10 Simple Ways to Reduce Wasted Food in Restaurants (Guest Post)

Ethan Gibble is a content specialist and blogger for the WebstaurantStore.com. He researches and writes about issues facing the restaurant industry on a local, national, and global scale. Here are his two, or 10, cents:

The cost of food is steadily rising and, according to bread.org, 1.02 billion people went hungry in 2009 alone. The overabundance of wasted food makes this even more difficult to endure, but it is a reality that demands a swift and ongoing call to action.

As the internet’s leading source for restaurant supplies, we here at WEBstaurantStore.com would like to help reduce the waste that takes place in the restaurant industry by offering restaurateurs ten simple ways to save both food and money.

  1. Avoid overbuying fresh produce: When your produce vendor has huge sales, there’s often an impulse to purchase more than you normally would. If you buy more than you can use before it spoils, your attempt to save money has actually resulted in wasted food and fiscal loss.
  2. Note exactly what you want when placing orders: If you would like to take advantage of a sale but don’t want all of the food to peak simultaneously, ask your vendor if you can receive the products in various stages of ripeness.
  3. Inspect all food orders upon arrival: Thoroughly examine all food orders that you receive by inspecting items randomly, and not just those on the top. If the food is spoiled or well on its way, do not accept the order.
  4. Pre-cool hot items before storing them in a refrigerator: To help prevent bacteria growth, pre-cool all hot items before storing them in a refrigerator by using a chill blaster, cooling paddle, or ice bath.
  5. Store products properly: All products should be stored in a standard food box or food packaging wrap to prevent waste from cross-contamination. Also ensure that your food is stored in proper temperatures, with frozen foods requiring storage at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below, and refrigerated foods requiring storage at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or below.
  6. Keep everything labeled and organized: Use food labels to clearly and easily identify important details like what the item is, when it arrived, and when it must be used by. Once labels are applied, be sure to use the first in, first out (FIFO) storage method by placing new arrivals behind older items so that the older products get used first.
  7. Ensure that your refrigerator and freezer are maintaining proper temperatures: If your freezer or refrigerator didn’t come standard with a refrigerator/freezer thermometer, be sure to purchase one as soon as possible so that you can regularly monitor your equipment’s performance.
  8. Initiate proper portion control: To help save both food and money, use portion control scales to ensure that the amount of food you specify is what your employees are doling out.
  9. Anticipate and create: If you begin to anticipate that you won’t sell a certain item before it spoils, creating a temporary pricing special will help you make use of the product and achieve a profit.
  10. Donate food you will not use: As a humanitarian alternative to the last tip, send unused food to the Food Donation Connection which supports those in need. For more information, please visit www.foodtodonate.com.
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12 Comments

  1. Posted June 30, 2010 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    That’s fantastic advice. I think the last one is by far the best. If you have to throw out unused food, why not donate it to the hungry. We have some clients who do this openly and as a result their patronage has increased.

  2. WilliamB
    Posted June 30, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Re #2: This benefits the vendor also, allowing him to sell unripe produce. If you ask for this, try asking for a discount for doing so.

    Re #4: Don’t forget the effect of putting warm food in the fridge, on food already therem. The warm food warms up the fridge, putting *all* the existing food at risk.

    Someone (I think it was Cook’s Illustrated, but could have been Consumer Reports) did a study comparing putting warm food in the fridge vs cooling it elsewhere. They found that cooling it elsewhere was better: if you put warm food in the fridge it takes longer for the fridge contents (warm food, food already in the fridge, air in the fridge) to cool to safe temps, than it does to cool the warm food elsewhere (ice bath, counter) and put it in the fridge.

  3. Karen Scribner
    Posted July 19, 2010 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    For home use to keep produce fresh longer you can get Debbie Meyer Green Bags. I have used them over and over as the directions specify. They are based on the clay in the cave storage in Greenland or Iceland. Food was put in caves and it lasted longer not due to cold but to the clay in the cave walls. The green bags use clay coating and (for those who espise plasitc) the bags can be rinsed and re-used. I have a set from 2006.
    There must be a way to introduce clay in a panel or container (like the box of baking soda) into a refrigerator. Maybe keeping a produce only fridge will help.

  4. Posted March 24, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    One thing that’s reduced food waste in my life is a community of people with different tastes and tolerances for items past their expiry date.

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