When it comes to food waste, there are three main areas of focus according to the ReFED Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide. Those three areas are food waste prevention, food waste recovery, and recycling.
Prevention solutions are some of the most cost-effective measures restaurants and foodservice operations can consider because they are usually easy and cost effective in terms of implementation, and they don't have negative impacts on the guest experience. In fact, they can have the opposite effect.
Consider menu design and planning. When it comes to food waste prevention, this is one of the most effective (and controllable) measures possible.
According to American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), restaurant and foodservice guests leave, on average, about 17 percent of the food on their plates, representing an opportunity to influence food waste prevention through service style and menu design.
By creating menus with food waste prevention in mind -- in effect reducing the number of ingredients and repurposing some of the foods an operation is planning to throw away -- foodservice operations can increase their bottom lines.
First, operations need to view every aspect of every ingredient as an opportunity for use in a dish. For example, an operation might use radishes in a salad, while also considering the radish greens for a different application.
Second, culinary staff members should all be trained in optimizing an ingredient during food prep. This includes cross-utilization of an item or repurposing of food trim and excess foods.
Next, the menus themselves can include different portion sizes. As an example, a pasta dish can be served as a full size or half size. Limited offers or promotions can also reduce over ordering or under use of an item.
Finally, operations should think outside the box. If the kitchen is using fresh squeezed lemon juice as part of a seafood dish, how are the peels being used? Send them to the front-of-the-house, where the bar can use them as garnishes and twists in certain cocktail selections.
Menu design is just part of the overall solution when it comes to reducing food waste.
Proper food handling and storage can have enormous impacts on how effective an operation is at utilizing entire ingredients, and one of the biggest aspects of food storage is refrigeration.
Schedule some time to talk with a refrigeration expert, and see how we can help meet your food waste reduction goals.