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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Day

Having Less Waste in Your Kitchen

When we think of restaurants, we often forget about the waste. Or we don’t even think about it or that it exists. But waste is and continues to be a big deal in the industry. Let’s discuss ways to reduce waste in and out of the kitchen.

One effective method is through creative repurposing of ingredients. This strategy involves identifying ways to use the entire product, reducing pre-consumer waste. For example, vegetable peels can be transformed into flavorful stocks and meat trimmings can be utilized in broths or as fillings for dumplings or meatballs. Restaurants can significantly diminish the discarded food volume, turning potential waste into profitable menu items, helping that already tight overall bottom line.

Incorporating a diverse menu that utilizes the same product in various dishes also significantly minimizes waste. This approach caters to a broader audience by offering various options and ensures that ingredients are used efficiently, reducing the likelihood of spoilage and waste. For instance, a single type of vegetable can be featured across different menu items, from starters and salads to main dishes and even in condiments or garnishes, ensuring maximum usage and minimum waste.

The financial implications of reducing food waste are substantial. For every dollar invested in food waste reduction strategies, restaurants can expect an average return of $8 in savings. This significant cost-to-benefit ratio underscores the economic viability of implementing food waste reduction measures. Customers are also becoming increasingly aware of and concerned about environmental issues; many are willing to spend more at establishments that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability and responsible waste management.

Strategies for Waste Reduction

  • Food Waste Audits: Conducting regular audits to understand the sources and volumes of waste can tell you what’s being thrown away most often. 86'ing an item can be more cost-effective sometimes. Take it completely off your menu or only bring it in when the season or cost is right.

  • Inventory Management: Adopting the First-In, First-Out (FIFO) method and utilizing point-of-sale (POS) systems for efficient inventory tracking can prevent spoilage and overordering. Your inventory dollars should be less or equal to your weekly sales.

  • Portion Control: Standardizing portion sizes and offering half-portions or smaller dish options can reduce post-consumer waste. However, keep your sale prices in mind to cover your overhead fees. A half-portion of a dish doesn’t mean you charge half. 

  • Education and Training: Training staff on sustainable practices and educating customers about the importance of reducing food waste can foster a sustainability culture.

  • Utilize a central, smaller trash can in your kitchen. This will make it to where it needs to be emptied and cleaned more often. Although this may initially cost labor dollars, the food cost savings will make up for it. Chefs and cooks may second guess throwing away as much product when they have to take time out of their day to empty the receptacle. Many cooks want large trash cans beside them as they work, making eliminations easy. Using smaller cans or containers may help them take smaller cuts, using less waste. Another option is to have one container for food waste and another for trash like cans and plastic. 

Chef with smaller containers for waste control.

Integrating food repurposing into your restaurant's operations and offering a diverse menu that smartly utilizes ingredients can help you achieve sustainability goals. These practices help reduce food waste, enhance customer satisfaction, save costs, and contribute positively to the environment. 

The journey towards using less waste in your operation involves everyone's continuous effort, creativity, and commitment. It can also offer significant financial savings, customer loyalty, and environmental stewardship rewards.

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