Six practical ways to reduce restaurant food waste
Food waste is a significant cost driver in the foodservice industry. An average restaurant spends around a third of its revenue on inventory. That same restaurant also produces 20 tons of food waste annually, placing organic waste into landfills. 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, spoilage and organic waste are avoidable. Implementing temperature and humidity management systems is one effective way of implementing a large-scale food waste reduction. However, remote monitoring is only one of several ways to undertake waste management. Read on to learn strategies to reduce the amount of food you 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
1) 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 first use food products closest to their expiration date. 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 brands specifically designed for cold storage will save you time, money, and stress.
Listing the prep date and the types of food 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 types of food, or store food 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.
To learn more about optimizing your walk-in for food safety and longevity, click here to check out our Walk-In Cooler Food Storage Chart.
2) Conduct a waste audit
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. Operators should regularly perform internal inspections to track what stock you do (or don’t) need with better inventory management.
Internal inspections are specific walk-throughs of your cold storage spaces to analyze leftover food or perishable inventory. These internal inspections reveal the patterns of list use unique to your kitchen, further enabling you to optimize orders, reuse stock for new menu items, keep excess food costs down, avoid organic waste.
During your audit, consider what you currently have in stock, what you will use in the future, as well as for food preparation. 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 ensure that the food is always accounted for and easily located.
3) 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 team is sometimes an unwelcome proposition. However, training your staff on correct food storage and waste tracking methods creates a waste management culture 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 waste management is not a new way to track 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 reduction project and participate in the process. Restaurant operators should start with a quick brainstorming session. These conversations help your employees feel at ease while assisting them in understanding how they should store food and how your kitchen generates organic waste.
Review your findings
Review it with your employees once you have gathered food waste and storage data. This practice helps them realize the impact of your surplus food waste prevention strategies in context.
4) 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:
- A 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 to describe how preventative maintenance reduces storage-related restaurant food waste.
5) 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 pick-ups and 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 par.
These systems also provide analytics that offers insight into your freezer stock usage, help you forecast demand according to new menu items, reduce the prevalence of excess food, and enable you to plan future orders with retailers precisely. These automated features reduce the human error that contributes to food storage waste.
6) 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 hazardous microorganisms, as well as overworking the refrigerator itself.
Many issues related to temperature and time in food storage occur due to 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. Following these factors reduces the risk of financially draining loss events.
Regular inspections, good training, and practical 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 you can quickly address problems when temperatures change suddenly. This enables you to 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 cost-saving 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 complete software suite tailored to the unique needs of the foodservice industry.
Ultimately, Therma° is your best defense against the organic waste, excess food ordering, and human error that threaten your restaurants’ bottom line. It may even help with your restaurants’ sustainability initiatives too.
To see for yourself how Therma° helps reduce food waste and streamline operations, click below to try Therma° today.