8 ways to reduce waste in your restaurant
We all generate waste in our daily lives. Paper waste and food waste are two of the biggest culprits for waste in our country. The USDA estimated that about 30-40 percent of food supply is food waste. The USDA also estimated that in 2010, 133 billion pound of food from stores, restaurants, and homes was wasted. Most of our country’s waste ends up in landfills, which can have negative environmental effects. With over 25,000 food establishments in New York City, think about how much food waste is generated each day, month, and year!
Here’s a list of 8 ways you can reduce and cut waste in your restaurant in New York City. These are relatively simple actions you can take, no matter where you are located and what resources you have.
1. Track your waste:
One of the best things you can do to reduce your food waste is to track it. Take some time to see what you are wasting the most of and see if there are any trends. Use a resource like Mintscraps to measure your restaurants waste. Mintscraps is an online platform that makes it easy for restaurants to track and reduce their waste, with the goal of maximizing profits. Don’t feel like getting fancy? Use a pen and paper to keep track of this. Also, try tracking what you already have in your fridge before going shopping, to ensure you don't double up on ingredients.
Choose to compost your food scraps instead of throwing them away. Get a few bins, collect your daily food waste, and bring it to a nearby food scrap collection site. Divert your food waste to compost sites rather than landfills. Be sure to know what food waste can get composted and what cannot, there are some simple rules to follow to ensure your compost is usable.
3. Donate, or sell reduced rate food:
At the end of the day, many businesses, such as bakeries or sandwich shops, have an excess amount of premade pastries or sandwiches left over. Instead of throwing these away, you have a few options. If you have lots of leftover food that isn’t extremely perishable, try donating leftover to a nearby soup kitchen or homeless shelter. If that’s not an option, an hour before you close your store, try selling pastries for 50% off, or buy one sandwich get one free. This discounted option can help draw business to people looking for cheaper food options, and will also help you get rid of your extra food quickly.
4. Practice FIFO:
First in, first out- that's the golden rule of preventing food waste and spoilage. For example, if you work in a coffee shop and get a milk shipment, be sure to organize your refrigerator and bring the older milk to the front and newer milk to the back. That ensures that you can use all your milk before the expiration date. Organizing food by FIFO takes a few minutes more effort, but it’s better than throwing away a lot expired food. Make sure to have the expiration dates facing out and to label everything for everyone to see.
5. Use cloth napkins and tableware:
Although paper napkins and paper towels are not restaurant food waste, they can account for a large portion of a restaurant’s daily waste. Paper napkins and towels can be recycled, which is a good start for waste reduction, but why not take the jump to using cloth towels and napkins? Yes, cloth napkins do require a trip to the Laundromat (I sure hope you use eco-friendly detergent), but they reduce the amount of paper waste generate daily. Choosing cloth napkins and tablecloths means committing to reducing the amount of paper going to a landfill daily. Plus, cloth napkins and tablecloths are way classier.
6. Change your menu:
Many restaurants have menus that change daily. This is a great way to keep things different and exciting at your restaurant, but also is a neat way to reduce waste and maximize using the food you already have in your fridge. If you have a lot of leftover produce or meat, try crafting a creative dish around what’s in the restaurant’s fridge, rather than making the same thing every day and generating similar waste daily. Try to crate excitement around the changing menu and dishes to keep your customers excited. Post pictures on social media to spread the word, and let people know you are trying to be environmentally conscious as you create your menus.
7. Put someone in charge:
If there is a member of your team who is especially interested in waste reduction, put him or her in charge. Create a team that handles waste reduction, and find a way to incentivize your team to be mindful and excited about the work they are doing. Less food waste = less money wasted, which can mean higher pay for you restaurant employees. Try to find something they connect with, whether it's the environment or money, to help them stay focused on the cause of waste reduction.
8. Try canning or pickling food:
Who doesn’t love house made pickles? Try to preserve some of your left over or near expired food by canning it or pickling it. You can pickle almost every vegetable, and serve it to customers as an appetizer once it’s ready. Get creative!
These are just 8 of many ways to reduce waste in your restaurant. Again, some things may be harder to achieve than others, but with a little time and effort you will save money and help the environment. Together we can make a difference in reducing the amount of waste generated in New York City.