Tips to Save Eateries Money & Cut Waste
Every year, Americans throw out more than 130 billion pounds of food. This accounts for upwards of 40% of the country’s entire food supply.
Restaurants, in particular, are known for tossing a lot of the food that they buy. One report found that about 10% of the food purchased by restaurants eventually ends up in landfills. This is very bad for the environment. Food left to rot in a landfill can break down and release greenhouse gases into the air.
It is also very bad for your bottom line and could be why your restaurant budget is out of whack right now. Consider taking a close look at your budget to find ways to reduce your costs as well as the amount of waste you are creating.
Want to learn about some of the most effective ways to do it? Here are 12 tips that will help you save money while eliminating waste.
1. Start by getting some idea of how much food you waste
Do you have any idea how much food your restaurant wastes on a daily, weekly and monthly basis? If not, it is good to start there when it comes to trying to save money by eliminating waste. It is probably not all that practical for you to go rifling through your restaurant’s dumpsters at the end of the night to see how much food your restaurant is wasting. But you can make it a point to spend more time in your kitchen in the coming days and weeks to take stock of how much food is going bad and getting tossed.
You likely know that at least a little bit of food is getting thrown out at the conclusion of each day. But once you start seeing it first-hand, you might be surprised by how much food is being wasted. This can be an eye-opening experience for you. You will see why your restaurant budget is holding your establishment back once you get a glimpse of all your food waste.
2. Take a look at which foods you waste the most
When you start paying better attention to the foods that your restaurant is throwing out day in and day out, you will begin to see patterns emerge. You might find that there are several specific types of food that are always ending up in the trash.
Write down the different foods that your restaurant seems to be wasting the most and try to get a sense of how much it is costing you. This is another earth-shattering experience for many restaurant owners. They often can’t believe how much money they are losing each month thanks to one or two particular types of food.
3. Pinpoint why you waste certain types of food
Once you know which foods are being wasted the most in your restaurant, ask yourself a simple question: “Why?” As in, why are your employees being forced to throw out so much food that should end up on your restaurant’s tables in front of your customers?
It is not always easy to answer this question. But if you are going to get your restaurant budget into better shape, it is an important question to ask. You might be wasting certain types of food because:
- People aren’t ordering them often enough off your menu (more on this in a minute).
- Your employees aren’t storing them the right way.
- You are buying larger amounts of food than your chefs need to prepare your dishes.
There are dozens of different reasons for why certain types of foods go to waste in restaurants. If you are able to pinpoint some of the main reasons, you can change the way you do business and reduce your costs.
4. Adjust your menu and remove foods people don’t order often
Do the menus that your restaurant’s hosts and hostesses hand out to your customers look like phone books? This is a pretty clear sign that you have way too many items on your menu right now!
It is great to give people lots of options when they come in to eat at your restaurant. But there is a good chance that there are at least a few options on your menu that draw little to no interest from patrons when they eat at your establishment. Every so often, it is good to flip through your menu and make changes to it.
You can add some new dishes that you think will go over well with your customers and remove some dishes that people haven’t been ordered in months. By doing this, you will be able to cut back on some of the foods you are wasting when people don’t order the dishes that feature them. You will also make life a little easier on your chefs since they won’t have to worry about making so many dishes.
5. Rethink how much food you order every week
Restaurant owners are always worrying about running out of food and not being able to meet the needs of their customers. As a result, many order too much food, even though they know much of it will go to waste. If this sounds like you, please stop doing this!
You, of course, want to keep your customers happy by ordering enough food to feed them the meals they want when they pay you a visit. But you don’t want to do it at the expense of your restaurant budget. Try to keep better tabs on how much food you are ordering every week versus how much of that food you are throwing out. If you find that you throw out right about the same amount each week, it is time to scale your orders back to get you closer to ordering the exact amount of food you use every week.
6. Utilize technology to keep a closer eye on food waste
Are you having a tough time staying on top of how much food you order each week versus how much you use? We don’t blame you one bit. You have a million and one things on your plate at any given moment, which can make it difficult to keep track of your inventory.
Fortunately, you can put technology to good use and utilize one of the restaurant management systems that are out there to monitor your food inventory more effectively. These systems are excellent tools for those who want to reduce food costs and eliminate food waste.
7. Work with your suppliers to ensure food is fresh when it arrives
The next time you get a shipment of food in your restaurant, take a few minutes to go through it with some of your chefs. Inspect all of the individual food items for freshness and make sure things are as fresh as they can be.
If they aren’t, that could be a big part of your problem. Your back is already up against the wall from the second food makes its way into your restaurant because it is closer to going bad than it should be. Speak with your food suppliers and let them know, in no uncertain terms, that it is unacceptable for them to deliver anything but the freshest of food to your restaurant. If they aren’t able to meet this basic request, look for a different supplier who will make food freshness a bigger priority.
8. Invest in the right refrigerators and freezers to store your food
When you first opened up your restaurant, you outfitted your kitchen with a bunch of commercial refrigerators and freezers to store your food. Are they still holding up and doing what you need them to do?
Talk to those who work in your kitchen and ask them if they have any issues with your restaurant’s commercial refrigerators and freezers. They may not be working the way they should, or they may not have enough room in them to fit everything. This can cause chaos in your kitchen, and it can also lead to your restaurant wasting food due to storage issues. You might not love the sound of buying a new refrigerator or freezer for your restaurant. But you will like the fact that it will save you money and eliminate waste in the long run.
9. Avoid letting foos sit out for too long
Are your employees allowing some of the food they use to sit out for extended periods of time in your kitchen? Maybe they do it because it is a pain going in and out of the refrigerator all night long. Or maybe they do it because it is easier to have certain foods right next to them while they cook and prepare dishes.
Whatever the case, you shouldn’t allow them to do this. Your food inventory could be depleted simply because your employees aren’t putting things away in the refrigerator quick enough.
10. Find creative ways to sell food that is in danger of going bad
At any given moment, your restaurant is filled with food that is on the verge of going bad and getting thrown out. And it is very easy for you and your employees to accept the fate of this food when you know that its expiration date is right around the corner.
But why accept it when you could find creative ways to sell some of the food in your restaurant that is in danger of spoiling? This can help you squeeze money out of food that is on its way out while also reducing the waste that you create.
If, for example, it is a Tuesday and you have some leftover food from the weekend that isn’t going to survive until the following weekend, offer your customers deep discounts on the dishes that feature that food for one night only. Use social media to advertise the discounts and drum up interest in them. You can literally turn what would be trash in a couple of days into treasure for your restaurant. You can bring in some unexpected money and eliminate food waste at the same time.
11. Ensure employees are on board with minimizing food waste
Unless you own your restaurant and play a key role in the kitchen, you are not going to be able to solve your food waste problem by yourself. You need your employees to get on board with your mission to minimize food waste, too.
Hold a special meeting that is devoted to talking to your employees about your restaurant’s food waste problem. Emphasize that you want — or better yet, need — their help as far as cutting back on food waste is concerned. Let them know that, if you are able to save money by eliminating food waste, you will also be able to offer them more benefits than they have now. This will get them excited about your plan and have them bending over backward to help you.
12. Continue to nonitor food waste as you move forward
Your food waste problem is not going to disappear overnight. You might be able to make a small dent in it within a few weeks. But it is something you need to keep working on in the coming months and years.
Monitor your food waste to make sure your employees don’t fall back into old habits when it comes to throwing out food. Look out for new problems related to food waste that might pop up as well. As long as you do these things, you should be able to maintain control over both your restaurant budget and your food waste. You should also see your restaurant expenses continue to fall thanks to all the hard work you are putting in.
Stop letting food waste take a toll on your restaurant budget
Does the mere thought of going over your restaurant budget send shivers down your spine? This shows that you need to make some changes to how you’re spending money. Start saving more money every month by taking a closer look at the food waste your restaurant is creating and coming up with ways to reduce it. It won’t necessarily be easy to do it, but it will be well worth it in the end when you see how much money and food you can save.