Restaurant Food Waste Management — How Smart Operators Drive Down Food Waste & Costs

Operations & Kitchen Management — Two Levels of Restaurant Food Waste Management

  • Operational restaurant waste control — creating a system that tracks and records waste, working off of accurate inventory numbers, ordering based on historical sales trends and waste records, staff training — in short, actions that prevent food waste from even occurring.
  • Kitchen-level waste control — plate portioning, menu engineering, dish popularity, service (f.e. make sure the temp is okay before a dish leaves the kitchen) — location-specific actions that, when applied consistently, can result in better cost control.

Build Restaurant Food Waste Control & Monitoring Into Your Inventory System

  • Opening stock count
  • New purchases going into stock
  • Usage of raw materials for stockable items and sub-recipes like a sauces
  • Stockable items created in inventory
  • Transfers to other outlets
  • Transfers from other outlets
  • Product sold
  • Wasting
  • Closing stock count
  • spoilage,
  • over-portioning,
  • theft,
  • overstocking
  • … whatever.

Last year, we had 100,000 euros in unaccounted costs across our sites. How? No idea. Today we avoid these blind spots by registering all stock actions in Apicbase.

Philippe Vandermeulen — Chief Quality Officer, Manhattn’s, five stores and growing.

Train Staff to Recognize the Importance of Minimising Restaurant Food Waste

  • Diligent waste recording — every member of the staff needs to know how to record waste and why it’s done (it’s not to assign blame but to make cost-saving decisions in the future).
  • Ordering informed by accurate inventory — checking ingredient-specific waste during the ordering process allows you to hit the mark when ordering on par. That way, you’re not ordering things that will need to be written off (blowing up your food costs).
  • Optimal mise en place — a well-prepared kitchen wastes little, if anything. Ensure that your food preppers know how to correctly prepare veggies, fish, and meat. Go through this training as many times as necessary, and have visual aids and production sheets on hand to eliminate guesswork.
  • Proper restaurant movement — watching FoH and BoH staff move through a restaurant can be like observing a silky-smooth synchronized swimming team. Or it can be like witnessing a terrible car crash. You want your servers to move like fish through the water to minimise bumps, foot trods, and overturned plates that inevitably end up in a mess (and even more food waste that’s costing you money).

Scrutinize Your Portion Sizes, Menu Engineering & Dish Popularity

  • Over-portioning — an extra spoonful of roasted mushrooms here… a few more potatoes on a plate… none of it seems like a big deal, right? But over-portioning is not an issue just because it throws your food cost calculation out of whack — it’s an issue because it creates unnecessary food waste that ends up in the bin.
  • This can all be avoided with a bit of extra planning — calculate the portion size that fits your establishment (and your customers), and train your staff on how to get it right every time.
  • Menu engineering — let’s say you have one dish that calls for the Mediterranean scallop. On a good day, you sell 12 to 14 portions of that dish (but your minimum order amount is 15 portions). This means that every day one expensive scallop goes to waste because you can’t use it in any other dish.
  • But what happens when you replace that menu item with two items that use the tasty blue mussel? In nine cases out of ten, you not only save money — you make more money. Creating groups of recipes that use the same ingredients allows you to find better supplier deals (as you will be ordering more) and prevents wasting the expensive stuff.
  • Dish popularity — I’m going to be really blunt here because, if there’s one thing that makes my kettle boil, it’s when restaurants spend money on ingredients they don’t use. What is the point of those half a dozen artichokes in the fridge if they’re going to get binned in three days? And then a fresh batch gets ordered regardless?
  • So here it goes — stop ordering food no one is eating. Go through your POS system and look at what people are actually having. No one ordered the “Chinese Artichoke Soup” in the last month? Just 86 it — no one is going to miss it, and you will stop throwing away rotten artichokes every other day.

Waste Not, Want Not

  1. managing food waste in restaurants is too complicated,
  2. what needs to be done to control waste will cost more than it will save.

So you’re comfortable with bleeding 30,000 euros per year per location with the current system?



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Geert Merckaert

Geert Merckaert

I write about F&B Management Best Practices for Multi-Unit Food Businesses. My goal is to help you keep costs down, quality up and operations running smoothly.