Tips to Reduce Your Kitchen’s Food Waste

Most people are surprised to learn that over 40% of the food created in North America every year is never eaten. It goes unused and ends up in a landfill. This is called food waste, and it is an enormous problem. To put it in perspective, if all the wasted food created every year were a country, that country would be the third largest emitter of green-house gasses in the world.

As a restaurant owner, food waste poses a more immediate problem. Every chef in America will affirm that wasted food cuts deeply into an already slim profit margin. In 2017, 12 chefs across the nation participated in a study to measure the cost savings of a “zero waste” kitchen. Each chef tracked their food waste for a month and identified ways to reuse or reduce their ingredients. All twelve chefs saw at least a 10% decrease in food costs, with one chef reporting a 48% decrease in kitchen expenses. So, decreasing your daily food waste is good for your business, good for the planet, and (frankly) your customers will love it. Here are 5 ways to decrease your kitchen’s food waste.

Establish a Team Captain

Moving toward zero waste is a big change for many kitchens. You need somebody on your team to champion the cause. The captain is responsible for tracking food waste, monitoring costs of ingredients, ordering correct proportions, and implementing the changes necessary to reduce waste. Often times, restaurants choose their senior chef to be the captain. This only makes sense. This person is in the kitchen with the rest of the staff, making “in the moment” decisions about how the food is handled. If the chef is bought into the project, the rest of the team will likely follow suit.

Track your food waste

Knowledge is power. The first step to reducing waste is understanding how and where you are wasting it. There are hundreds of resources and tools to help you identify and track your waste. If you are serious about reducing waste, there is even inventory/ordering management software available. It’s simple to use, and you can track your inventory and waste right from your smartphone. If you are not sure where to start, try HERE.

Get Creative

The most cost-effective way to reduce your waste is, of course, not to waste anything. Work with your chef to create new and inventive ways to use all of what you already have. For example, a soup of the day is a great way to use up left-overs from yesterday. Reducing the depth of the serving pans is a great way to reduce waste at the salad bar. One creative restaurant/buffet owner served ice-cream sundaes with the left-overs from cleaning the soft-serve machine. Smart ordering of supplies, menu planning, and simple creative ideas can go a long way.

Donate Your Ingredients

Volunteer Donating food to foodbank

The above three ideas are considered “preventative” measures. They aim at not creating waste at all. But, what happens when you have more food in the kitchen than you can use? It’s time to “reclaim” the food. Your unspoiled supplies and ingredients can be donated. In your community, there are organizations, (i.e. your local food bank) that will collect your unused food and distribute it to people who need it.  If you live in the Inland Northwest, your contact for this service is Feed Spokane. Depending on what state you live in, you may even be able to claim a tax credit for your donated food.


Federal Health code states that once food has been served to a customer, it cannot be served again. So, what do you do with that plate of food your customer barely touched? Rather than just throwing it away, why not compost it? Food recycling and composting is cheaper than garbage collection, and it keeps food out of the landfill. There is only minimal effort required to set up composting services, and most users see nearly immediate savings. While you may not be aware of it, there is a good chance a food recycling service already exists in your area. Residents of the Inland Northwest, your local food recycling service is Sunshine Recycling.

Those are the basics of operating a zero-waste kitchen. The three steps are 1.) Prevent 2.) Reclaim 3.) Recycle. By combining these steps, you can save money and help address a terrible problem plaguing the food industry. Plus, your customers will love your commitment to a “greener” kitchen. It’s win, win. If you would like more information on zero-waste measures for your kitchen, please contact us. We are always happy to hear from you.

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