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How to reduce food waste in a restaurant: 7 tips to avoid food wastage

How to reduce food waste in a restaurant: 7 tips to avoid food wastage

minutes read
Published on
September 14, 2023
Last updated on
Aron Lewis
Growth & Marketing Lead
Aron Lewis
How to reduce food waste in a restaurant: 7 tips to avoid food wastage
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    Did you know that around 1.3 billion tonnes of food is wasted every single year? The same study also found that 40% of this total comes from restaurants and food franchises. That’s a lot of food wasted unnecessarily. 

    So, what’s the solution?

    Well, there isn’t a simple answer to this question. But the good news is that there are some easy things you can do to reduce your food waste, and you’ve come to the right place to find out what these are! 

    In this article, we’ll outline 10 ways you can minimise food waste in your professional kitchen. We’ll also look at the benefits of reducing food waste, and the different types of food waste to be aware of. 

    But first, let’s take a look at the current state of food waste in the hospitality industry. 

    The current state of restaurant food waste 

    Have a read through these figures to get a better idea of the current state of food waste. 

    Although these figures aren’t exactly inspiring, it’s not all doom and gloom. Yes, there are definite improvements that need to be made, but there are some businesses out there that are trying to change these figures for the better. 

    Apps like Flashfood and Too Good To Go are giving consumers a chance to buy food from suppliers and restaurants at a reduced rate before it gets thrown away. And then there’s Peckwater Brands (that’s us — hi 👋). 

    We work with professional kitchens to launch virtual brands. In doing so, these kitchens reduce their food waste by using their existing ingredients for online orders. 

    Two chefs preparing pizza.

    Find out more about what we do

    So although the figures show that food waste is a growing problem, there are businesses out there that are trying to improve the situation. And people like you, who are taking the time to read this article and find out how to reduce food waste in your business, are also making a difference. 

    Different types of food waste

    There are a few different ways to create food waste. Plate waste, excess ingredients, and spoiled food are a few common examples. Let’s look at these in more detail. 

    • Plate waste. This refers to any food left on a customer’s plate after they’ve finished eating at a dine-in restaurant. It can be caused by a range of factors, including overplating and serving too much, quality of food (where customers don’t want to finish their meal because the quality isn’t great), and so on. 
    • Excess ingredients. Buying excess ingredients often means you’ll throw items away before you have the chance to use them. Think about it. If you order too many ingredients for your professional kitchen, what’s going to happen to the leftovers? Unless you can find another use for them (or if you have the time to find another use for them), you’ll be throwing them away. 
    • Spoiled food. When food spoils (meaning when it goes past its expiration date and can no longer be used), it goes straight in the bin. There are a lot of different reasons food can spoil, from improper storage to simply overbuying ingredients before you can use them. 

    The benefits of reducing wasted food in your restaurant

    Take a look at a few of the benefits that you’ll experience when reducing food waste in your professional kitchen. 

    • Save money. If you’re overbuying ingredients and throwing food items away, you’re also throwing money away at the same time. By restricting what you buy and making sure that you use all the ingredients you purchase, you’re spending money on items you’ll actually use. As a result, it brings your costs down. 
    • Help the environment. With less food going to landfill, you're doing your part to decrease methane emissions and lower your carbon footprint. You’re also reducing the energy and resources required to transport food to your business, so it’s a win-win. 
    • Improve efficiency. Managing your food inventory effectively helps you run a more efficient operation. You don’t have the need for excess storage space, and you can streamline your kitchen operations without excess food taking up space. 

    7 ways to reduce waste in a commercial kitchen

    Now, let’s walk through some of the most important ways to reduce food waste in your professional kitchen.

    1. Conduct a food waste audit

    A good place to start is to understand how much food you’re currently wasting and what the food items are. From here, you can start to think about how to reduce your waste and fully utilise all your ingredients.

    But how exactly do you conduct a food waste audit? 

    Follow these steps to get started: 

    • Prepare for the audit. Get things in order to start auditing how much food you have and how much goes to waste. This means tracking all your ingredients, gathering scales and measurement cups, and something to track and record your audit (such as a spreadsheet). 
    • Choose a timeframe. Decide when to perform the audit and how long it’ll last. For the best results, you need at least a week’s worth of usage. You should also perform the audit regularly to keep on top of food waste and see if you’re improving your food waste percentage. 
    • Perform the audit. With everything in place, you can now start tracking your food waste. Record all your ingredients, their quantities, and how much you use. By the end of the audit, you should be able to see which ingredients you use the most, and which tend to go to waste. 
    • Review your findings and make improvements. The results of your audit will help you figure out how to reduce your food waste. For example, if you’re wasting a lot of a specific ingredient, you can reduce the amount you order to minimise waste. 

    2. Leverage the power of technology  

    Technology can be an incredibly powerful tool when it comes to food waste. With the right tools in place, you can track how much food you’re wasting and figure out how to reduce it.

    For example, let’s say that you’re ordering 100kg of chicken breast every week. The data shows that you use an average of 75kg per week. To stop yourself wasting 25kg of chicken every week, you adjust your order. 

    You can also use technology to monitor what types of food people are most interested in. For instance, if you’re running a virtual brand from your kitchen, you can use third-party delivery data to see what your customers are most interested in eating. 

    Someone scrolling on the Deliveroo app.

    This can help you predict demand (and therefore plan supply), understand which dishes are most popular at various times of the week, and monitor inventory levels. Or, if you work with a franchise brand partner like Peckwater Brands, we can analyse this data for you. 

    3. Review your food packaging  

    Restaurant waste isn’t just about food. If you run a virtual kitchen or food delivery operation from your kitchen, packaging is also something to think about. 

    You need packaging to ensure that food arrives at someone’s door hot and in good condition – but it also creates copious amounts of waste. So how can you make your packaging more sustainable? 

    Here are a couple of tips to reduce food waste: 

    • Reduce packaging size. Have you ever ordered something small online and it arrives in a huge box? All that empty space feels like such a waste, right? Well, the same principle applies here. Keep your packaging boxes and bags as small as possible to reduce the amount of materials you need. As a result, you’ll produce less waste. 
    • Use sustainable materials. Keep your packaging as kind to the environment as possible by using sustainable materials. That way, when your packaging is ready to be thrown away, it can be recycled or composted in a sustainable way. With this in mind, research compostable or 100% recyclable options, with paper and cardboard (as opposed to single-use plastics) wherever possible. 

    4. Engage your entire team  

    Reducing food waste is a team effort. If you’re trying to tackle it solo, chances are you’ll struggle. But with everyone on board and working towards the same goal? That’s a winning combination. 

    Here are some ways to involve your team throughout this process: 

    • Keep your team up to date about changes. Start by having an open line of communication with your team about the changes you’re making and why you’re making them. That way, you can be sure everyone knows what the plan is going forward, give them a chance to ask questions, and make sure everyone is fully onboard. 
    • Include your chefs in the decision-making process. Chefs are at the front-line of the business, handling food day-in and day-out. So, it makes sense that they’ll have some great ideas for reducing waste. Get their input and involve them in the decision-making process to create an inclusive approach to reducing waste. 
    • Provide training. Investing in training can help your team develop a better understanding of the best practices for reducing waste. For instance, how to prepare and store food properly or how to clean surfaces effectively. It keeps staff up-to-speed on how to reduce food waste, and also makes them feel like a valued part of the team. After all, you wouldn’t invest in their professional development if they weren’t a key part of the team, right? This can boost morale and motivate team members to keep following food waste protocols.

    5. Repurpose ingredients across your menu 

    What’s a great way to make the most of your ingredients? Use the same ingredients for more than one meal! 

    Let’s use pasta and burgers as an example. 

    If you have a cheesey pasta on your menu, why not use the same cheese in a burger, too? Or if you’re adding bacon to a carbonara, add the same bacon as a burger topping.  If you double up ingredients across your menu, you have a better chance of using them. 

    Cheeseburger in a sesame seed bun with salad and sauce.

    Take a look at some of our virtual brands as an example. All of our menus focus on utilising ingredients as efficiently as possible. This means we use similar ingredients across our brands, making it easier for commercial kitchens to use all their food and minimise waste. 

    6. Store food properly 

    Give your ingredients the best chance of lasting as long as possible by storing them properly in your kitchen. This means understanding how each ingredient needs to be stored, and having an efficient system in place to store them correctly. 

    Here are some things to bear in mind when storing food in your kitchen:

    • Follow the recommended storage temperatures. Make sure you’re following guidelines on how to safely store your food in fridges and freezers. For example, the Food Standards Agency says that cold food must be kept at 8˚C or below. Following these regulations can slow down bacterial growth and keep food safe for an extended period of time. Plus, it’s the law (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland), so you should definitely follow these requirements! 
    • Use airtight containers. Store food in secure and airtight containers to prevent exposure to air or moisture. If food items are exposed to these things, they could spoil before they should, which means you’ll end up throwing them away. So check the seals around your containers to make sure they’re keeping your food locked in! 
    • Label and date food items. Adding labels is a great way to keep track of what the food items are, when they were received, and when they should expire. This helps you and your team keep track of which foods to use, allowing you to prioritise items that must expire before others. 

    7. Track popularity of your dishes 

    If some dishes are super popular and others rarely get ordered, you should focus your budget on buying ingredients for the popular dishes. That way, you spend less money on items you might not use and reduce the likelihood of throwing away unused ingredients. 

    Here are a few ways you can find your most popular dishes. 

    • Review your food orders. Spend some time regularly reviewing your food sales data to identify your top-selling dishes, as well as any dishes that are underperforming. To do this, you can use your point-of-sale (POS) system to generate reports. Then, you can easily see which dishes you should focus your time and energy on. 
    • Talk to customers. Speak to your customers to find out what type of food they enjoy from your business and why they like it. You can talk to them directly (perhaps when they’re settling the bill), or ask people to complete an online survey. This feedback will give you a good insight into which meals people prefer, what they don’t like, and how you can better align your menu with what they’re looking for. As a result, you’ll be buying ingredients to create dishes specifically for your customers, which should reduce the amount of food you have to throw away. 
    • Review third-party delivery app data. If you run a delivery operation from your kitchen, you’ll have access to a variety of data on your third-party delivery apps (like Deliveroo, Uber Eats, and Just Eat). You can use this data to see which items are the most popular, and refine your menu accordingly. Or, you can work with a delivery franchise partner like Peckwater Brands, and we’ll take care of all the data analysis for you! 

    Launch a virtual brand to reduce food waste and boost your income 

    Reducing food waste is beneficial for all hospitality businesses. It’s better for the environment, it keeps costs lower, and it helps you work more efficiently with the food in your kitchen. 

    If you’re thinking about how to take the first step in reducing your food waste, get in touch with Peckwater Brands. When you work with us, we’ll help you launch a virtual brand from your existing kitchen. As a result, you’ll reduce the amount of food waste you produce, and generate another stream of income for your business. 

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