Eco-friendly Hospitality: 5 Ways to Reduce Restaurant Waste

Quality meals are expensive, and restaurant owners understand this. While part of that cost is reflected in the price of a dish, there’s also a hidden environmental cost: food waste. Restaurants around the globe deal with a large amount of food stock every day. To ensure that customers are served high-quality food, many of these items end up in the garbage.

Although waste can’t be eliminated immediately, there are many steps a restaurant can take in order to minimize the waste they produce each day. From optimizing inventory management to finding creative ways to incorporate ingredients into menu items, we’ll give you the tips you need to take control of your restaurant waste.  


Restaurant industry food waste

Food waste can be caused by many industries, but it is most often the restaurant industry. Restaurants, food service providers Two to four times the amount of wasteMore than all wholesale distributors and grocery stores combined. The result is that US restaurants are more profitable than wholesale distributors and grocery stores combined. Between 22 and 33 billion pounds of trashEvery year. Restaurant owners and their guests need to be aware of this waste. Many of these food wastages can be traced back to problems in menu planning and management.

What happens to food waste in restaurants 

The restaurant business can be divided into pre-consumer or post-consumer waste. Pre-consumer waste takes place during the preparation process with food that doesn’t make it to the customer’s plate. It can occur when food has been overcooked, spoiled or is otherwise not properly handled. Food trimmings and food left out for too long are also pre-consumer trash. Post-consumer waste is essentially food that’s not consumed by the customer after it’s been served. This can be anything that’s left on their plate, but it can even be leftover takeout or delivery food that’s thrown out in the trash.


Analyzing the restaurant waste 

The first step towards reducing the amount of food and materials that end up in the trash is creating a food waste audit to analyze how much food you’re currently wasting, where and why. Start by looking at both pre-consumer waste and post-consumer waste. The way you tackle them will differ. 

If a lot of waste is happening on the pre-consumer level, this might mean you’ll need to invest more resources into inventory planning, operations, food temperature control or employee training. 

When it comes to post-consumer waste control, you’ll look at portion sizes and things like menu descriptions. Restaurant patrons leave 17% off mealsPut it on the table. There were plenty of leftovers. 55% of people are left behind. Does the order description differ from what the customer gets? Is the portion too big? Is there a specific part of the dish that’s being consistently left behind? High post-consumer trash can result from all of these things. 

Here are some tips for conducting a food waste audit 

Waste will vary from restaurant to restaurant, but there are specific ways to keep track of what’s being wasted in your specific business. You will first need to decide how long you want to spend on calculating waste. It can last for as little as one week, or it could be several months depending on how busy you are. To get sufficient information, you might start with a one-month trial. During this month, instruct your staff to keep a log of everything that’s wasted and why. 

You can analyze the pre-consumer trash by using separate trash containers or bins. Staff can dispose of waste according to their categories, such as trimmings, expired, and overcooked. It will provide a visual representation of the amount you have discarded each day. Post-consumer waste can be tracked by staff to track what dishes were returned and what ingredients were left behind. 


Restaurant waste reduction tips 

Reduce waste requires making adjustments to various parts of your operation. It will also involve staff training and creativity. 

These are some ways to reduce waste in restaurants. 

  • Update your menu by analysing and updating it
  • Composting is a good idea
  • Reducing disposables
  • Automated inventory management makes it easy to plan ahead
  • Create a donation plan 

Update your menu by analysing and updating it 

Sometimes waste can come from unlikely sources, like what’s written out on your menu. A long menu that contains many items may indicate that some ingredients have been left out. Based on the results of your food waste audit Make sure to update your menuCustomers want to be informed about changes in the menu. This doesn’t mean you need to cut out everything from your menu, but it will help you find synergies between the different ingredients and processes to create each menu item. You can add similar ingredients to dishes in entirely different ways. This way, customers are still seeing interesting options, but there’s less waste during the preparation process. 

Restaurants can also trim their waste, which is another category of waste. These are a source for creativity. New menu items. For soup stock, you can make use of vegetable trimmings. Spring is a London restaurant offering what they call “a” – a shaker style meal. Scratch menu It uses food scraps from restaurants to create innovative dishes. Their menu uses organic ingredients, such as beetroot skins or potato tops, to create soups. They also use leftover cheese for homemade pasta trimmings. This highlights how important it is to find creative uses for every ingredient.  

Data can be used to design your menu 

The technology used by restaurants will determine what you should cut. A rPoint of sale With Deep analytics like Small Biz Sense’s Advanced Insights, you’ll get access to a detailed breakdown of your menu performance, and use guest’s behavior to figure out your best and underperforming dishes.

Composting is a good idea

Food waste will always be a part of running a restaurant, but that doesn’t mean you can’t transform your waste into something that’s useful for your restaurant or the planet. 

When organic matter is broken down, it forms a compost or fertilizer. The compost can be used as a fertilizer or soil amendment to increase the fertility of plants and soil. If you have the space and time to do so, it’s definitely possible to compost in or outside your restaurant. For this you’ll need things like a closed bin (many companies offer specific containers for composting), soil and shovels. Keep your composting container somewhere your staff can access, but that’s away from your cooking station. The process can take several months to complete, but once it’s done you’ll have fertilizer that you can use in your restaurant garden or donate to other gardens or organizations. If you don’t want to compost on site, but still want to avoid sending your restaurant waste to landfills, you can contact a Nearby composting companiesYou can partner or sponsor a local agriculture organization 

Reducing disposables

In the post-consumer and pre-consumer processes, disposables can also be a form of waste. From kitchen paper towels to takeout containers, disposables include everything. While some coffee shops and restaurants already let customers bring their own containers to reduce waste—think reusable mugs or glass containers—it’s important to take a closer look at the amount and type of disposables restaurants have. The goal is to reduce disposables and other forms of waste. 

Customers can choose to not receive napkins and cutlery when ordering takeout or delivery. Some restaurants also offer steel or glass containers for takeout that can be brought back by customers.   

Avoiding single-use disposables like straws, bags and containers is a key part of reducing disposables. While biodegradables, often made from plants like corn and sugarcane pulp, are a popular alternative, it shouldn’t be the be all and end all solution. They still have a lot of value. environmental impactsThese should all be taken into consideration when they are being produced. 

This is why it is best to make disposables less common and give customers the chance to get involved in the process.

Automated inventory management makes it easy to plan ahead 

Planning is an important step towards reducing restaurant food waste. The amount of ingredients you’re ordering and the frequency will have a direct correlation with the amount of food that ends up in your trash cans during the pre-consumer process. It will be time-consuming to determine how many and how frequently you should order each ingredient. However, this can help reduce your costs. 

Restaurants used to have to write food logs manually to determine their inventory. But technology has simplified this task. Modern-day Inventory management softwareSmall Biz Sense Inventory is an automated stock counting system that allows restaurant owners to concentrate on concrete data in order to solve inventory issues. You can easily track how much inventory you’ve purchased, produced, wasted or sold and reduce waste by making more calculated orders. Small Biz Sense Inventory simplifies this process even more by providing real-time deductions for menu items sold, and replenishments upon receipt of a new order. 

Opting For Inventory management that’s integrated in your POS will give you the data you need to make smarter decisions around inventory and better control over your operations. 

Create a donation plan 

Donating is a great way of giving back to the community while ensuring that your food doesn’t go to waste. There are many options for how to use your food, despite the fact that there are strict regulations regarding food donations. 

Food that hasn’t expired, for example, can be donated to local food banks, pantries or rescue programs. While you can’t donate things like a half-eaten plate, you can donate meals to specific organizations. Humans aren’t the only ones who can benefit from donations. Donations of food scraps and other unused items can be made to farms or zoos. Many use common ingredients in food processing to provide feed for specific farm animals. 

Before donating, make sure you’re following the rules and regulations of your region. Below are some helpful resources: 


Reduced restaurant waste takes a lifetime commitment 

It isn’t a project that you can do once and forget. You need to make it a part of your daily restaurant operation. You will need to shift your mindset about waste in order to find innovative ways of incorporating it into the kitchen, your training and your inventory management. While this might sound like a big undertaking, there’s nothing the restaurant industry likes more than a good challenge. 

You are ready to begin your restaurant waste reduction journey.Speak to one our expertsFind out more about Small Biz Sense.  


Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.