Restaurant Management

Are You Losing Money to Food Waste?

As a restaurant owner, you are undoubtedly familiar with the problem of food waste. Businesses are typically obligated to offer everything on the menu, whether or not it’s ordered twice daily or twice weekly.

Much waste also comes after the food has been ordered and offered to the customer. Not everyone cleans their plate, even if the service and culinary techniques are impeccable. Even if you’ve made a profit on that meal, the value of that food goes into the compost.

Thankfully, there are ways to curb commercial food waste in order to help your bottom line and prevent further harm to the environment. This not only increases stability in your restaurant budgets but promotes an overall philosophy of sustainability in food production.

The Global Problem of Food Waste

According to the U.N., food waste is about more than just losing out on vital nutrients that could be diverted to hungry individuals. The full cost of food production amounts to 2.5 times the cost of wasted food alone. Food must be grown, harvested and transported. At all stages of the production, this uses up energy, labor, water, and land, only to eventually end up in the trash.

Restaurant owners are only one part of the global waste issue. Each day, families don’t use the food they buy and supermarkets throw away unsold produce. Even though food entrepreneurs have just one part to play, it’s an important part. Both parts set an example to patrons and allow them to be more selective with the food they purchase and cook.

Restaurant Action Tip: Inventory

If you’re new to business, you may be still experimenting with certain dishes and learning what customers want to buy. You may also be subject to marketing by suppliers, who offer you a break on food purchased in greater quantities. This can be a money saver, but only if you turn all of that food into meals purchased by customers before it goes to waste.

In order to maximize your inventory, keep close track of what you buy and how quickly it’s used in your restaurant. No one expects you to optimize your inventory right away. But focusing on this kind of long-term planning can help you keep costs in check and reduce the amount of food you throw away without making a profit.

Restaurant Action Tip: Preparation

food prep waste

In the restaurant industry, every ounce of food has an associated cost. It’s vital that sous chefs and other staff utilize all elements of food products as much as possible in order to maximize the monetary value of that item. Home chefs may want to use all the food in their fridges in order to cut down on their grocery bills. Restaurant owners are no different.

Staff should carefully measure ingredients in order to prevent waste of food that can be used in more than one dish. Chefs are artists, and that creativity should not be constrained. But when profit margins are thin, kitchen staff should follow the model of grocery stores that measure their prepared food to the gram before placing it on store shelves.

Some waste reduction comes down to technique. Everyone may be able to debone a chicken, but it takes experience and skill to debone the bird in a way that recovers the maximum amount of meat. Consider short training sessions to support staff in learning how to do the work well. You’ll make up the cost of the training by what you conserve in less food waste.

You can also buy prepared ingredients that do not require on-site chopping or deboning. Depending on the nature of your business and your restaurant clientele, bringing in prepared ingredients can be an economical and environmentally friendly option.

Restaurant Action Tip: Menu Offerings

How many dishes are offered on your menu? If it’s a huge list, you may be stocking up a lot of supplies you don’t actually use. Some cuisines, like sushi, use a lot of the same base ingredients in many dishes. This results in less potential for waste. But if you have dozens of unique offerings, chances are you’re throwing out more than you need to.

In order to reduce waste, consider reducing the size of your menu to what people actually buy. If you want to give more variety, consider rotating specials instead of a standard list of exotic dishes.

Another easy way to reduce waste is to reduce portion sizes. This may be tough for many restaurant owners, who want to provide value to the customer by filling their plates. However, it’s a fact that many diners simply can’t eat a huge meal in one sitting and are happy to pay for something smaller. You can offer a range of sizes to give customers choice or just start putting your delicacies on smaller plates.

Food waste is a problem for the environment and human health. It also has a huge impact on your bottom line. If you want to provide optimal customer service and food your patrons will enjoy. Focus on what they want on their plates and offer less of what they don’t. It will keep them coming back and keep your doors open.