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Dealing with Food Waste: What Restaurants Must Do

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  • Restaurants generate an estimated 11 million tons of food waste annually, costing them up to $15 billion.
  • Tracking and measuring food waste can help restaurants identify sources of waste and reduce costs by purchasing only necessary ingredients.
  • Partnering with a recycling company can optimize the disposal of compostable organics, recyclable packaging, and used cooking oil.
  • Donating excess food to local charities helps reduce environmental impact while supporting the community.
  • Kitchen efficiency can be improved through proper portioning techniques, preparation ahead of time, and efficient cooking methods.

Food waste is a growing issue in the restaurant industry. Restaurants generate an estimated 11 million tons of food waste annually, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This figure is staggering, and it’s only expected to grow as the world population increases and diets change. With that in mind, restaurants must take responsibility for food waste.

Businesses also stand to benefit from taking action against food waste. By reducing waste generation and energy usage, restaurants can significantly reduce operating costs. Additionally, customers are likely to appreciate establishments that are conscious of their environmental impact and actively strive to reduce it. Sustainable practices implemented by restaurants can lead to increased traffic and more loyal customers—which translates into higher profits for businesses in the long run.

According to a recent study by Harvard Business School researchers Thomas Reardon and Christopher Weber, restaurants could save up to $15 billion annually if they adopted best practices to reduce their food-waste footprint. These savings come from reduced ingredient costs due to more efficient use of purchased ingredients (i.e., better portioning) and energy cost savings from decreased water usage during meal preparation.

However, they might not know what to do regarding reducing food waste. Here are a few tips to help you with the process:

Track and Measure Food Waste

Tracking and measuring food waste

Tracking and measuring food waste is integral to improving restaurant food waste management. With proper tracking, restaurants can begin to identify the sources of their food waste and take steps to reduce it.

For example, suppose a restaurant discovers they are wasting a large amount of produce due to over-ordering. In that case, they may be able to adjust their ordering practices to match their customer demand better. Additionally, tracking and measuring food waste gives restaurants a way to measure the success of their initiatives in reducing food waste. By monitoring current levels of waste generation and comparing them with previous numbers, restaurants can determine whether or not their strategies have the desired effect.

Furthermore, tracking and measuring food waste can have a positive financial impact on restaurants. By accurately measuring the amount of food being thrown away, restaurants can save money by only purchasing the exact amount necessary for each meal service. This eliminates unnecessary spending on ingredients that ultimately end up in the trash.

Partner with Recycling Companies

Partnering with a recycling company can help restaurants create a comprehensive plan to manage their food waste responsibly and sustainably. These companies can offer expertise in handling different materials and developing efficient systems for proper disposal. Additionally, a recycling partner can assist restaurants in identifying potential markets for their recycled materials that may be able to offset some costs associated with managing food waste. Here are a few types of recyclable food wastes you can consider working with a recycling company to dispose of properly:

Compostable Organics

Partnering with a company that handles compostable organics can help restaurants divert significant food waste from landfills. Composting organic matter (such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products) can create a valuable soil amendment that can be used to nourish gardens or agricultural fields.

Recyclable Packaging

Many types of restaurant food packaging are recyclable, from cardboard boxes and plastic packaging to glass bottles and aluminum cans. Working with a recycling company can help restaurants reduce their landfill contribution by ensuring all recyclable materials are collected and processed correctly.

Donate Excess Food

Donating excess food is often the best option for businesses looking to minimize their environmental impact while helping others in need. Restaurants can partner with local food banks or shelters to donate unserved meals. With this approach, restaurants can reduce food waste while providing a valuable service to the community.

Used Cooking Oil

Cooking oil used in the restaurant can be collected and recycled by a professional UCO recycling company. Used cooking oil can be converted into biodiesel or processed in animal feed. You can benefit from this process by receiving payment and reducing your restaurant’s environmental impact.

Practice Efficient Cooking Techniques

Efficient cooking to reduce food waste

Improving kitchen efficiency can significantly impact the food waste restaurants generate. Encouraging staff to practice proper portioning techniques and adhering to recipes exactly are two simple ways to reduce food waste in the kitchen. Additionally, preparing meals ahead of time and freezing them for later use can help keep ingredients fresh while reducing food waste from over-preparation.

Proper cooking practices will also help reduce energy usage in the kitchen. Ensuring all ovens and stoves operate at peak efficiency can save restaurants money on electricity bills while preventing unnecessary food waste due to incorrect cooking temperatures.

Final Thoughts

By implementing these strategies, restaurants can create a more sustainable environment while improving their financial bottom line. Taking action against food waste is essential for businesses looking to remain competitive and demonstrate their commitment to environmental responsibility.

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