How to reduce restaurant food waste

Learn simple and practical strategies to reduce restaurant food waste, improve your operations and increase profits.

food waste

Food waste is a significant cost driver in restaurants. An average restaurant spends around a third of its revenue on inventory. That same restaurant also wastes 50,000 lbs of food per year on average. With foodservice businesses averaging only a 3-8% profit margin, expenditures of this magnitude are simply not sustainable for the longevity of your business. 

Thankfully, food loss events are avoidable. One effective way to reduce this cost driver is to implement temperature and humidity management systems. However, remote monitoring is only one of several ways to prevent loss events. Read on to learn strategies to reduce your food waste such as: 

  • Managing your perishables using FIFO
  • Performing internal inspections 
  • Using inventory management systems 
  • Auditing your restaurant’s waste 
  • Undertaking preventative maintenance
  • Implementing remote temperature monitoring

Manage your perishables with FIFO 

The FIFO (First In, First Out) method is a commonly used process in managing perishable inventory. FIFO makes sure that kitchen teams use food products closest to their expiration date first. To use FIFO effectively:

Label prepared food with a prep date

Ensure your team uses quality, descriptive labels. Common substitutes like masking tape may seem adequate, but labels not explicitly designed for cold storage may fall off or get damaged. Investing in labels specifically designed for cold storage will save you time, money, and stress. 

Listing the prep date and the precise ingredients stored helps successfully implement FIFO. The preparation date for an item dictates its shelf life. Therefore, knowing the prep date helps identify if the inventory is or isn’t usable.

Maintain a positioning system across all your stocking spaces.

When organizing cold storage with FIFO in mind, place older items in front of newly prepared or purchased ones to prioritize usage according to the expiration date. You can also use the left-to-right method by placing older or more perishable items on the right and newer items on the left.

It’s also essential to store perishables properly by monitoring ambient conditions of cold storage and using appropriate containers to avoid premature spoilage.

reduce restaurant food waste with therma

Perform internal inspections 

Excessive inventory ordering is a significant factor in restaurant food waste. Accurate records of orders’ delivery and expiration dates prevent inventory from being needlessly thrown away. To keep track of what inventory you do (or don’t) need, operators should perform internal inspections regularly.

Internal inspections are specific walk-throughs of your cold storage spaces that allow you to survey analyze your inventory. These internal inspections reveal the patterns of inventory use unique to your kitchen further allowing you to optimize orders, properly utilize stock, and avoid over-ordering. 

During your audit, consider what you currently have in stock and what you will use in the future. Pay special attention to dated labels, sales figures, and supplier invoices.  

Another solution is to assign a designated team member who watches over deliveries as they come into the building. This technique will make sure that the food is always accounted for and easy to locate.

Conduct a waste audit

The best way to find out how much of your garbage could have been used instead of thrown away is by performing a waste audit.

Separating garbage into specific bins shows how much you’re throwing away due to preparation errors, overstocking, and improper storage. Once you know how much of your food waste is caused by improper storage, and in what ways, you will be better prepared to create effective mitigation strategies.

Train your staff in food waste prevention

New methods of preventing food waste can be stressful for your kitchen staff. Placing additional tasks on your already busy staff is sometimes an unwelcome proposition. However, training your staff on correct food storage and waste tracking methods creates a culture of waste management within your facility that pays off in dividends. Here are a few strategies to consider when broaching the subject with your team:

Ease their fears

Reassure your staff that managing waste is not a new way to track their performance. When employees feel under threat, they are unlikely to devote care and attention to avoid spoilage and other food waste events.

Keep communication channels open

If your staff feel heard, they will commit more to your food waste elimination project and participate in the process. Starting with a quick brainstorming session is a good idea. These conversations help your employees feel at ease while helping them understand how your kitchen generates waste.

Review your findings

Once you have gathered food waste and storage data, review it with your employees. This practice helps them realize in context the impact of your food waste prevention strategies.

Undertake preventative maintenance

Once your staff is committed to reducing food waste, perform preventative maintenance on your cold storage equipment. The goal is to pre-emptively address the possibility of equipment breakdowns that lead to loss events.  Pay special attention to: 

  • Liquid build-up in your refrigerators
  • Excess moisture in your drain pans 
  • Cracked seals in gaskets on doors
  • Dirty coils on the compressor units

Read this article for a detailed description of how preventative maintenance reduces storage-related restaurant food waste.

Use an inventory management system (IMS) 

End-to-end inventory management systems (IMS) are software tools designed to make it easier to perform internal inspections. These systems impact every aspect of the supply chain, including food distribution, transport, and services. An IMS helps quickly catalog every item and track orders from warehouses to your walk-in.  

Using IMS software allows you to analyze trends to reduce food loss quickly. For example, an IMS scans barcodes on your smartphone to track your inventory. Whenever an item is used or opened, your employees can scan its barcode, and it will automatically update your stock. 

These systems also provide analytics that offer insight into your stock usage, help you forecast demand, and enable you to plan future orders with precision. These automated features reduce human error as a contributing factor to food storage waste.

Implement wireless temperature monitoring

More than 85% of restaurant food safety and loss events are related to temperature and time. 

According to the FDA, the correct temperature for food storage is below 40 degrees Fahrenheit for refrigerators and 0 degrees Fahrenheit for freezers. Food stored at the wrong temperature spoils faster, leading to significant food waste and all its associated costs. 

An internal refrigerator temperature that’s too cold can cause unwanted ice crystals to form, damaging some fresh produce items. Temperatures that are too warm can be dangerous, allowing the rapid growth of dangerous microorganisms, as well as overworking the refrigerator itself.

Many issues related to temperature and time in food storage occur as a result of equipment malfunctions or human error (such as leaving doors open or using unplugged equipment). Wireless monitoring systems track the temperatures of all your storage areas, including refrigerators and freezers, and notify you of any changes to internal temperatures. Tracking these factors reduces the risk of financially draining loss events.

Regular inspections, good training, and effective software keep food waste at a minimum; temperature monitoring furthers your efforts by providing the ability of statistical analysis.

How does a wireless temperature sensor work? 

After a short and easy setup, a wireless temperature sensor records your equipment’s data and provides analysis that helps you identify and fix problematic occurrences like temperature spikes. Some systems also provide alerts so that when temperatures change suddenly, you can quickly address problems. This helps you ensure that your inventory remains at the desired storage temperature. 

Therma’s wireless sensors address these needs and more. Our wireless temperature sensors help you prevent loss events before they happen. 

Therma° users receive alerts when a temperature issue arises and can use their dashboard to view temperature data and alert histories sorted by date, location, or equipment. 

The result is an easy and efficient system for monitoring food storage temperatures and dealing quickly and effectively with any temperature changes before they can affect the quality of your inventory.

Small steps have big payoffs in reducing restaurant food waste

There is no downside to reducing the amount of food waste your business sends to landfills. Using solutions like inventory walk-throughs, remote temperature monitoring, IMS, and targeted training programs can effectively reduce restaurant food waste due to improper food storage while maintaining food safety standards and improving your bottom line.

Whether you’re still managing all your processes manually or you’ve decided to automate operations using Bluetooth and WiFi, be sure to check out Therma°.We created Therma’s temperature monitoring and analytics platform with unparalleled connectivity, unbeatable uptime, and a full software suite tailored to the unique needs of the food industry. Ultimately, Therma° is your best defense against the equipment failures, power outages, and human error that threaten your food storage security.

To see for yourself how Therma° helps reduce food waste and streamline operations, visit our store to buy Therma° today.

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