It’s not too often that I am approached to talk trash… As in literal trash. But today is an exception, it’s a topic close to my heart and something as a nation we need to address: Waste Management. What do I mean when I say waste management? I mean everything from better inventory to donating surplus foods, anything that your establishment can do to reduce the amount of waste you produce each week, month and year. There are some easy steps you can take to reduce your waste and it all starts with a waste management plan, so let’s dive right in to facts and how you can take steps to reduce waste in 2016.
Why should you care?
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates a staggering 40% of food in America is wasted while one in six people go hungry. Let that figure sit with you for a moment: nearly half of all food is wasted while 16% of the population remains hungry. That fact alone should tell you we need to do something about this. Now, perhaps your establishment is only wasting 20% of food, or if you’re already on the right food waste reduction track, maybe only 10%… but that is still 10% food wasted, more importantly that is your hard earned money being dumped right into the trash. Have I caught your attention?
Where are you wasting?
In general, there are three zones where you are likely to waste food. First is in food prep: You make a mix salad, you only use the tops of romaine hearts, and the rest gets tossed in the trash. WASTE. You serve a chicken dish, but only use the breasts and wings, where is the remaining meat and bone going? WASTE. Unless you’re using every part of every ingredient, you’re likely wasting some food.
Next is in Measuring and Tracking: You order three bags of shredded mozzarella cheese for your pizzas, you only use two before the remaining cheese goes bad. You didn’t track this event so next month you order the same amount of cheese. WASTE. You serve a chicken sandwhich with fries and onion rings, 80% of the plates come back with left over French fries. You don’t track this event, so you continue to serve the same portion of fries, only to be thrown away. WASTE.
Finally the last zone for wasting is lack of composting or donating. It is inevitable that food will come back to your kitchen uneaten, OR while prepping food some portion of an ingredient must be thrown away. These are unavoidable facts, but if you’re dumping those food scraps into the trash and not into a compost bin, you’re wasting. On the flip side, perhaps you prep ahead and make 20 sandwiches for the day and only 10 are sold. If you toss the remaining 10 sandwiches instead of donating them, you’re wasting.
How can you waste less?
Well, let’s start at the top. If you’re wasting in food prep, the first thing to do is look at your ingredients and think creatively as to how you can use more of each ingredient. If you buy whole chickens, start using the carcasses for stock or soup. If you buy lots of greens, start using the left over pieces for sautés or braises to add flavor and texture. It’s all about using as much of each ingredient as possible.
Next is the most important step you can take in waste management and that comes from measuring and tracking. It is imperative that you start to pay attention to what’s going in your trash. Are you throwing away spoiled ingredients because they’re not being used fast enough? If so, you may just need to adjust the quantity that you order. Are you tossing half a plate of French fries every time someone orders a burger? Consider reducing the portion size you serve. By paying attention to what is being turned into waste at the end of each day or week, you can begin to make adjustments to your menu and ordering, potentially saving you huge amounts of money over time. Additionally, to make your life easier, there are apps and new waste management software you can install to aid in the tracking process.
Finally, what you’re doing with your waste should be looked at in the grand scheme of a waste management overhaul. Composting scraps is already a mandated law in a few US cities, so you might as well jump on the compost train now and take the time to figure out your best composting solutions rather than having one imposed on you later down the road. If you’ve got a green thumb you can use compost in your own garden or partner with a local establishment who is looking for a source of compost for their own use. If you’ve got food waste at the end of each day which is still deemed worthy of eating while not worthy of being served in your restaurant (think yesterday’s over-prepped premade sandwiches or the leftovers of Friday’s special on a Saturday) these can all be donated to local nonprofits like shelters, food pantries, etc. Great news also, is that there are a ton of organizations across the nation acting as the middle man, willing to pick up your donations and disperse them to the agencies who need it most!
Where to start?
Ok, so you know the basics, and you actually want to start reducing your waste with a new waste management program. First thing to do is start the tracking process. Gather as much waste-data as possible and begin to analyze the data for trends and areas of improvement. You’ll be shocked at how much you waste once you start really looking at the numbers. We also encourage heavily relying on numbers in both tracking price of food and weight of food lost. By tracking the cost and amount of food lost you can gain a real solid picture of how much money you could save once you start reducing waste, and we all know money talks! So what are you waiting for, stop wasting time and jump on waste management today.