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How Restaurants Can Become More Sustainable


There is an estimated 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste produced by restaurants every year. And this is only food waste. The bags full of paper wrappers and plastic cups are similar in volume. Let’s look at how restaurants can become more sustainable.

Find New Things to Recycle

Your business may already recycle plastic silverware and paper. If you want your restaurant to become more sustainable, look for new things to recycle. Did you know that you can recycle used cooking oil? Industry surveys show that the average restaurant produces nearly seven thousand pounds of used cooking oil each year, though this can hit thirty thousand pounds of used cooking oil if you’re selling a lot of fried foods.

What can you do with used cooking oil, aside from frying things in it until you can’t anymore? You can arrange for the cooking oil to be hauled off by a group that can recycle it into biodiesel fuel. Other firms add it to animal feed to increase its nutritional value. On the other hand, you can arrange for groups to take your food scraps and food waste to feed to livestock or turn into compost.

Reduce Potential Food Waste

Restaurants have a profit margin between 2 and 6 percent, though some do better than this. Food waste literally eats into your profit margin because you’re spending money buying, storing and often preparing food you can’t sell. There are a number of potential solutions. One is setting up a system to ensure you use food before its expiration date. This has the side benefit of reducing the risk of food-borne illness. Another solution is creating a system to more accurately predict what you need and ensure that you don’t order more than is required. A third solution is analyzing post-consumer waste. What are people throwing away? Why are they throwing it away? If they’re throwing away 20 percent of the French fries, should you reduce how much you give them per serving? Are they throwing away under-cooked meat? You could reduce the problem of food waste and improve customer satisfaction by changing the settings on your grill or retraining chefs.

Make the Most of Your Inventory

We’ve already mentioned the benefits that come from a good inventory management system. Do a deep dive, and determine what you’re selling the most of and what is selling slowly. Many restaurants benefit from a streamlining of their menu, getting rid of the items that account for less than 20 percent of their sales, profit margin, or both. This serves several purposes. First, you don’t have to waste time and money buying and storing food that may not be consumed. Second, you free up space in your storage area that could be put to better use, whether this is adding another fryer or installing slanted shelves that ensure that nothing is thrown out because it went bad sitting on a back shelf.

Have Formal Processes for Doing Everything

Create official recipes for every item on your menu. This simplifies inventory management, because you simply multiply the quantities called for in the recipe by the number of items expected to be ordered. Have formal processes for preparing and storing food. This minimizes food waste because someone didn’t make it right or let it become inedible sitting under a heat lamp too long. Have a process for disposing of food waste so that people don’t send stuff to the landfill that could be donated to charity or vice versa.

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