Food Waste in Restaurants: Cut Costs by Reducing It

Nick Mirev
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    Food waste is one of the main sources of pollution worldwide. Even though food products are degradable, the packaging and greenhouse emissions associated with their production are big pollutants. Food waste in restaurants accounts for a smaller percentage compared to grocery store and household food waste. However, there are multiple benefits for businesses in the restaurant industry to incorporate green restaurant practices aimed at reducing the amount of food thrown away. In the next paragraphs, we’ll share some tips on how restaurant businesses can become more environmentally friendly and reduce restaurant expenses by tackling food waste.

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    Food Waste in Restaurants Statistics

    Although many governments, NGOs, and businesses are focused on reducing food waste in restaurants, grocery stores, and households, the problem is still a major one. BlueCart has also helped in that regard in the past with our Zero Waste Kitchen initiative. Here are some statistics that show the state of food waste in the US and worldwide.

    1. According to the UN, one billion tonnes of food is thrown away every year. The majority of this waste is generated in the US and other developed countries.
    2. 40 percent of all food in the US is thrown away.
    3. According to research, global food waste equates to 1.5 trillion dollars in wasted potential value.
    4. Households are the main contributors to food waste. They account for around 43% percentage of the total food that is thrown away.
    5. Food waste in restaurants accounts for roughly 40% of the total thrown-away food. Restaurant managers aim to tackle that problem. Reducing food waste in restaurants is not only one of the best restaurant cost-saving ideas but it can also be used in a restaurant’s marketing. A study has shown that 72 percent of US diners care about how food service establishments handle food waste. 47 percent say they are eager to spend more if the restaurant is eco-friendly and has a food recovery program. That being said, reducing food waste in restaurants can help greatly with customer retention. Combining restaurant composting with other green policies such as eco-friendly packaging will result in a sustainable restaurant and help with customer acquisition and maximizing profits.
    6. On average, Americans spend $3000 yearly on dining out. Research shows that 17% of meals are left uneaten. That means by tackling food waste in restaurants, both businesses and consumers can save money.
    Key takeaway: Restaurants can significantly reduce their costs if they incorporate policies focused on reducing food waste. In the long run, these green practices help with a restaurant’s marketing and brand awareness. More and more diners consider proper handling of food waste in restaurants as a factor when choosing where to eat.
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    Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Restaurants

    There are hundreds of policies that can be implemented in order to make a restaurant more sustainable. You can check out our articles on plastic alternatives for restaurants or finding sustainable suppliers. Let’s see some tips on the topic of reducing food waste in restaurants.

    Reduced Portion Size

    Large portions are one of the main reasons for food waste in restaurants. Research what menu items generate the most waste and consider reducing their size and price. A reduction in portion sizes will give customers the opportunity to order more items on the menu as well. That way they are likely to enjoy their dining out experience more.

    Changes in the Menu

    Communication is one of the key elements of a restaurant’s success. Social media marketing for restaurants and waiters are the main channels for communication between guests and restaurants businesses. Adding small indications near the most popular and large portions on the menu can be helpful in reducing food waste in restaurants. These indications can be similar to “meal for 2 people” or “a great option for sharing”.

    Handle Leftover Food Properly

    Offering customers to take their leftover food home is a sustainable policy that’s easy to incorporate. If they opt out of this, leftovers can be donated. Platforms like Too Good To Go or Food For All help connect people searching for cheap food alternatives to local venues that have leftovers. Donating food to local animal shelters or organizations in the animal care field is also a good option. Creating or partnering with a local composting program is also a great way to turn food waste into something productive instead of going to a landfill.

    Create a Composting Program

    Composting food waste has multiple benefits. It reduces the amount of food that goes to landfills and helps improve the soil. Some sustainable restaurants have created their own composting programs where leftovers can be degraded to improve soil quality. An easier option is to partner with local organizations like schools or other businesses and create a composting program together. It can be a community garden or another project that will also boost your restaurant’s brand awareness.

    Inventory Control

    A major reason for food waste in the food and beverage industry is inadequate storage. That’s why it will be beneficial for restaurants to invest in proper inventory management. Managing proper inventory levels can be achieved with a combination of policies and inventory management software. Additionally, restaurants can find suppliers that also follow eco-friendly practices. That is a way to incorporate green policies in all parts of the supply chain.

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    Frequently Asked Questions about Food Waste in Restaurants

    Although we don’t have all the answers to global pollution problems, there’s much we can do to fight for our planet and the environment. The BlueCart team has assembled some of the commonly asked questions on the topic of food waste in restaurants. Below you can see their answers.

    What Are the Most Wasted Foods?

    Generally speaking, the most wasted food products are vegetables, fruits, milk, bread, meat, and cheese. Although there are no solid research studies related to the most wasted food goods, here are some facts.

    1. Over 240 million slices of bread are thrown away each year.
    2. Roughly 5.9 million glasses of milk are thrown away annually.
    3. Around 30 percent of vegetables in grocery stores are thrown away before being bought. Combined with food waste by wholesale produce distributors and households, that amounts to roughly 50% of fruits and vegetables being thrown away.
    4. Due to its relatively short expiration date, meat often becomes food waste. Wholesale meat distributors, retailers, restaurants, and households all contribute to food waste of meat.

    What Other Businesses Waste Food?

    Besides restaurants, grocery stores, farms, and food manufacturers throw away a lot of food as well. Here are some facts you should know.

    1. If there’s no demand for a particular crop, farmers might decide to plow it instead of harvesting and packing it. Although this is still food waste, it is a sustainable alternative compared to the food going to a landfill.
    2. About a third of food products in grocery stores are thrown away. Grocery stores and food retailers are considered to be the main sources of food waste worldwide.
    3. About ten percent of food waste is done by food manufacturers. The production of allergen-free food is one of the main reasons for that. Manufacturing lines need to be run a few times before producing gluten-free or other allergen-free products. 

    How Much Food Goes to Waste?

    According to estimates by the United States Department of Agriculture, between 30 and 40 percent of food in the US goes to waste. That’s a very large percentage compared to other countries. In terms of money, the USDA estimates that the worth of annual food waste was approximately $161 billion in 2010. The approximate amount of food that went to waste in that period was 133 billion pounds.

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