How Can Restaurants Reduce Food Spoilage?

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Food waste is one of the most substantial expenses in a restaurant. If that cost isn't made up of paying customers, it can quickly become a huge problem. However, food waste in restaurants is inevitable with excessive portions, staff meals, and of course, food spoilage. Whether you've already noticed a trend of food spoilage, you're trying to get ahead of the issue, there are several ways you can reduce it. In fact, here some of the best ways you can reduce food spoilage at your restaurant to increase profits.

Top 5 Ways to Reduce Food Spoilage

Plan Ahead for Your Food Orders

Planning your food orders ahead of time is most likely something you're already doing, but how detailed is your planning? Chances are that it's pretty basic. So now is the perfect time to step up your plan and make it more accurate to reduce food spoilage. The most significant factors to account for include:
  • Seasonality changes in your regular menu items
  • Weekly specials you plan on offering
  • Time of year and upcoming busy restaurant days
  • The lifespan of each food item
Paying attention to these seemingly small details will help you get a better idea of what you actually use. Most likely, the number of customers coming to your restaurant varies depending on the time of year and what's happening in your area. That means you shouldn't order the same amount of food each week. Plus, the lifespan of each food item varies. And unless you run out of something—like spices, dry pasta, or rice—you won't need to replenish it every week.

Track the Food You’re Throwing Away

To reduce food spoilage, pay attention to where your food is going. Does it end up in the trash, or paying customers' mouths? Knowing the final destination of your food ensures you're not ordering too much each week. While you may see the food disappearing from your refrigerators and shelves if it's ending up in the trash because it's spoiled, you need to reduce your food order. Obviously, you can't always sift through the dumpster, so instead, start a waste tracking document. Ask employees to document every time they throw away unused food. To clarify, this does not include food that your customers don't eat from their plates. You want to pay attention to the food that goes straight from your kitchen into the trash. Review the log frequently to see if you notice any trends, and adjust your food order accordingly.

Reduce Over-Prepping

Depending on the type and style of your restaurant, there may be some prep work you handle on a daily or weekly basis. However, unless you're actually using all of your prepped food every week, you're creating unnecessary food waste. Instead of pre-prepping the majority of your dishes weekly, try preparing them daily. Not only will your food taste fresher this way, but you'll have better control over the quantities of prepped food your restaurant needs and uses. It's a lot easier to notice trends in smaller batches than it is in larger ones, plus whole ingredients (pre-prepped) will last a lot longer.

Label and Organize Your Food

Undoubtedly, there have been times when you've reordered food because you thought you were out only to find the original ingredients later, as spoiled food. This problem stems from a lack of organization in the kitchen, refrigerator, and storage room. When everything is labeled correctly and put in the same place, you will never have to search for ingredients again. Take a few extra minutes after every food order comes into label each item with what it is and when you received it. And then put each item in its proper place. Make sure all your employees are familiar with and follow your system as well—it only works if everyone is on the same page.

Reuse Food When You Can

This tip is last on our list because we understand that not all restaurants can reuse or repurpose ingredients. However, if you have a more flexible menu or one that changes daily or weekly based on produce in season, repurposing food is a great way to reduce food waste. For example, if you run a Mexican restaurant and typically make your guacamole with fresh tomatoes, but you have excess salsa from over prepping earlier in the week, try substituting your tomatoes with salsa. Of course, while reducing food waste is important, keep in mind that the integrity of your recipes and food quality are equally as important. Don't compromise your food quality for the sake of saving a few dollars. Running a restaurant this way will hurt your business in the long run.

Become a Food Safety Expert

While we hope this blog post has been instrumental in improving your understanding of how to reduce food spoilage, it's not a replacement for formal training. Expand on what you learned in this post and get your Food Safety Manager Certification. Sign up and start learning today!

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