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An Update on Zero Waste in the Food Service Industry

Posted by RDT on Feb 28, 2020 1:14:58 PM

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We all want zero waste, especially in restaurants and other forms of foodservice operations. As a result, many restaurants, cafeterias, and food trucks are working towards sustainability to reduce waste and cost. There are several steps that can help control food waste and even improve the menus, and we're going to walk through a few of them now.

1. Measure food that is thrown out.

Take a good look at the food that is discarded. Are you ordering more than you need? Is the food spoiling before you can use it? Scale back your orders and only buy the food you know will be used before its expiration date. This is extremely important with fresh produce. You may need to order fewer products more frequently to keep them fresh and usable. Buying in bulk may cost less but you are wasting money if you have to throw out food that you cannot use.

2. Clean and organize refrigerators, walk-in coolers, and other storage areas frequently.

Use clear plastic containers and wrappings so that you can see how much you have left of any type of food. Label the containers with the expiration dates and the dates used. This is a good way to assess your ordering needs and prevent spoilage.

3. Make a note of the amount of food that you are scraping from diners' plates.

Are your servings too large? You can use smaller plates to make servings look bigger if necessary. Diners will probably appreciate your honesty if you explain the approximate size of a serving clearly on the menu, along with calorie content, etc. Explain that you want to prevent food waste. Make bags and boxes available for people who want the leftover food on their plates.

4. Try to use leftovers.

Baked items on the verge of going stale can be used for stuffing, pudding, sauces, or breading on other foods. Many restaurants are doing this with leftover table bread that cannot be served again. Some restaurants are charging extra for bread and dinner rolls served prior to meals to cut down on waste.

5. Use food before it wilts or rots.  

Vegetables and other produce that starts to wilt, dry out, or go bad, can be dried and used as unique seasonings. Vegetable trimmings can be used in soups and stocks. Be creative with a special "soup of the day" made from leftover vegetables, grains, and meat products. 

Raw meat that is nearing its expiration date can be cooked and used in soups, salads, and other dishes before it is unusable.

6. Limit the salad bar.

Salad bars are nice, but take note of the items that people do not use. It is challenging to keep the lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetables, cold and fresh. Wilted lettuce must be discarded. Use shallow pans on the ice or cold surface and refill them frequently when needed to keep the lettuce and other items cold and fresh. This will reduce waste.

7. Give away leftover food whenever possible.

Restaurants, especially cafeterias may have leftovers at the end of the day that cannot be reheated or reused. Donate the remaining food to a nearby homeless shelter or any charitable organization that can use food. Some items such as grains can be given to animal shelters.

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Topics: refrigeration, food waste, energy efficiency

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