How to cut food waste in a hospitality business

There are lots of ways to reduce the amount of food waste in a hospitality business. We’ve compiled some of the most popular actions food businesses are taking to reduce their food waste.

When deciding what actions you’ll take to reduce waste, it’s helpful to think of food waste in two categories:

  • Avoidable food waste — any food that could have been sold and eaten at some point but was thrown away instead. Leftover meals, product that’s gone off, edible plate waste and edible offcuts fall in this category. Over 50–60% of business food waste could be avoided. This type of food waste can be reduced through actions like those listed below.
  • Unavoidable food waste — offcuts and scraps that can’t be eaten, such as meat bones, peels and coffee grounds. This food waste typically can’t be reduced but you can consider better disposal options such as composting or worm farms.

It’s also essential to know where food waste happens most in your business to help you decide what actions to take.

If you haven’t already, sign up to our free Love Food Hate Waste Business program to get your simple food waste tracker and action plan.

Food waste actions

Certain actions will suit certain business types so choose the ones that are right for you.

General tips to reduce your food waste

There are some actions you can take that will make it easier to keep all food waste down across your business.

  • Track food waste regularly, whether it’s every day, one week a month or once a quarter
  • Inform staff about the need to reduce food waste and provide training if needed
  • Empower staff – appoint a willing food waste champion to keep an eye on waste amounts and actions
  • Motivate staff – run competitions to see which teams or days can create the least waste
  • Remind staff – Put up posters near fridges and bins to remind staff to reduce food waste. Change them regularly so staff notice them
  • Embed waste reduction in daily processes or systems so you’re not relying on staff to remember or choose to do the right thing. Checklists, templates and daily or weekly processes can help with this.

Reduce spoilage and stock waste

  • If you’re seeing a lot of spoiled stock and food going off before it can even be prepared, some of these waste-reducing actions can help.
  • For perishable stock, order less more often. Change suppliers if necessary to get smaller, more frequent deliveries.
  • Check with suppliers the best way to store certain items for maximum shelf life.
  • Upgrade equipment such as fridges and freezers if needed.
  • Ask staff to inspect produce on delivery and return anything that is damaged straight away.
  • Date label all stock as it arrives – leave labels and markers in a convenient place
  • Train staff in first in, first out stock management to ensure old items get used first
  • Do regular spot checks to check stock is labelled and being used up
  • Make a weekly stock audit part of your business processes.
  • Offer specials to use up excess product before it goes off
  • Empower kitchen staff to get creative to use up excess stock.
  • Freeze excess perishable stock such as berries for coulis or smoothies, bread for breadcrumbs, vegetables for soups and so on.

Reduce waste during food preparation

If much of your food waste is happening in the kitchen during prep, try some of these actions.

  • Use the same ingredients, cooked different ways, across multiple dishes
  • Update your menu regularly and remove unpopular items
  • Order pre-cut meat and vegetables if suitable for your business to reduce waste
  • Freeze daily meat and vegetable offcuts and make secondary food products when you have enough
  • Let kitchen staff get creative by using scraps and offcuts to make stocks, sauces, pâtés and pickles. You could even have a competition about which of their house-made items sells best
  • Keep staff accountable by keeping a daily waste sheet in the kitchen and require staff to write down and initial any wasted items
  • Conduct staff training in low-waste cooking techniques
  • Review prep schedules and aim for food to prepped and cooked only when needed
  • Minimise bulk cooking where possible, particularly for foods that won’t last. Only pre-prepare food with good shelf life that can be kept for several days or frozen if not used.

Reduce uneaten food waste

Do you see plates coming back with lots of uneaten food? Implementing some of these changes could help.

  • Reduce the size of your plates to prevent customers or kitchen staff from over-serving
  • Use standard measuring cups and spoons in the kitchen to ensure portion sizes don’t creep up over time
  • Change portion sizes for items that you identify are commonly wasted
  • Offer small servings for children and seniors
  • If side dishes are often left uneaten, serve them separately or ask customers if they want them when ordering
  • Consider serving smaller portions for side dishes but offer refills
  • Actively offer takeaway containers for uneaten food.

Reduce surplus waste at the end of the day

Are you throwing away far too much surplus product at the end of each shift or day? Check out these actions.

  • Have a single tracking sheet for both kitchen and service staff to record daily production and end-of-day waste quantities. Kitchen staff will be able to see when they’re producing too much
  • Offer end-of-day specials to get some return on surplus production
  • If you have an evening drinks crowd, serve end-of-day surplus as free canapés to attract more customers.

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