In response to the worsening climate crisis, it is about time that restaurant and food service companies take the responsibility to do their part.

Food waste is not only the wastage of resources but it is also expensive. About 40% of all the food in the US goes to waste, this is close to 100 billion pounds with an estimated worth of $400 billion. 

The waste produced by the restaurant industry can be put into two categories- food waste, and waste from packaging and supplies. 

Food waste includes leftovers from guests and food scraps. A single restaurant can produce approximately 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food waste in one year. 

Another kind of waste that is produced in the restaurant comes from single-use packaging material and plastic utensils. 

Restaurants that wish to become sustainable should consider solutions for both types of waste. If you are just getting started, here are four easy ways to reduce restaurant waste:

Handle Excess Food Appropriately

A certain amount of food waste is somewhat inevitable. Demand unpredictably fluctuates, ingredients can’t be ordered in the exact quantities and proportions necessary, and some customers will find any reason to be unhappy with the food and send it back. 

When food waste does occur, it’s important to not consider it a lost cause. Excess food or food waste that is still edible can be diverted to places where it will be eaten and not go to waste. 

Many food pantries, food banks, and third-party food rescue programs are available to help ensure this food gets into the right hands. Not only is this better for the environment, but it helps to address needs in your community. 

Food waste donation is a highly impactful way to make a difference – a study by the USDA found that reducing food waste by 15% can provide enough sustenance to feed more than 25 million of the 12% of Americans that experience food insecurity. 

Food that can’t be donated can be repurposed as animal feed and for industrial uses. If neither option is possible (whether due to spoilage or inaccessibility), food waste – especially the food scraps from prep work – should be composted or collected by composting programs. In a landfill, food waste will sit and generate harmful methane. Through composting, these emissions can be avoided and nutrient-rich soil substrates can be created instead. 

Improve Order Accuracy

Order mixups and remakes are a big source of food waste for many restaurants. Utilizing mobile POS and kitchen display systems improves order accuracy and eliminates waste from meals sent back.

By shifting to a technology-forward ordering system, customers send their meals and any modifications directly to the kitchen. The kitchen preps directly from this ticket and can use the KDS to effectively time coursing and large groups. This eliminates all the in-between steps in the ordering process and cuts down on any miscommunications due to human error.

Since customers are more likely to receive the correct meal in a timely manner, they’re less likely to send it back and generate avoidable food waste.

Go Paperless 

Person scanning a QR code

A mobile POS and KDS will also cut down on paper waste. Customers can pay and tip directly on the mobile POS device, and have their receipt sent by text or email. 

Consolidated paper receipts are available as per customer request, so only one paper is needed instead of the traditional itemized, restaurant, and customer copies that are printed at restaurants. These devices drastically reduce the need for receipt paper, all but eliminating the 1.5 billion pounds of paper waste restaurants generate from receipts every year. 

Using a KDS eliminates paper waste on the back end, as kitchen staff no longer need to print order tickets and inevitably re-print them when they get spilled on or torn at a busy line. Cooks at each station in the kitchen can view and organize orders via the display screen, receiving, prepping, exporting, and sending out orders all without the need for paper tickets or printers. 

Demand-Based Inventory

Using automatic, demand-based inventory management systems through KDS and a back-office management program will help reduce food waste stemming from excess inventory.

These systems use menu popularity and order rates to inform inventory recommendations, ensuring you have the exact amount of ingredients needed to fulfill demand – no more, no less. 4-10% of the food wasted in restaurants is wasted before it reaches the consumer. Excess inventory spoils or declines in quality, ingredients needed for prep work are improperly calculated and restaurants are left with excess amounts of odd ingredients, or demand for high-price items is overestimated and the ingredients go unused. 

All of this leads to harmful food waste and lost profits – using an automated inventory management system helps prevent this and prevents waste while protecting profit margins. 

There are other ways you can consider reducing restaurant waste. Whichever way you choose, just get started and make sure that you continue to provide a good customer experience.