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More restaurants are getting on the food waste train

November 18, 2015

In the restaurant industry, guest satisfaction is one of our top priorities. Customers expect a flawless dining experience during every visit and we want to provide that. In order to meet their expectations, we offer great selection and value, which can translate into an abundant supply of food. However, this abundance can also result in the generation of food waste, and that is problematic.

In food and environmental circles today, discussion on food waste seems to be everywhere. It’s being addressed in articles and documentaries, in high-tech solutions and in local mandates and regulations. It is the sustainability topic du jour.

But as the issue gains momentum, I’m pleased to say our industry is taking notice. Restaurant operators are beginning to change their thinking around food recovery and reducing waste. Though we still have a ways to go, we’re working with partners to divert waste from landfills and put it toward better use, such as recycling or donating food to those in need.

Through our participation in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, a coalition made up of members from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the Food Marketing Institute and our Association, we’re working to educate the food industry on the issue. We realize education is the key to real change so we’re getting the word out to operators and their customers alike. We’re committed to teaching them and sharing best practices to help solve the problem. But making significant progress will take time and help from everyone involved. No one company or entity can do it alone.

  Food Waste Reduction Alliance meeting at NRA headquarters Oct. 2015

In October, we held a food waste reduction summit at the NRA’s offices in Washington, D.C., that brought together food companies, sustainability specialists and government agencies to talk about reducing food waste generation.

The all-day event included panels on waste reduction at the source, the latest on food donation programs, best practices in food waste recycling, and consumer knowledge of food waste. The meeting served as a forum for attendees to share their accomplishments, challenges, and plans for future initiatives.

So, what was the big takeaway for everyone? We agreed we’re on the right track, but that more must be done to create understanding and “buy in” from the public. We also recognized that while there is still more to do be done, real change is happening. With waste prevention technology more readily available to everyone, reducing food waste is much more achievable than ever before.

In addition, we’re trying to engage more restaurants in donating unused, prepared food to organizations tasked with feeding those in need. It’s not only good for the community, but also for business. Companies can receive tax credits for safely donating their food. Our partnerships with organizations like Food Donation Connection and Feeding America are geared toward getting the word out about the benefits of participating in those programs.

With the government’s recent announcement of a national goal to reduce food waste 50 percent by the year 2030, it is essential for all of us to work together to make it a reality. It is ambitious; but through education and training, we can make a real difference.

Learn more about reducing food waste in your restaurant here.