17 Ways to Reduce Food Waste in Your Restaurant

November 1, 2016
Clock Icon 5 min read

According to WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme), the food sector produces 400,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste each year. Furthermore, it’s believed that food waste costs the restaurant sector a staggering £682 million each year.

If your restaurant can learn to reduce food waste, not only will you help the environment, but you’ll also save your business money in the long run.

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Tips for Food Waste Management in Restaurants

1. Avoid over-buying stock

Ensure that you only purchase the ingredients that you know your business will use. It can be tempting to ‘stock up’ or buy in bulk if your supplier has a good deal on, but doing so can leave you with more food than you need. And this food will only go to waste if it’s left to spoil in storage.

2. Store food correctly

Make sure that your fridges and freezers are running at the right temperatures, ensure that low risk foods are always stored on higher shelves than high risk foods and keep food storage areas clean and tidy. Storing foods under the correct conditions is vital for preserving their quality and preventing pathogenic bacterial growth – both of which can quickly lead to food waste.


3. Practise stock rotation regularly

Use the ‘FIFO’ rule – First In, First Out – when storing food and displaying food for sale. This ensures that newer stock is routinely placed behind older stock, and the older stock will always be used up first before it has chance to go to waste.

4. Temperature control

Good temperature control is essential for food safety as it prevents the growth of harmful pathogenic bacteria. It also means that food waste is less likely as the food is unable to spoil. This include cooling hot food quickly, reheating food to the correct core temperature (at least 70°C for 2 minutes), storing high risk food in fridges (1-4°C) and freezers (below -18°C), plus hot/cold holding at safe temperatures (above 63°C and below 8°C, respectively). Find guidance on the temperature danger zone and download your free food safety chart to display in your kitchen here.

5. Label food correctly

If foods are decanted into different containers for storage then make sure they are clearly labelled with allergens, date information and a product description. Keeping stock organised makes it much easier to keep track of what you have and what needs using, preventing unlabelled containers from being thrown away in error or because you don’t know what’s in them.

6. Keep a stock inventory

To prevent waste, you should always know exactly which foods you have in stock at all times. This means keeping a detailed list of the foods in all of your storage areas, including their use-by/best-before dates, that you can easily refer to. This avoids foods getting forgotten and going to waste.

food waste management in restaurants - date labels

7. Pay attention to use-by dates

WRAP estimates that 21% of restaurant food waste is due to food spoilage. It’s essential that you have a reliable stock management and stock rotation system (FIFO) in place so that food doesn’t spoil or go out of date before it can be used. Use-by dates should be checked on a daily basis.

8. Inspect all deliveries against the order specification

When a food delivery arrives at your restaurant, it’s important that you only accept the items that you ordered to prevent excess, wasted food. You should also reject anything with visible spoilage or damage, or anything that’s delivered at the incorrect storage temperature, as these foods will only spoil further and be thrown away later in the day.

9. Keep a close eye on portion control

Be wary of oversized food portions and jumbo side dishes – quality is definitely much more preferable to quantity. A 2012 study actually found that over a quarter of people leave food at the end of their meal, with chips/French fries stated as the food that is most likely to be left. The reason for this food wastage is often because customers consider fries, vegetables and salads as an extra part of their main meal that they didn’t ask for.

10. Donate leftovers to a local charity

Set up a link with a local charity, such as the Fareshare scheme, and donate any leftover meals and ingredients to people who desperately need them. You could also set up a link with a local food bank. This ensures that your leftover food goes to a good home, rather than to waste.


11. Anticipate the demand with care

Think carefully about how much food your restaurant needs to prepare in advance – can any of this be made to order instead? Large batch cooking means that food may not get used before it goes out of date. Whilst batch cooking may save time, it can be a waste of both money and food.

12. Give customers more menu options

For example, do all your main meals need to come with chips or salad? Give customers more choice over what to include or leave out of their meal to stop any food going to waste. Perhaps people would prefer to be given a choice between fries, vegetables or salad, or maybe these items are best left on the ‘side dishes’ part of the menu for customers to purchase if they really want them.

13. Incorporate leftovers and use food efficiently

Try not to be so quick to throw away leftover food, as you might be able to make use of it somewhere else. For example, vegetable peelings and animal bones can be used to make stocks and soups, while day-old bread can be made into croutons or breadcrumbs.

14 . Compost food waste

Rather than sending it to landfill, choose to put any waste food into a compost bin so that it can be put to good use. This includes fruit and vegetable peelings, old bread products, grains, coffee ground and tea bags – pretty much any food except for meat, fish and dairy products.

15. Ask if customers want to take leftovers home


WRAP states that 34% of waste is food left on customers’ plates, so why not offer your customers the option of a ‘doggy bag’ to take their leftover food home with them? Of course, not every food can be packaged up for eating later, but slices of pizza can easily be put into a take-away box for example.

16. If you have a buffet or self-service counter, don’t provide trays

Food waste can often be attributed to people being overly-zealous at self-service counters. If people are only given plates, then they’re less likely to pile on excess food or pick up side dishes that they can’t carry and aren’t actually able to eat.

17. Train employees in how to reduce waste

By law, all food handlers must be trained in food safety, but this should also extend to being taught how to reduce waste. WRAP found that poor food preparation contributes to 45% of food waste, and is the biggest contributing factor. Therefore, it’s crucial for staff to learn how to store food correctly, cook food correctly, keep the premises clean, and avoid cross contamination. If you want to learn more, take a look at our course library.

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