by Dallas Henderson, Account Manager at RizePoint
The supply chain continues to struggle, food prices are soaring, and food insecurity remains a tremendous problem, yet the U.S. wastes an astonishing amount of food each year. In fact, 35% of our country’s 229 million tons of food is unsold or uneaten, equating to $408 billion worth of waste, according to ReFED.
Unfortunately, many operators are still relying on instincts, guestimates, and assumptions rather than data, which means they’re likely over buying, prepping, and cooking. These behaviors lead to a significant amount of wasted food, resources, and money.
As the supply chain remains strained – and available supplies are expensive – it’s in your best interest to reduce food waste. Here are some proven ways to do so:
- Use integrated tech solutions. If your organization is still using antiquated manual systems – or disjointed tech stacks – you aren’t getting a full, accurate picture of your business. That means you’re not making data-based decisions, and you’re probably wasting considerable time, effort, food, and money. Digital systems – like predictive ordering technology – can help you keep a better handle on your inventory and avoid unnecessary purchases.
- Make waste reduction part of your culture. Train your staff to reduce waste, and properly use and store foods – with waste reduction always top-of-mind. Adopt a waste-not-want-not mindset and follow sustainable strategies. Make sure this is a top-down effort, with organization leadership practicing what they preach.
- Use every bit of food. Make stock from meat bones and vegetable scraps. Juice “ugly” fruit and make salsa or sauces out of “ugly” veggies. Use last night’s leftover roast chicken to make potpie for tonight’s special. Make stir fries and omelets to use up leftover (or about to spoil) produce. Turn old bread into croutons. Be creative and use up excess products and leftovers in delicious new ways.
- Conduct a food waste audit. Not only is food waste bad for the environment, it’s also bad for your business margins. A food waste audit can help your restaurant determine how much food you’re wasting, and the type of foods being wasted. This exercise can help you address your waste problems and adjust your inventory accordingly.
- Store food properly. While it’s both standard practice and legally mandated, surprisingly, improper food storage accounts for a dramatic amount of food waste. Help team members develop habitual patterns of healthy food storage and reinforce these habits through training and tech solutions like Quality Management Systems.
- Inspect all food deliveries. Carefully check each delivery before accepting it or you may be immediately throwing spoiled food (and money!) away. Today’s tech tools allow you to track supplier certifications easily and accurately to ensure your suppliers are consistently practicing proper food safety and quality protocols.
- Practice good stock control. Use the FIFO method of first in, first out. Organize your inventory so the oldest ingredients are up front so they’re the easiest to grab and the first to be used. Proper stock rotation will help minimize food spoilage and waste.
- Stop over buying, prepping, and cooking. Don’t buy, prep, or cook too much food (especially fresh foods!) or some might spoil before you can use it all. Tech tools can analyze sales patterns and create better forecasts so you can have a better sense of what you can realistically use. Don’t buy or cook more than that.
- Feed the hungry. Much of the food we throw away is still perfectly good. Donate unused, but still edible, items to local food banks to reduce waste and feed the food insecure in your community. In most cities, there are organizations that will pick up safe, unused foods to give to those in need.
- Recycle and compost. Food takes up more space in US landfills than anything else, so don’t contribute more waste to our overflowing landfills. Compost food scraps, like fruit and vegetable peelings, old bread, eggshells, tea bags, and coffee grounds. Partner with local farmers and gardeners who will gladly accept your nutrient-rich compost, or start your own garden and grow herbs and produce. Farmers will also welcome your food scraps to feed their livestock.
- Be more sustainable. Use silverware instead of plasticware, cloth napkins instead of paper. Stop using paper menus and offer reusable menus or QR codes instead. Shut down equipment when not in use, turn off the air conditioning and open windows, incentivize guests to bring their own takeout containers. Even seemingly small efforts will add up to a big savings.
As we continue to face very daunting problems in the U.S. – food insecurity, inflation, supply chain disruptions – everyone within the restaurant industry should be working diligently to reduce food waste. By doing so, they’ll use resources more efficiently, meet corporate sustainability goals, save significant money, feed those in need, help the planet, and attract more customers and prospects who want to support sustainable businesses.
Dallas Henderson, a 25-year veteran of the service industry, is an Account Manager at RizePoint. RizePoint is disrupting traditional market software with their innovative, new product platform Ignite Supplier Certification Management, which helps small to medium sized businesses simplify the supplier certification and maintenance process. To discuss RizePoint’s solutions, please contact Dallas at firstname.lastname@example.org.