Reducing Food Waste in the Kitchen 

Jun 25, 2019

Food supply chains across the globe are getting increasingly connected, streamlined, and more efficient. In the developed world, the increase in low-cost food supplies is creating a culture of high waste.

According to a New York Times article, Americans waste about $160 billion a year in food. Worldwide, close to 1.3 billion tons of food is discarded per year. Another study by Food Waste Reduction Alliance found that 84% of unused food in restaurants ends up in the trash.

To further illustrate the scale of waste, projected sales for the entire restaurant industry in 2019 is $863 billion, $160 billion of which is destined to decay in a landfill. That is a lot of money lost on inefficient storage, portion sizes, or too much inventory. With food costs reaching approximately 30% of typical expenses in the food industry with thin margins, food waste reduction can be an easy and accessible way of quickly increasing revenue.

Here are some general ideas to help reduce food waste:

One common source of waste is holding too much inventory compared to expected sales. Getting more efficient with identifying trends in sales can help manage the amount of inventory needed. The goal is to have enough inventory to supply consumers while prolonging the shelf life of excess inventory to minimize waste.

Another place to start is to create an audit to identify trends in the kitchen. We can learn a lot by identifying the types of items that wasted regularly. Creating a log of items that are discarded and recording the reasons for the waste will help identify problems ahead in the chain. We might find that the waste is due to cold storage temperature or food handling processes, for instance. Using a FIFO (first-in-first-out) food rotation system can help eliminate food waste due to spoilage.

Of course, waste culture is shared in part by the consumer. The prevalence of cheap food and lots of it means larger portion sizes. Reducing portion size for the consumer means less waste and reduced cost. However, the implication of reducing portion size is unattractive due to the competitive nature of the business, especially in American super-sized culture. However, we can balance consumer expectations by focusing on the least to most popular items. Strategically reducing portions can help cut waste and maintain customer satisfaction.

These are simple ideas to start, but there are many more complex strategies to cut costs and minimize waste. The main point here is to illustrate that waste is a huge issue in the industry, and even taking a few simple steps can help to minimize waste and thereby increase revenue. To find out more about waste reduction strategies using data-driven and experienced techniques specific to your operation, please contact Synergy.