Food, in various forms, can be found everywhere in a restaurant. From the canned tomatoes and jars of spices, grains and dry pasta stocked in the pantry, to the fresh fruits, vegetables and proteins in various stages of preparation and cooking in the kitchen, to the gorgeously plated dishes on the dinner tables, food is the star in this establishment.
Since all restaurants need to have a constant supply of fresh ingredients as well as ready-to-serve items such as beverages and bread, ordering from wholesale food suppliers is definitely a common practice in the food service industry.
Having a constant supply of quality ingredients and other products will ensure you will always have great food to serve your customers. However, it can also be a cause of food waste.
In the US, it was discovered that the restaurant sector generates about 11.4 million tons of food waste annually. The full cost of this is more than approximately $25 billion per year.
Managing your inventory is one of the best ways you can reduce food waste in your restaurant. And to do this efficiently, use POS or restaurant software. With this piece of technology, you will gain valuable insights into the goods consumed daily and identify the right time to order additional stock.
This software will also allow you to easily make corrections in your stocks. Additionally, it will enable you to record expenses in certain situations. One example is when the goods have to be disposed of as waste due to improper storage, expiration date, and other factors or errors.
Aside from introducing or improving your food inventory system, you can reduce food waste in your restaurant through the following means as well:
Fruits and vegetables are some of the most easily perishable foods, and thus contribute a lot to food waste. As such, make sure they are properly stored to extend their shelf life.
This means cleaning fruits and vegetables thoroughly and storing them in a suitable container in the most ideal area for them inside the fridge or in the pantry. Make sure they are labeled with the date of storage as well.
Additionally, always store opened goods and other perishable items in containers with airtight covers and at the optimum temperature. Label them with the date they were received and the date they should be considered expired. Place the number of servings within the container to help the chefs and cooks, too.
The first in, first out (FIFO) method means placing newly bought products in the back, while leftover or opened ingredients go in the front of your fridge and pantry. Make sure the products in front are used before using new items or opening new packages.
By introducing this method in your kitchen, you will significantly cut down on food waste as a result of spoiling.
For bulk orders, following the FIFO method may mean taking more time to unload shipments. However, moving the older stock to the front of the shelves and putting the new stock behind them will ensure that you will never waste good product.
If you want to decrease food waste further, revise your menu to reduce the number of ingredients in most or all of your dishes.
Start by reducing your specialty menu items. Whether they are your most popular items or not, keep in mind that when you have fewer specialty items, you will also have less waste.
In addition, consider limiting the number of ingredients that go into one dish. After all, many of the greatest and most popular dishes only have a few ingredients. If your cooking staff can find a way to innovate your dishes without compromising quality and taste, encourage them to do so.
In case you notice that you’re throwing out plenty of guacamole, salad dressing, and cut-up vegetables, it means your kitchen is preparing too much of these items.
Although it would be best to have too large amounts of prepped ingredients rather than not enough, if you are not good at predicting demands, then you will end up wasting a lot of food.
To ensure your kitchen is prepping the right amount of food, create better forecasts. Take note of busy shifts or days when the kitchen needs to stock up on more prepared ingredients. On the not-so-busy days or shifts, tell the kitchen staff to take it easy on prep work.
By prepping more accurately, your restaurant will save money on food costs and on the labor that goes into prepping the ingredients.
To significantly diminish food waste in your restaurant, everyone has to pitch in.
As such, educate all your employees in the best methods of reducing waste. Teach employees from both the front and back of the house tactics that they can implement in their daily activities in your restaurant.
Start by teaching your prep cooks cutting techniques that keep food items fresher longer. Additionally, there are cutting techniques that will help your cooks get more amounts from vegetables, fruits, chicken, fish, and other meat products. Make sure your staff learns and practices these techniques.
Keep reminding your staff that the more they can squeeze out of a food item, the less of that item will end up as food waste.
If your soup of the day isn’t the bestseller you thought it would be, give some or all the uneaten leftovers to your employees for free. By doing so, your staff won’t have to think about and spend money on their next meal. You won’t have to worry about discarding the soup, as well.
You can also give your employees small amounts of ingredients that won’t be enough for another dinner service. In case you ordered wholesale cakes that are nearing their expiration date, for example, give the remaining portions to your staff.
As long as the unused food products are still safe to eat, consider giving them to your employees for free. By doing this, you will raise employee morale and prevent good food from being thrown away.
Lastly, there is no way you can have zero waste in your restaurant. However, you can put food waste to good use by composting them.
Implement a composting program in your restaurant. Get the right containers to compost biodegradable waste and instruct all employees to put only items that decompose in it.
Once the organic waste turns into compost and is applied on soil, it will give plants valuable nutrients. Because of this, composting won’t only help you reduce food waste that ends up in landfills; it will also help the environment.
With a bit of planning, and with everyone’s involvement, you can succeed in reducing food waste in your restaurant. This, in turn, will save your business money and increase its profits. You will also build a reputation for being a sustainable business.
Jad Asaad is the Marketing Manager at Horeca Trade LLC with more than eight years of experience in digital, online and offline marketing. He started his career in Beirut working in a creative agency and then moved to Dubai to further expand his career. He created and implemented award-winning high-impact digital and offline marketing campaigns that consistently generated revenue streams and improved performance in targeted segments.