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4 Ways to Address Food Waste

March 18, 2015

At restaurants, reducing food waste often is a big challenge, but one that must be addressed particularly as operators grapple with high food costs. Here are some ways operators can address the issue in financially and environmentally responsible ways:

  • Consistency is key: Incorporate waste management best practices into your employee training to ensure sustainable success. Because employees often come and go, participation in waste diversion/prevention programs can be difficult to adhere to. However, if it becomes part of how things are done from the beginning, consistency will be accomplished more successfully.
  • Control portion and prep waste: Preparing enough food to meet the demands of the meal-time rush is essential to a successful business, but it’s also important to take cues from what you see. Watch the plates that come back to the dish room. If they have food left on them or if prep trays are still partially full after meal service, you could be preparing and/or serving too much. By reducing the amount, you could save twice: on purchasing and in disposal costs.
  • Be a champion: When planning to train your staff in food waste reduction procedures, a great way to start is identify a waste champion. Preferably this is someone who works in the restaurant either as a manager or a front-line employee. He or she should exhibit these two qualities of a champion: passion for preventing waste and a desire to lead others. For front-line employees, this can be a great opportunity for them to show leadership skills and position themselves for future advancement. So work with them to ensure they have the knowledge, time and resources to educate the rest of your employees.
  • Execute properly: Once the champion is in place, it’s all about the execution. Proper signage, purchasing and using the right bins, and establishing training and waste hauling schedules are all important components of a successful food-waste reduction program. Bins and signage should be color-coded, bin openings should be shaped similar to the desired material, and all bins – for recycling, composting and trash should be placed together wherever feasible. Also, place associated signage as close to eye-level as possible so employees can see where the waste should go. It’s important to leave as little room for error as possible.

Erik Makinson is director of waste solutions at Ecova Inc., an energy and sustainability management company.