Restaurant Food Waste FactsWaste in the foodservice industry isn’t all that surprising.  What is surprising is the amount of waste that a single restaurant can produce in a year – 150,000 pounds.  The average food waste for a restaurant is between 3.11% and 9.55%, this comes to 4,665 – 14,325 pounds of food waste per year, per location.  That is a LOT of waste, and a lot of money thrown in the trash.

As a restaurant owner or manager, I am sure that those numbers are enough to make you sweat and reevaluate your budgets.  Here are a few tips that can help cut back your waste. Studies show that an estimate of 4 – 10% of food purchased for the kitchen is thrown away before it can even get to the table.  So, let’s play with the numbers here, if we have approximately 4,665 – 14, 325 pounds of food waste, that is about 200 – 1,500 pounds of food that you have paid for, that never makes it to the table.  This waste is created from incorrectly prepared food, scraps, spoilage, trim waste, even over production.  There are various ways to reduce this type of waste.  Things like using day old bread to make home-made croutons, donating to food banks, doing an assessment of the waste created during prep, using certain vegetable scraps to make soup bases, any combination of these can reduce waste, both food and money.

Restaurants that donate food can get tax benefits based on the 1976 Tax Reform Act.  Unfortunately, small companies are currently excluded from getting these tax deductions.  The Act allows businesses to make inventory donations to charities, for up to two times the cost of the donated inventory. Great way to get a tax break to donate items that either don’t meet your restaurant’s aesthetic appeal, or is too near its expiration to table.

The waste produced by customers isn’t as easy to deal with, as you don’t have as much control about what they eat and what they take home or throw away.  There are still options to keep it out of your trash and the landfills.  While it can’t be donated to the homeless, it can be donated to farms as animal feed or composted, there are even digesters that can be installed in your location for organic waste that turns the waste into grey water.  The grey water can then be drained into the sink or saved and used for landscaping.

One way restaurants can help in reducing consumer food waste is by changing the plates you serve food on.  An optical illusion, known as the Delboeuf illusion, makes a serving size appear smaller if more white space surrounds the food.  So using this, a restaurant can serve smaller portion sizes without the consumer feeling cheated.  Another option would be to offer half portions at a reduced rate.  Both options could significantly reduce both kitchen and plate waste.

Is your restaurant using any of these tips to reduce food waste?  Is any of this new to you?  Let us know what your restaurant is doing to reduce food waste, we would love to hear your stories.