How to Solve Your Restaurant’s Food Waste Issue

Restaurant food waste is a major problem in the U.S. According to a 2014 study, 84 percent of the unused food in American restaurants ends up in the trash. That’s a shame, considering the number of people who don’t have access to healthy food options because they live in a food desert, or the number of people who go hungry each day because they lack access to food completely.

Many restaurateurs and organizations around the world are seeking solutions to reduce food waste. Across the globe, about 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted annually, and 40% of it comes from restaurants.

Here are some tips on how owners can solve for restaurant food waste.

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The reality of food waste at restaurants

Food waste hurts the environment in many different ways. For one, food waste also wastes water. According to the UN, the amount of water wastage is the equivalent of the annual flow of the Volga, the largest river in Europe. Additionally, more than 3.3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide is emitted into the air while producing, harvesting, transporting, and packaging wasted food. According to experts, if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind China and the U.S.

As for business owners, food waste hurts their bottom line. The scraps from guests’ plates have a monetary value. So, essentially, owners lose money every time food scraps end up in the trash can. It’s in their best interest to figure out how to reduce food waste because the reduction can save them money on the front end.

The cost behind restaurant food waste

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food waste adds up to roughly $680 billion in industrialized countries and $310 billion in developing countries. Each year, U.S. businesses waste about 40% of food. That accounts for $57.4 billion each year.

What can restaurant owners do?

Think about the monetary value of your food: Food is much cheaper than it used to be. Because of this, restaurateurs can minimize the costliness of food waste. Experts suggest visiting a local farm or starting a garden to get a better feel for the farm-to-table process. Understanding what it takes to grow food could help restaurateurs see the value in the food that ends up in their kitchen.

Keep track of your food: A specialized restaurant POS system has inventory capabilities that can help restaurateurs keep count of the amount of food purchased, used, and thrown away. Additionally, systems with integrated online order management capabilities can aid food waste efforts. Human error is bound to happen, and sometimes servers ring up wrong orders, resulting in wasted food. Square’s online order integration allows restaurants to automatically receive online orders straight into their point of sale, in real time. Restaurants are able to integrate food delivery service orders like Caviar and Postmates, so all orders appear in the restaurant POS.

Reduce the amount of fresh produce you buy: Large amounts of fresh produce are the quickest way to waste food. If fresh produce isn’t cooked or used quickly enough, it can rot and land in the trash. Think about ways to better purchase fresh produce and use it efficiently instead of stocking up on it.

Donate leftovers: There’s a fear of donating food. Restaurateurs worry about being sued if someone gets sick, or hurting their reputation if people don’t like how the food tastes. The Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Act protects restaurants from liability when donating to nonprofit organizations. Find a local group to partner with and make sure your food gets to those who need it most.

Educate your staff: It’s one thing for restaurant owners to be concerned with food waste reduction, but it’s ineffective if staffers are not on board with limiting the amount of food scraps that end up in the trash. Educate employees on the issues surrounding restaurant food waste, and how it affects the restaurant individually.

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