How to Start Tackling Food Waste
Food waste can cost your business a lot in terms of disposal (have a look at our article on The Cost of Food Waste to find out how to calculate this). But it also has a significant impact on the wider world. Many consumers are worried about climate change and may prefer a restaurant that is open about their environmental impact. How food is produced, and the waste left after preparation can have a big impact on the environment and your pocket. That’s why it’s important to know where this waste can come from, and how to start tackling food waste.
Sources of Food Waste
Vegetable peelings and meat trimmings can add up fast during each service. Over-prepping food portions that can’t be reused or frozen is also an issue that creates waste in your kitchen. Preparing in advance can really speed up service but make sure not to prepare more than you will definitely use. If you have to throw out a lot of unused food at the end of the day, it’s a waste of food and money.
Food scraps leftover from large portions obviously can’t be reused in the future and have to be thrown straight out. If you have a continuous stream of leftover foods, consider looking into portion control methods. We often serve more than we need to. Look for the dishes that often have leftovers and reduce the portion size. This saves you money both on ingredients and on food waste.
Offering children’s portions of your normal meals is another way to create extra value. Childhood obesity is a huge problem in Ireland with 1 in 4 nine-year olds being overweight or obese. The RAI even have a joint initiative with the Nutrition & Health Foundation called ‘Kids Size Me’ that aims to tackle this problem. So not only would you be offering additional value in your menu, but you’d also be tackling a nationwide problem.
Some amount of spoilt food is unavoidable. There will always be some food that goes off before you have a chance to use it, especially if you use fresh ingredients. However, over-ordering and mismanagement of stock can cause more food than necessary to be wasted because it has spoiled. Make sure you keep track of your inventory of ingredients and their use by dates. You won’t use what you don’t know that you have so it’s important to have a system in place in order for food not to be forgotten.
Used Cooking Oils
The use of oil in the kitchen is a standard part of the cooking process and naturally you will have to throw out this oil after using it. The main thing you can do to reduce waste in this case is to review your menu and try to limit the quantity of oils and fats you’re using. This can be achieved by changing the cooking method used (such as grilling, steaming or even just pan frying instead of deep frying) and reducing the number of fried items on your menu. Ultimately this also results in healthier options for your customers.
How to Prevent Food Waste
Your staff members are instrumental in preventing food waste so it’s important to make sure that they are properly trained. If food is stored and rotated the right way you are less likely to have a lot of food spoilage. Avoiding spoilage by rotating ingredients so that shorter dated items are used up first is a simple fix that can save your business money in the long run. Employees should be trained to do this almost automatically, as well as being trained how to prepare food in a way that promotes longevity. Your staff are involved in each minute detail of the day to day running of your restaurant so encourage them to become actively involved in reducing food waste and to suggest ways that could help. By seeing and being involved in the improvements that your business is making employees are more likely to be committed to and motivated by the cause.
Prevention when Purchasing
There are a number of ways to prevent food waste in the purchasing of your stock and ingredients. For instance, to reduce costs, a lot of restaurants buy ingredients in bulk. While bulk buying is certainly economical, it’s useless if you’re not going to use up all of the product. You should keep track of your average number of orders and the usage of ingredients in order to establish how much is safe to buy. It is better to order the minimum amount required than to over-order. You can always order more, but if you order too much it inevitably leads to food waste.
Accurate stock inventory is instrumental in prevention efforts. By knowing the quantity and use by dates of the food you already have it allows for a more accurate ordering system. This allows you to avoid over-ordering and unnecessary spoilage. If you do end up over-ordering a certain ingredient by accident you could plan a special menu centred around this ingredient. Alternatively, you could run a special offer on certain menu items that already feature this ingredient.
It’s also important to check food deliveries when they come in. You don’t want to end up paying for food waste that has nothing to do with your business practices. Ensure all food deliveries are:
- Free from contamination.
- Packaging isn’t damaged/cans aren’t leaking or rusty.
- Perishable food is within its best before date/used by dates.
- Temperature - check particular foods like fish.
Tackling food waste is a really important step for your hospitality business, but what if you don't have the finance available to start? If you need finance to offset the cost of food waste or to implement a food waste prevention plan, GRID’s business loan could be the perfect choice for you. It offers flexible repayments that work by taking a percentage of your credit/debit card takings. This means that when you’re earning less, you pay back less! This option is great when you’re expecting an upturn in profits because it doesn’t leave your cashflow stretched in the meantime. GRID's loan works both to finance your everyday restaurant expenses or to fund larger projects, like a kitchen refurbishment.