Challenge: Too much food waste

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Challenge: Too much food waste

Yes, the challenge is that there is too much food waste (and general waste) in the kitchen. Below, you will find various suggested solutions to challenges you will meet when trying to reduce waste throughout your dining establishment. From procurement and sourcing, delivery, to storage and menu planning, we hope these tips will help you take action in your kitchen!

To get you started, check out this interactive resource from WRAP (n.d.), which includes fantastic tips on measuring, purchasing, storage, prep, portioning, and recycling.

Review your waste audit to see what types of items spoil the most. Using that information, you may adjust the quantity or frequency of purchasing for these items. This information can also help to better predict and control your stock, reduce food waste, and of course, positively impact your bottom line.

Here are some tips to optimise procurement and inventory management:

  • Order stock through a single primary purchaser. This practice can help to keep records simple and avoid over-ordering
  • Communicate with your provider to ensure that the quality/characteristic of the product fits your needs (e.g. the correct sized vegetables, etc.)
  • Be sure to avoid over-purchasing by ordering food just before it is to be used/when it is needed. Consult with forecasts before ordering to reflect the expected number of customers
  • When buying in bulk, be certain that you will be able to use all of the product
  • Set up a “stock and order” form in food storage areas that keep track of amounts of a particular ingredient as it is used
  • Optimise pack sizes to meet the needs of the unit
  • Understand the impact of seasonality etc. on the menu
  • Ensure packaging is adequate to protect goods
  • Review food waste data periodically to ensure measures are effective
  • For non-perishables, make sure they have a long shelf life
  • Train staff on using items with soonest expiration date first, FIFO (first in first out) and FEFO (first expired first out) principles
  • Train staff on differences between “best by,” “sell by,” “use by,” “freeze by,” “expires on,” on packaging
  • Implement strong back of house storage and organisational structures in all kitchens (all kitchens should be aware of where products are – including in other on-site outlets). Have an individual who can be responsible for this
  • Provide storage training for staff on optimising space for storage – e.g. use clear stackable containers vs. plastic bags

(rhp, n.d.; Futouris e.V.,, 2010, NEA and AVA, 2017HOTREC, 2017).

Familiarity with the menu, inventory, stock shelf life, and reservation cycles (including special occasions) will help in purchasing the right amount of food and prevent wastage upstream.

Establishing long-term relationships with your suppliers, staff, and restaurant community is an important step in delivering good products and service quality, as well as minimising risk (Futouris e.V., n.d.).

Here are some tips to help streamline deliveries:

  • Introduce good procedures to report and return spoiled goods
  • Check deliveries to ensure that food is free from contaminants
  • Temperature check particular foods (e.g. fish) to ensure it has been stored and transported at the right temperature
  • Make sure that perishables have a long time before they expire
  • Optimise the delivery cycle to minimise food spoilage and associated costs
  • Streamline procedures for receiving deliveries (especially chilled) and transferring goods to appropriate storage
  • Review food waste data periodically to ensure measures are effective
  • Work towards ‘just in time’ delivery rather than pre-ordering in quantity

(rhp, n,d,; Futouris e.V., n.d.; Pirani and Arafat,, 2010)

Sourcing locally and seasonally means that food has less distance to travel and so should be less likely to spoil. Sourcing locally whenever possible not only means a lower carbon impact from transport and refrigeration, it also means fresher and tastier ingredients that are theoretically less likely to go to waste.

Be sure to highlight your locally sourced ingredients and farms for further guest engagement and as a marketing tool. Try to communicate with your guests (and staff) that “imported” doesn’t necessarily mean “better.”

Some restaurants and hotels may even have their own gardens and farms for the freshest ingredients. Talk about hyper local!

You may find local suppliers by:

  • Connecting with local agricultural or food-related NGOs
  • Connecting with other hotels that have a similar goal. You may be able to share successes and failures
  • Visiting best practice hotels and learning from them
  • Visit local farms and farmers markets
  • Working with existing local food cooperatives
  • Organising or hosting a local food festival or fair and inviting local farmers to participate

(Futouris e.V. (n.d., p.9))

Using a seasonal calendar specific to your region can help you identify when products are in season. This is especially helpful in developing seasonally appropriate menus.

See the example below!

After figuring out how much food is being thrown out, you can now take action to reduce waste. To maximise the shelf life of the food:

  • Handle stock carefully to avoid damage and unnecessary waste. Always send back any damaged goods received from suppliers
  • Store food correctly to prevent spoiling (e.g. always make sure the fridge door is shut, make sure refrigerator is below 5ºC/freezer is at -18ºC)
  • Monitor freezer and refrigerator temperatures twice daily
  • Understand how certain food items should be stored to extend shelf life, e.g. bananas should not be refrigerated, fruits and vegetables should be stored in wire crates to allow air circulation and reduce microbial growth, lettuce and tomatoes should never be stored close to each other, etc.
  • Clearly label products with the purchase and use by dates
  • Apply a first-in-first out method of using up stock
  • Continually rotate stock by putting the newest product at the back of the shelf so that the oldest gets used first
  • Consider vacuum packing, flash freezing, or freezing some items to extend shelf life
  • Consider new technologies for extending shelf life such as ozone preservation
  • Increase the use of sous vide cooking to increase the shelf life of ingredients
  • Revise your shelf/storage plan frequently to ensure it reflects your menu
  • Marinate/cook meat and vegetables
  • Make ‘scrap’ dishes, such as in-house meat (sausage), vegetable stocks, bread pudding, juices, etc.
  • Make low-priced specials around items that are over-stocked or close to expiration

(Futouris e.V., n.d.Pirani and Arafat, 2014Pirani and Arafat, 2016WRAP, n.d.)

This is a big one. Menu planning is a key component of preventing food waste and spoilage.

Here are a few tips:

Menu design:

  • Get customer feedback so you learn what they like and don’t like and cut dishes that are unpopular
  • Limit the number of dishes (and cuisines) on menus, and try to use the same ingredients to make different dishes throughout the menu.
  • Understand the impact of seasonality/weather etc. on menus
  • Plan smart menus based on reservation forecasts. Consider the number, demographics (e.g. age) and past food choices of guests
  • Develop a seasonal menu to increase variety
  • Improve forecasting; match the menu offer to demand
  • Assess the costs/benefits of “make” versus “buy”
  • Prepare items such as bread, cakes, and desserts in-house so you have control of volumes on a daily basis
  • Review food waste data periodically to ensure measures are effective
  • Provide KPIs for cost per meal and value of food waste per meal
  • Design new menus with food waste reduction and packaging reduction in mind
  • Give your customer the right amount of choice. The more items there are on the buffet or menu, the greater the number of ingredients and the higher the potential for waste
  • Adapt menus so that items that customers often leave are reduced or made optional; pay attention to plate scrapings and dishes that are unpopular
  • When adding a new menu item, be sure to do a tasting panel with employees to gain feedback about the potential popularity of the dish
  • Ask certain staff members to be “Food Waste Champions” and empower them to report on food waste and make a difference

Recipe management:

  • Use a computer-based system for recipe management – software can scale and rescale recipes and their ingredients immediately. If a core recipe is on the computer, the system can produce scaled recipes for each day based on the guest forecasts. Knowing the right amount of ingredients prevents unnecessary food waste by allowing for more efficient purchasing decisions
  • Know that the more sophisticated recipes with more ingredients, labour, and time involved may not necessarily be the more popular option. Remember to also consider purchase price and margin as well as the waste it produces
  • Understand the skills and equipment available and match them to recipes
  • Use core items on the menu. A good example is tomatoes, which can be roasted, made into soups, used in salads and as a garnish. Consider what other items you can use in a similar way (WRAP, n.d.)
  • Create menus that use fewer ingredients to reduce the risk of any going out of date (WRAP, n.d.)
  • Remember that more complication generates more waste. Careful menu planning may prevent waste in many ways

Ingredient planning:

  • Plan menus to use food approaching its expiration date. A good way to do this is to offer specials or a “dish of the day”
  • Revise menus to serve less wasteful dishes. For example, Pirani and Arafat, note that cheap carbohydrates are on the top of the food waste heap (Pirani and Arafat, 2016).
  • Again, keep the range of ingredients down, or use perishable items in more than one menu option so they are used faster resulting in a greater stock turnover.
  • Buy small quantities of short-shelf-life items, or use ingredients with a longer shelf life.
  • Review menus to minimise range and ingredient mix
  • Reduce the number of ingredients per menu