In the United States, between consumers and retail (restaurants and stores), 31% of the food supply is wasted every year. This is equal to 133 billion pounds and nearly $162 billion worth of food (according to the USDA). While some of this is due to food spoiling, a lot is because of restaurants and grocery stores over-ordering or misuse while cooking.
Not only is food waste bad for your budget, it's bad for the world. More than 35 million people in the US struggle with hunger each year (according to the USDA). As a restaurant, you have a special opportunity to reduce your own food waste and donate what you can to people in need.
For a restaurant's guide to reducing food waste, keep reading.
Seek Out Ugly Produce
Ugly and misshapen produce is frequently thrown out because of the way it looks. While it may not look like the rest of your produce, misshapen produce can still taste great! Ask your produce supplier about misshapen produce. If they aren't willing to sell you misshapen and ugly produce, consider contacting local farmers and asking them for their misshapen produce. Usually, this produce gets thrown out and you can stop that!
Make Your Menu Seasonal
Making your food with produce that's in season is a great way to avoid premature spoiled food and unnecessary greenhouse gases. This is another time your produce supplier can help you out. Ask them to help you plan your ordering seasonally. From there, you can plan your menu based on the produce in season.
Transform Usable Food
Sometimes meals only use parts of produce and meat. After you make those meals, you sometimes have a lot of food left over. Even if you don't have enough of each item to make more of those meals, you can still use that food! If you have meat with some scraps and bones, you can make it into a stock. You can use overripe vegetables here too. If you want to learn more about using overripe produce, read this blog post.
Donate Everything You Can
Once you've cooked and sold everything you can, you're bound to have food left over. Partner with your local food banks and homeless shelters to see what they need. Extra food you'd normally throw out can go a long way for people in need.
Compost Spoiled Food
While doing all you can to reduce food waste, inevitably, some food will go bad and you won't be able to serve it. You don't have to add it to the landfill! This is where composting comes in.
You can start a compost pile for your restaurant, here's how. It isn't just food that can be composted! You can compost your biodegradable food containers, wooden utensils, and even napkins. Biodegradable food containers are especially great for this. Traditional paper or plastic containers can't be composted, but biodegradable food containers can be!
While it's impossible to eliminate all food waste, you can make a big difference in the amount of food waste produced by your restaurant. Not only will it save you money, reducing food waste helps the planet and your community.