, or use stale bread for croutons or breadcrumbs. Use your creativity: deep-fry potato skins and serve them as a snack, add carrot tops to salads or pesto, use rendered fat to cook other items and pickle or ferment off-cuts of vegetables. Where these items don’t fit into your menu, an unexpected amuse bouche will always add an element of surprise and delight to the customer experience, boosting overall satisfaction.
- Offer a take-home option. If customers have any food left, give them the option of a ‘doggy bag’ to take their leftovers home. Use compostable packaging to reduce waste at their end, too.
- Donate. Ensure that anything you can’t use goes to a good home. Partner up with FoodCloud or a similar enterprise, or set up a link with a local food bank to donate any leftover meals and/or ingredients.
- Find alternatives to landfill. When everything ends up in the correct bin, you’ll save money on waste collection. Materials such as paper, cardboard, cans, bottles and other containers often end up in commercial waste bins, but can be recycled. Similarly, be sure to put any food waste to good use; compostable foods include fruit and vegetable peelings, baked goods, grains, egg shells, coffee grounds and tea bags. Your local farm may also welcome these compostable food items, as they can be used to feed pigs or chickens.
If you’re interested in how an automated stock management and ordering system can help reduce kitchen waste and cut costs effectively, book a free consultation with our experts today.