How much does food waste cost your restaurant?

by | Mar 29, 2019 | Blog, For Franchisees

Whether you are a single store or multi-location franchise restaurant operation, food waste is costing you money. Lots of money. That’s according to a report by non-profit ReFED, a collaboration of over 50 businesses, nonprofit, foundation and government leaders, committed to reducing food waste in the United States. ReFED posits that restaurant food waste averages approximately 11.4 million tons of food waste annually at a cost of $25 billion per year. That’s money unnecessarily out of your pocket. And beyond the financial impact on restaurants, that surplus food could benefit those struggling to feed themselves and their families.

How can restaurants reduce food waste?

In an article entitled “What restaurants can do to reduce waste?” Lisa Jennings, a reporter for Nation’s Restaurant News outlined the following steps restaurants might consider to reduce food waste:

  • Design your restaurant or franchise menus with food waste in mind.
  • Consider repurposing food prep trim and overproduction.
  • Use smaller plates in all-you-can-eat service settings. According to a study conducted by Cornell University, the larger the plate, the more food consumers take. Moreover, the study found that consumers typically consider a 70% (plate) fill rate to be sufficient. So, the smaller the plate, the less food consumers serve themselves. Win. Win. Win!
  • Offer customers multiple portion choices.
  • Track the amount and type of food that gets wasted.  Use the resulting data to make more informed purchasing choices.  While there are technology-based tracking systems one can consider, you can go low tech and track food waste by simply observing, weighing and recording waste content.
  • Contribute surplus food to a local food recovery network. While smaller donations (under 50 pounds) are expensive for food recovery organizations to pick up (so some set minimum donation sizes), there are online aggregators. According to ReFED, some food recovery agencies use online donation matching software to coordinate small pickups and create efficient collection routes.
  • Recycle food waste.  Jennings notes that over 500 composting facilities across the country accept food scraps.  

So, if, according to ReFED, restaurants and foodservice providers can save up to $1.6 billion in food purchasing costs and make smarter purchasing decisions, why not do it? Why not make even a few of the simple changes outlined above to reduce unnecessary food waste and unnecessary food expenditures in your restaurant? Why not recoup that business profit potential for a healthier bottom line?

Successfully running a single restaurant or a multi-location franchise requires paying attention to the details. Got questions? Feel free to email them to me, Julie Lusthaus, at [email protected]  and let’s talk.


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