6-Step Guide to Reducing the Restaurant Spoilage Percentage

Restaurants often focus on ordering and distributing ingredients but tend to overlook how much of their inventory is going to waste. The average restaurant can waste up to 10% of its inventory before it even reaches the customer. This can significantly impact inventory management and profit margins.

By monitoring inventory usage and implementing waste reduction strategies, owners can decrease their restaurant spoilage percentage.

Types of Food Waste

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For restaurants, food supply is among the most significant expenses, meaning wasted inventory can drastically reduce profits. Foodservice businesses in the U.S. alone can waste over $25 billion a year. However, by actively working to prevent food waste, companies can reduce their costs by up to 6%.

Therefore, it is vital that restaurants understand exactly where food waste stems from and how to minimize it.

Generally speaking, there are two types of restaurant waste-

Pre-Consumer Waste

Pre-consumer waste consists of food that is wasted before it is able to reach the customer, including-

  • Food Spoilage is often the result of overordering perishable ingredients. It can also occur from equipment malfunctions, improper storage techniques, and buying low-quality ingredients.
  • Food Preparation is the primary cause of pre-consumer waste, from inefficient prep methods to mistaking customer orders. Restaurants can minimize their food preparation waste by properly training kitchen staff on how to store and prepare each ingredient.

Post-Consumer Waste

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Post-consumer waste is any food wasted after it reaches the customer, such as food left on the plate.

However, while the leftover ingredients technically go to waste, the restaurant still collects a profit since the guest has already paid for it. Nevertheless, businesses should determine what portion sizes are optimal for their customers to reduce waste.

6 Steps to Reducing Food Spoilage

The majority of restaurant food spoilage is the result of pre-consumer waste. Therefore, establishments should focus their efforts on fine-tuning their preparation method to minimize food spoilage-

1. Create a System to Predict Food Needs

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In order to reduce food spoilage, every restaurant needs to establish a system to forecast their food supply needs. Managers must understand-

  • Average amount of customers served per day
  • Average usage of each ingredient per day
  • Most popular dishes
  • Which items require preparation

Restaurants shouldn't rely on trial and error when seeking to reduce food waste, as it may lead to even more spoilage. Management must collect all relevant inventory data in order to detect demand trends.

Businesses can streamline this process by implementing inventory tracking software, which automates cycle counts, order alerts, and reporting. Inventory solutions can generate a detailed analysis of each ingredient's usage, profit margins, and price to determine optimal stock levels.

2. Perform a Waste Audit

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Next, management needs to determine their daily food waste. There are several ways to conduct a waste audit, such as hiring an external firm or creating a team of internal employees to monitor waste.
Once a team is designated to the task, they must sort food scraps into separate categories-

  • Food preparation scraps
  • Spoiled food
  • Post-consumer waste

This will give the restaurant a better idea of where the majority of their waste comes from. Businesses may find that their chef tends to burn food, ingredients are stored improperly, or portion sizes are too big.

By pinpointing the primary causes of food waste, restaurants can estimate just how much it costs them. It also shows the kitchen staff exactly how much food they are wasting so they can actively work on reducing waste.

3. Optimize Inventory Usage

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The waste audit will help managers determine how much of each ingredient restaurants should keep on hand. If management finds their ingredients expire before they can be used, they should decrease their purchase orders and double-check the storage techniques.

On the other hand, if there is an unusual number of mistakes accounting for waste, kitchen staff should be retrained on chopping techniques and cooking temperatures.

Restaurants can also think of innovative ways of using food scraps to minimize waste. For example, vegetable scraps can be boiled to make vegetable stock, or stale bread can be turned into croutons.

4. Create and Stick to Recipes

Restaurants should remind the kitchen staff to strictly follow the recipes to avoid over or underusing ingredients. Although a menu may be perfectly crafted to utilize all ingredients, it won't be successful if cooks do not follow the recipes.

Kitchen staff should utilize scales and measuring cups to ensure each dish is consistent.

5. Review HACCP Guidelines

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Every business in the restaurant industry must remain compliant with the Hazardous Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) guidelines. While HACCP regulations reduce hazards in food production, they can also minimize food waste.

For example, ensuring each ingredient is stored at the right temperature and location prevents food spoilage and contamination.

6. Schedule Routine Check-Ins

Much like any other restaurant operation, waste reduction is an on-going process that requires a group effort. Managers should routinely check in with kitchen staff, conduct waste audits, and hold meetings to ensure everyone follows the waste reduction procedures.