4 Strategies For Effective Food Waste Management

With the ever-present threat of lockdowns making it ever more difficult to determine how much fresh stock to keep on hand, more and more foodservice professionals have taken a fresh look at waste minimisation and management.

The simple fact is that reducing food waste will save your business money. A recent study of 114 restaurants across 12 countries reported an average saving of $USD7 for every $USD1 invested in reducing kitchen food waste and that within one year the restaurants surveyed had reduced food waste by an average of 26 per cent.

Each year some four million tonnes of food are wasted in Australia, with about 25 per cent of that figure coming from restaurants and food businesses. It’s also the case that growing awareness of environmental sustainability issues, especially among today’s millennials, means that many of your customers will choose to spend their dollars at those food businesses which are actively working to minimise waste.

Here are four steps you can take to reduce your food waste, cut down your operating costs and increase overall profitability:

1. Conduct a food waste audit.

This tells you how much food you’re wasting, exactly what’s being wasted and how to reduce it. Food waste audits conducted in the US have shown some foodservice businesses such as casual dining restaurants could potentially reduce their daily food waste by an average of 26.7 per cent – and that some 97.6 per cent of surplus food could be donated to food rescue organisations.

The staff responsible for the audit should those who are already involved in the business’ meal preparation because they’ll be familiar with the amount of ingredients used. Their job is to track and analyse all food waste, categorising it into spoilage (excess stock or food which has passed its use by date or spoiled during storage), food preparation waste (from kitchen spillages and accidents, and leftovers from ingredients or after meal preparation), and customer waste  (what’s left on plates at the end of service). Staff can use colour-coded bins to separate waste into these categories, making it easier to identify where the majority of waste is happening.

It’s a good idea to do this across several days – that way you can make allowances for quieter and busier periods – including a weekend or other peak service period.

2. Conduct documentation reviews on all purchased food ingredients and products.

This will help you identify where you’re over-ordering stocks, so you can make sure that in future you only order the minimum amount required.You might also consider replacing fresh product with frozen, dried or tinned if possible due to the longer shelf life as long as it doesn’t adversely impact on the quality of your finished meals.

3. Take inventory of all stock on a regular basis to compare quantity of waste to stock purchased.

Remember that holding too much stock increases the risk of it reaching its expiry date before it can be used and ending up as food waste.

So it’s better not to purchase bulk supplies of stock unless the customer demand is there or the stock is non-perishable.It’s also wise to utilise the FiFo (First in, First out) system for perishable goods – meaning the freshest perishable stock is always put at the back, and the older stock used first.

4. Use leftover ingredients in menu specials wherever possible.

It’s wise to bear in mind that some ingredients are more perishable than others, so ensure you have a plan for how they can be utilised in other recipes. These then can be promoted via the specials board – and your front of house staff should be encouraged to bring them to your customers’ attention.