How to Cut Down on Food Waste


According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, approximately one third of all food is lost or wasted annually. Most of the waste comes from fruits or vegetables. A lot of food waste can't necessarily be prevented due to hygiene, like saving food that has already been on someone's plate, but it is possible to cut down on food waste at your restaurant in other ways.

Donate If Possible

Some city and state ordinances allow restaurants to donate food that goes unused to organizations that need it, such as homeless shelters and domestic abuse shelters. See if this is an option in your area. If so, set up a partnership with a local organization to make sure your food goes to people who need it. If the food is going to be thrown away anyway, it's better to find alternatives where it can actually be eaten.

For example, Harvesters, a non-profit organization in Kansas City that Menufy supports, collects prepared but unserved food from restaurants. It also accepts donations of surplus inventory, such as dry, refrigerated, and frozen foods. Harvesters then connects with agencies that can distribute this valuable food to hungry people in the community.

If this option isn't available, there are other ways you can cut down on food waste before it gets to the point of throwing it away.

Smaller Portions

Portion sizes, especially in the United States, are much larger than what was being served decades ago. This trend is correlated with the rise of obesity in our country as well. Consider using smaller portions for your menu items to cut down on food waste and to focus on healthier portions.

If you start using smaller portions, it makes sense to announce this publicly on your website or social media pages and to adjust prices accordingly. After all, some patrons like bigger portions for leftovers later, so they might appreciate advanced notice. Using fewer ingredients for dishes is going to cut costs anyway, and you can pass those savings on to your customers where possible.

Food Specials 

If you have food that hasn't gone bad but you're afraid that it's going to go unused, consider building a menu special for the day or week that uses this ingredient. Again, this isn't to say that you should be using expired food, but rather to preemptively make sure you're creating dishes that are going to use all the available ingredients in your kitchen. 

This goes for "ugly" or misshapen produce as well. Just because the potatoes you have look unsightly doesn't mean that there is a decline in taste. Consider using these types of items in purees or dishes where they are cut up.

Ask Instead of Assuming

Another small change you can make is to ask customers what types of sauces or side dishes they want instead of assuming they want what the dish normally comes with. For example, have a disclaimer on the menu or your cash register that lets customers know they need to ask for condiments like ketchup and ranch. Otherwise, don't include it on the plate. If the customer doesn't want it, it's just going to be thrown away and go to waste. The same goes for side dishes. Ask customers which side dishes they want, and they will be more likely to eat them.

If your restaurant makes cutting down on food waste a priority, there are likely several different places where changes can make a difference. Not only does decreasing food waste benefit your restaurant's profits, but it also helps cut down on the amount of good food being thrown away for no reason.