Is your restaurant generating profit, or are you unknowingly throwing it away?
Although it is impossible to completely eliminate food waste, it is ideal for restaurant owners and their managers to strive to keep it at a minimum. Otherwise, the associated costs will be equivalent to a substantial amount of potential income that is literally thrown away.
The US National Restaurant Association reported that restaurants throw away anywhere between four to 10 percent of food and ingredients. The worst part? Most of these are thrown away before any of these are served to customers.
In the United States alone, it is estimated that 40 percent of food is thrown away. Viewing this dilemma from a different perspective, this is a cause for serious concern for the industry.
For one, such waste looks bad when juxtaposed against the backdrop of widespread hunger in different parts of the world. From a restaurant owner’s perspective, such waste can account for a substantial loss in profit. In addition, food waste is a significant contributor to environmental problems, ranging from overflowing landfills to the release of high levels of methane into the environment.
But why does food waste occur in restaurants?
Leading causes of food waste
Food waste is a natural part of engaging in the restaurant business. However, when the level of waste undermines an establishment’s profitability, it can be attributed to one or a combination of the following:
● Ordering too many supplies
One of the most common reasons for food waste in restaurants is ordering too many ingredients. This problem can arise thanks to several factors, one of the most common of which is inefficient inventory. Without a robust inventory management system in place, restaurant staff will order more supplies than are necessary.
In some instances, spoilage is an offshoot of having too many ingredients in an inventory. However, even with a sound inventory system running, spoilage can still occur when the use of ingredients are not properly monitored. Ideally, restaurants should enforce a “first in, first out” policy when using ingredients. This ensures that the freshest ingredients are used while minimizing incidences of spoilage.
● Large portions
When too much is, well, too much, the end result could be more waste produced. You might want to provide your customers with excellent value for money, but if you notice that they leave a large portion of their ordered meals unfinished, you might want to reconsider your portion sizes.
Make sure that you set a standard for portion sizes to minimize leftovers. Additionally, modifying your portion sizes can help increase your profits.
● Excessive production
In order to minimize incidences where customers are unable to order products off the menu, some chefs and cooks overcompensate by prepping and cooking too much food. A problem arises when expectations do not meet reality.
Instead of relying on guesswork, the better approach for restaurants to consider is to review sales on a periodic basis. This allows you to identify fast- and slow-moving items as well as those that can be removed from the menu. You might also want to consider using a kitchen order system that will help you achieve greater efficiency.
Mistakes can happen in the front and back of the house. That’s part and parcel of running a restaurant business. It can be as simple as an order that was incorrectly heard or kitchen staff inadvertently ignoring a customer’s request. One of the best ways to minimize such incidences is to train your employees properly.
Preventing food waste
Because the impact of food waste goes beyond your establishment, it is imperative to enforce strategies that will help minimize waste.
Start by closely monitoring food waste. Where does most of the wasted food come from? The pantry? The customers? Knowing which sources contribute significantly to the creation of waste will allow you to choose the most sensible solution to your unique situation.
For example, if most of the wastage happens before food reaches the customers, you might want to review your inventory system or even your menu. If customers are leaving too much unconsumed food on the table, it might be time to reevaluate your serving sizes.
It will also be helpful to revisit how you organize your fridge and pantry. Make sure that ingredients are properly labeled. At the same time, require kitchen staff to use ingredients that were purchased earlier first.
Get your refrigerator checked by qualified professionals. Sometimes, spoilage can occur when the temperature inside refrigerators is inconsistent.
You can also encourage your chefs and cooks to find ways to use fruit and vegetable peels and stalks as well as leftover bones and meats. Through their ingenuity, they can create new masterpieces out of ingredients that are not normally used. If these do not find their way into your menu, at the very least, these can be used for staff meals.
Finally, consider donating excess food to charity.
Even minor changes in the way you operate your restaurant can contribute significantly to solving a food waste problem. What is critical is to recognize that there is indeed a problem. From there, you can move forward with a better solution which can come in different forms.
Ahmad Alzaini is the co-founder and CEO of Foodics, a fast-growing foodtech startup. A businessman by nature, Alzaini is an app aficionado, developing businesses in Saudi Arabia within several industries. Today, Foodics has extended to new markets across the MENA region, processing over 1 billion transactions, and offering the latest technology in POS and restaurant management.