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7 Ways Foodservice Operators Can Reduce Food Waste

Seven Ways Foodservice Operators Can Reduce Food Waste

Americans waste a ton of money on food. In fact, estimates show we throw away nearly 30% to 40% of our food supply.

How much does that total? Nearly $160 billion. Imagine if you threw away nearly a third of your money every time you opened up your wallet or pocketbook. It goes to show we don't need documentaries or people like Anthony Bourdain telling us to "use everything, waste nothing," though that certainly doesn't hurt.

The good news is our collective culinary conscious is quickly awakening to the food waste reduction challenge. This trend has been growing steady in recent years, making it onto foodservice trend lists ranging from the National Restaurant Association to our own 2019 Foodservice Trends Report.

So if everyone is starting to realize the importance (and profitability) of reducing food waste, what are some of the basic steps foodservice operations can take to make it happen?


Study after study tells us "sell by" or "use by" dates are subjective and not accurate. Societal training tells us an apple or a tomato with a blemish or bruise isn't worthy of serving or eating. We often tell ourselves something is bad even though that very well might not be the case. If we learn to retrain ourselves with facts and to work with foods that may appear imperfect, we've taken the first step toward reducing food waste.


Like most sustainability practices, training team members to be mindful of food waste can go a long way. Just like you might include shutting off lights in a walk-in as part of a process manual, including best practices for reducing food waste can work too, especially when training includes the cross utilization of ingredients.


You can't reduce food waste unless you know how much you're throwing away in the first place. With food waste audits and data systems, operators can learn baseline key performance indicators that will provide goals for improvement in the future. Even better, the nonprofit ReFED recently issued a report called the Restaurant Food Waste Action Guide which states that tracking and analytics can benefit the restaurant industry by increasing profits by more than $250 million each year.


How is food packaged? Is there a way to break down shipments and store them in smaller, more useable portions? Are the storage facilities operating at optimal capacities? These are all questions that can help operations order the right levels of ingredients and store them in the right conditions. To reduce food waste, make sure production schedules are accurate.


We throw away so many items that can be used in other applications with just a bit of creativity. Let's take the orange, for example. In the front-of-house, a bartender might carve off a twist every now and then to top off the perfect Negroni. The orange itself might go unused and wind up in the trash at the end of the shift. In the back-of-house, the saucier might use fresh oranges as part of a light cream to top that night's special dish, scallops l'orange. The rinds will probably go in the trash at the end of the night. Do you think these two people could use the same orange?


There's no doubt about it. Much food waste falls directly on the customers. According to American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of Its Food (and What We Can Do About It), guests leave about 17% of food on their plates on average. By reconsidering portion sizes, offering half orders, or providing greater customization, less food will go in the can and more profit will come to the man.


All across America, we have food banks and non-profits that will take unused foods and give them to those in need. After all, if we can prevent 30% of our food from going in the trash, that food needs to wind up in the hands of those who need it the most. For operators, giving back can also bring financial benefits as well as altruistic ones. Many operations can experience donation tax incentives for giving unused food to these types of charities.

Food waste is one of the top micro trends of the overall trend of sustainability. Sustainability is listed as the second trend in our 2019 Foodservice Trends & Solutions e-Report, which you can download here. Check it out to review all 12 trends that we see as being most important to operators this year.

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Foodservice Trends We Learned from Sheryl Crow

When we were in Orlando for The NAFEM Show 2019, we certainly had some fun. We have a feeling, we're not the only ones.

If you saw what we saw, you weren't outside "soaking up the sun" but were walking a floor filled with innovations, new products, and solutions at a rate we haven't seen in the last few NAFEM Shows. As they say, "every day is a winding road," and before the end of this blog, we're going to see how many Sheryl Crow song references we can include.

Actually, we're going to take it one step further and let you know what we learned about foodservice equipment from Sheryl Crow. So let's get started.


Well, just being with all our foodservice friends makes us happy, but what really matters are the customers of foodservice operations. Now more than ever, customers are driving foodservice trends, and we're seeing equipment manufacturers follow suit by making it easier to deliver those trends. Transparency, customization, you name it. There are new things making us happy every day in foodservice.


One thing we saw in Orlando was an effort to be more sustainable, both on behalf of operators and in consumer menu preferences. Look no further than last year's eco-friendly straw trend to understand what we're talking about. Beyond that, though, diners are looking for more plant-based options and operators are looking for new ways to reduce food waste. Innovation, training, and commitment are the ways it's going to happen.


We're only as strong as our weakest link, right? That's so true in foodservice, where we're experiencing labor challenges right and left. It's hard enough to find good staff, but once you do, keeping them can be even harder. As a result, equipment has to be easy to use and perform multiple functions within the same space. We certainly saw a focus on ease-of-use at The NAFEM Show 2019 in just about every aspect of foodservice equipment and supplies.


More and more entrepreneurs are breaking onto the scene for the first time, as mobile, micro, and niche providers have a smaller barrier of entry into the business. Startup costs and other traditional hurdles are both being lowered. From the enormously popular food hall trend to ghost kitchens, we can help these operators achieve success by rethinking the tools they'll need to be successful.

[Additional Resources: Check out our NAFEM Product Highlights]


Normally we don't like ending with a mistake, but in this case, it seems appropriate. Especially when you consider mistakes can be fixed moving forward. For too long, a staggering percentage of students across the country cannot afford proper nutrition and suffer from food insecurity issues. When you look at the trends, there's help on the way. Now more than ever, it's easier to deliver nutritious breakfast to students in the classroom. On-campus food banks are a reality. And our equipment solutions can help make it happen.

What else might you have missed in Orlando? Get a glimpse of a few sights from The NAFEM Show in this short video recap:

We can't help you with any more Sheryl Crow songs.

But good news!  We can help you with more trends!

We put together a 2019 Foodservice Trends & Solutions e-Report that can help you navigate the upcoming year of challenges and opportunities. "If it makes you happy," it makes us happy, so take advantage of this free download.

2019 Foodservice Trends Report CTA