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food waste in restaurants

You take professional pride in offering a unique menu, but all restaurants share a few surprising statistics. Wasted produce can add 10 percent to food costs as it becomes part of the average 150,000 pounds of trash that your restaurant throws out each year. These six tips can help cut those numbers down to size.

6 Ways to Minimize Food Waste

1. Use As Much As Possible

No one enjoys the jolt of an artichoke stem hiding in their appetizer, but most produce is deliciously edible from leaf to heart. While some plates demand special presentation, tossed salads and pasta sauces are more forgiving about appearances. Explain to staff the importance of using as much of an ingredient as possible, and show them efficient ways to prep different produce. Buying from a quality produce supplier ensures your ingredients are fresh from top to bottom.

2. Start Tracking the Trash

You aren’t in the kitchen 24/7, so you can’t oversee everything that staff gets done before and after service. A trash-tracking policy isn’t as messy as it sounds, and it helps identify prep work that might inadvertently get tossed in the dumpster. Ask staff to help with this management system, and incorporate it into shift duties. Simply checking the trash can be an effective method for developing cost-saving strategies that increase annual profits by keeping a lid on wasted produce.

3. Keep a Simple, Daily Inventory

If it isn’t complicated, you reduce the chance of costly errors. Work up a list that covers all your produce, and give it a permanent clipboard home next to the walk-in. A quick look at the inventory lets you compare what’s come in from your supplier with produce headed out for the next shift’s prep. This makes it easier to spot and correct discrepancies right away. A simple daily accounting system holds down costs when you stay on top of it before and after each service.

4. Always Check Your Plates

Diners enjoy a restaurant that serves enticing dishes, but you might be presenting them with more than they really want. Generous portions look great leaving the kitchen until leftovers come back from the table and get tossed in the trash. Customers have different expectations for lunch and evening meals, so keep a close eye on what they don’t finish off, and adjust portions accordingly. Most guests prefer attractive plates filled with sensible servings.

5. Be Sure to Buy the Best

You know from years of experience that cheap prices and quality produce aren’t always packed in the same carton. If you have to throw something out a day after it comes through the door, you lose money, and your guests lose a chance to enjoy fresh ingredients. Stick with a supplier who consistently delivers quality produce even if their price is a little higher than the competition. It’s a small investment that pays off in lower food costs and happier diners.

6. Get Staff Excited About Saving

Smart management skills extend beyond computers, paperwork and vendors to the hard-working people who keep a restaurant humming. Talk to your staff, and ask them for ideas about holding down food waste. Successful back of house operations depend on teamwork, so tap into that talent for inspiration. Let them know that you’re happy to improve training policies that make it easier for everyone to work quickly and safely, and include best-prep practices as part of employee education.

Reducing food costs and waste can be challenging, so we’re happy to share tips that keep your operations running efficiently. For more than 25 years, we’ve worked closely with restaurants throughout the United States and Canada, and you can count on our continued commitment to excellence. If you have any questions, just contact us at Hitchcock Farms. As dedicated California vegetable growers and shippers, we’re always ready to deliver our very best.