Food waste in restaurants is a huge cost to the catering industry. Every year around £ 3bn worth of food is thrown away at restaurants, pubs, hotels, cafes, and fast food restaurants, losses that those working in the food industry at this time just cannot afford.
But it’s not only about the money. It’s also the cost to the environment and to the human race, which are important too. The good news is that anyone with a restaurant, café or hotel can do their bit. All it takes is a pinch of common sense and a soupcon of an organisation to get started.
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What is restaurant food waste?
Food waste is defined as food that you can eat but which has been discarded. We’ve all done it at home. Binned stuff slightly past its sell by date or foods that are fine but are clogging up the fridge, but for restaurants, food waste is on a much larger scale and seems in many ways to be a necessary evil. Health and safety are paramount in restaurants, and the amount of food waste is very much part of ensuring that people aren’t being served up salmonella or some other cause of food poisoning along with their three courses.
Food waste in restaurants can be divided into:
Kitchen food waste
This is the kind of waste that is produced when restaurants prepare dishes and include foodstuffs that have been over-peeled or overcooked, or discarded because they’ve not been stored properly.
Client food waste
This is simply the food that the diner leaves on their plate at the end of their meal and has to be thrown away.
Buffet leftover waste
Anyone who has ever been to a buffet will know that often there can be mountains of food left at the end of the event. Of course, it can’t be saved or reheated because of safety considerations, so it has to be thrown away.
The outcome of all this restaurant food waste is that it costs money, but restaurants that can get to grips with food waste management, can also reduce their food costs and hence their overall expenses.
What causes restaurant food waste?
There are a number of reasons why lots of food gets thrown away in restaurants. These include:
Not storing food correctly
This is one of the most common ways that food wastage happens in restaurants. When the raw ingredients are not properly stored, they will go off, or maybe products are not stored correctly, and there is cross-contamination. Or they may be stored at the wrong temperature. When this occurs, the food won’t be fit for human consumption and will be destined for the dustbin.
Restaurants may want to tempt their customers with novelty, or maybe buy in bulk because they believe it will be cheaper, but this can lead to buying more produce than they need. This is especially relevant to fresh produce, which has a relatively short shelf life. Buying too much is a big risk.
Overdoing the portions
Every restaurant wants people to leave feeling well-fed and satisfied, but overdoing the portions can result in massive amounts of food waste. Basically, if you want to know how to avoid food waste it isn’t by piling up food on plates. Portion size is important not just for the restaurant but for its patrons. Portion size helps reduce costs, and they won’t have to be passed on to the customer.
How to reduce or avoid food waste in restaurants
Store food correctly
Investing in a range of containers should help solve problems involved with storage. In answer tot he question, ‘why are foods packaged?‘ Airtight containers are a great way to not only ensure that foodstuffs stay fresh but that there’s no cross-contamination.
Keeping food at the correct temperature
Restaurant fridges and freezers must be running at the correct temperature. If they don’t there’s a risk of everything becoming spoiled and having to be thrown away.
Every time food is placed into a container, it should be clearly dated and labelled with information about what it is as well as the allergens it includes. Labels will prevent you from throwing away foodstuffs unnecessarily.
Don’t over buy stock
This means buying ingredients that you know will be used. Stocking up and bulk buying may look like a cheaper option, but it won’t be if half of what you buy gets thrown away. The best thing to do is to make an inventory of what is already in the store cupboard and be prudent when replenishing stocks. Buying seasonal produce can also reduce food wastage and is a good policy for a restaurant.
Consistency in portion size is something that can be achieved by using the same equipment to measure everything. For example, three ladles of soup per bowl. By regulating your portions, you can work out how much of the raw material you need a per number of daily orders.
First in, first out
It’s absolutely crucial that the shelf life of perishables is managed correctly. It’s obvious, really, but products should be used during their shelf lifetime. A system of first in, first out should resolve this. Basically, newer foods are placed behind the older stock, so that is always used up before the most recent additions.
Instead of binning leftovers, store them to use differently. Vegetable peelings and bones can be used to make stocks and soups, while slightly stale bread can be transformed into croutons or breadcrumbs, for example.
Don’t throw, donate
Often concerns about how to avoid food waste in restaurants result in feelings of guilt. We might think: “Here I am leaving food on my plate in a restaurant while other people can not afford to feed their children”. But throwing away good food isn’t the only option. It’s possible to donate leftover meals and give produce to people who need them through charities such as www.fareshare.org.uk
If you want to find out more about the packaging of the highest standards of quality and hygiene for your restaurant business, then why not visit give us a call on 01744 415111 or send us your enquiry in an email to email@example.com. As a supplier of polypropylene tamper-evident packaging, we can present you with a variety of solutions to the problem of restaurant food waste.
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