Reducing Food Waste in Restaurant Kitchens

32% of all food ends up in the bin. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Food waste is a big issue. A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) found that “32 percent of all food produced in the world is lost or wasted,” and “half a pound of food is wasted per meal in restaurats” according to GreenBlue, whether it’s from what is left on a customer’s plate or in the kitchen itself.

Worse still, up to 85% of the food that goes unused in a restaurant is simply thrown out. Only a small percentage is recycled, reused, or donated.

There are several reasons for this. It can be as simple as uneaten leftovers, forgotten and unused products missing their expiration dates, or food by-products that end up in the bin – restaurant kitchens often over-prepare, store ingredients improperly, and ignore food scraps and trimmings. This all contributes to food loss.

Let’s take a look at why this is such a problem, and what we can do to address it.

Why is Food Waste a Problem?

While we all know wasted food is a problem – going all the way back to when we were children and our parents and grandparents made us clean our plates – but it’s not always clear why exactly. We sorted the issue into three main parts

Food waste is bad for the environment

Food waste is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. How? When waste leaves the restaurant, it is sent to a landfill where it decomposes and releases methane, one of the most potent greenhouse gases; methane is estimated to have a global warming potential that is 28 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period (Move For Hunger). Landfills and wastewater emit 67 million metric tons of methane globally every year, which accounts for 20% of all methane emissions (United Nations). 

Plus, agriculture accounts for 70% of the water used around the globe. Food waste is then also a significant waste of precious freshwater and groundwater resources.

Food waste is bad for your reputation

This might sound like the same spiel your parents used to give you about finishing your dinner, but with millions of starving and food insecure people around the world it’s important to ensure your restaurant isn’t frivolously throwing away edible foodstuffs.

In an industry still reeling from the pandemic, it’s important not to alienate potential diners. And in a socially conscious environment, these diners are increasingly aware of issues like food waste. Wasteful restaurants might see their reputations damaged by their practices and will then be at a competitive disadvantage to restaurants that prioritise sustainability.

Food waste is bad for your bottom line

This isn’t just a moral issue. Addressing food waste also makes financial sense. A recent report by Champions 12.3 found that reducing food waste in hospitality and food service by a mere 20% can save businesses up to $7 billion every year.

How? Simple: Wasted food is the result not only of the loss of both the food itself, which cannot be sold, but also all the resources it took to produce it, which need to be replaced. Furthermore, when food is wasted restaurants incur the added costs of landfill fees and waste management companies needed to dispose of it.

Food Prep and Storage

The good news is that it isn’t that hard to address this issue with just a few small changes. Updating inventory operations, and maintaining awareness of what cooks are making, what has been prepared, and what you have in the walk-in cooler, fridge, and freezer can make all the difference.

This is where we come in.

Let NCCO help with food waste

DateIt™ and storage labels take the pressure of staff to ensure nothing gets forgotten or ends up in the bin unnecessarily. Strong label systems make inventory easier, so nothing gets lost in the shuffle. Streamlining your labeling operations with DateCodeGenie® can also make the difference between food that gets served to happy customers and food that ends up wasted by printing accurate use-by dates, as well as allergen information and dietary restrictions.

Plus, labels can help organise your kitchen to keep service running smoothly during a rush, so no one sends their food back to be remade.

Click here to take a look at the products we have to offer to help in the fight against food waste.

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