Top 4 Ways You Can Reduce Food Waste at Your Restaurant
If you are a restaurant owner, you probably already know that wasted food affects your bottom line. But other than a loss of income, wasted food also contributes to greenhouse gas emissions and harms the planet.
According to a report conducted in 2014 by Value Management International, about $31 billion worth of food ends up in landfills each year. While at the same time, about 850,000 Canadians depend on food banks every month. That number is even higher now, thanks to the impact of the pandemic.
Food waste is also a growing concern with Canadian consumers, with more than 50% blaming themselves for the amount of food waste and restaurants coming in a close second, according to research by the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI). That means you’ll want to start taking food waste as seriously as your customer as a restaurant owner.
Running a restaurant takes a lot more than just serving delicious food. It also requires a great deal of time management, delegation, staff management, policies and procedures. And on top of all of that, you need to focus on the business side of things like invoicing, payroll, taxes, etc. It’s not an exaggeration to say that running a restaurant requires a lot of thought!
What is food waste, and why does it happen in restaurants?
According to canada.ca, food waste refers to any food grown, harvested, raised or caught, but is never eaten. In restaurants, this means food that is prepared but is never served and thrown away.
When food is disposed of, it ends up in landfills, where it turns into methane. Methane is a type of greenhouse gas that is 25x more potent than carbon dioxide. Not wasting food prevents greenhouse gas production and makes sure that the resources we use to produce our food (such as water, land and energy) do not go to waste.
There are four main reasons food waste occurs in restaurants; these are:
- When the food is prepared but not served.
- Incorrect inventory, surplus inventory.
- Food stored incorrectly.
- Uneaten food is sent back to the kitchen, which must be discarded (post-consumer loss).
How to Conduct Food Waste Audit
To reduce your food waste, you must first find out how much food you’re wasting. This is where conducting a food audit can be helpful. When doing a food waste audit, the main goal is to identify what part of your operations creates the most food waste. Once you know that, you can work on ways to reduce it.
There are two main factors you need to track to conduct the audit. These are: how much food you are wasting and how much traffic your restaurant has each day. You can create a food long using a pencil and paper and have your staff track what they are throwing out.
There are also waste tracking systems that are available that can track your food waste using a scale. For your traffic log, you should be keeping track of the date, weather and number of guests. The longer you track, the easier it will be to see patterns, which can help you determine baselines like how much food to order for particular times of the year.
Food Waste Solutions
Once you figure out how much food you’re wasting and where the most waste occurs, you can then start thinking of food waste solutions that would best help your situation.
You should ask yourself these questions when looking over your data:
- What contributes the most to food waste in the kitchen?
- What specific items are being thrown out, and why?
- What seems to be going to waste the most?
You can also categorize your waste into three categories: pre-consumer waste (food that doesn’t leave the kitchen), post-consumer waste (food that is purchased and not consumed), and disposables (utensils, packaging, paper goods).
How to Reduce Food Waste in Your Commercial Refrigerator
1. Keep everything organized
Your inventory should be neatly organized, with no items hiding in the back where you cannot see them. The saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” applies here. You should also be strategic about where you place certain items like meat or fish. These should be stored in the coldest part of your commercial refrigerator, which tends to be the lower bottom shelves near the back. You can keep more shelf-stable items in the door of your refrigerator or on the top shelves.
2. Do not stuff your refrigerator with food
It might be tempting to stock up on items while they are on sale so you can have extra for later, but if you overstuff your fridge, this can cause it to have poor air circulation. Poor air circulation encourages mould and bacteria to grow because it prevents cold air from circulating. It can also lead to higher utility bills since your commercial fridge needs to work harder to cool more things at once. As a general rule, there should be three inches of space between each item to allow cold air to pass around the object.
3. Label your food using FIFO guidelines
The FIFO guideline refers to the “First in, First out” rule. You should be labelling your food with the proper dates and having your staff follow this guideline so that you can ensure adequate inventory turnover.
4. Set the temperature properly
Different types of food inventories need different temperatures to ensure they stay fresh for longer. If you have several commercial refrigerators, be sure to group up all the similar items together so you can set the proper temperature for them.
We hope these tips can help you reduce food waste in your business and reduce cuts to your bottom line. Regular maintenance on your commercial refrigerator will also help ensure you won’t have any unexpected breakdowns that could spell disaster.
For more information about commercial refrigerators, call Ancaster Food Equipment at 855-888-9644 or contact us here.