Making too little food is always an embarrassment; overproduction is much less risky. Measuring and managing the amount of food that is uneaten can help to save on costs that will make a sizeable impact on your bottom line.
A la carte style service will generate less waste than buffet style service in terms of overproduction and in terms of plate waste.
Buffets will almost always produce more food waste in the area of overproduction; again, it would be a risk for kitchens to produce less. In the event that there is not enough food, kitchens scramble last minute to make more, often generating more waste as a result.
Different styles of a buffet can also impact the amount of waste generated at mealtime:
- Family style
- Sit-down buffet
- All you can eat
- Single pass
Customers will always have their expectations but communicating with the guest about the types of dining service offered and why they are offered can help to manage those expectations.
When putting on a buffet, perhaps for a large banquet or catering for an event, it can often be expected that there will be more waste than during à la carte service. Here are some ways to minimise waste:
- Review food service choices (e.g. various types of buffets)
- Consider smaller/variety of plate sizes
- Prominently display buffet messages to minimise waste (some restaurants even implement a fine for guests who take too much and don’t finish their plates)
- Provide feedback forms for guests
- Avoid displaying too much all at once; top up as demand dictates
- Closely monitor the amount of food that is put out
- Do not re-fill the buffet in the last quarter of service
- Use different types of containers that allow you to adjust the amount of food presented
- Pre-apportion smaller or bite-sized portions rather than placing all the food in one large container
- Save data pertaining to repeat groups (MICE in particular) for their return visit, in order to appropriately menu plan their next buffet.
- Use live cooking (e.g. egg stations or roast beef bar) to control portion size but also minimise the amount of food cooked/touched by the guest
- Use smaller food containers towards the end of the buffet
- Review food waste data periodically to ensure measures are effective
- Have a backup plan for food rescue, reuse, or redistribution (e.g. Scholars of Sustenance Thailand (Thai-SOS) ad-hoc food pickup program)