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Pinching pennies might have worked pre-Covid, but to survive today’s increased wages and higher food costs restaurants will have to find new ways to increase profits.

To bolster profits, restaurant operators need to charge more without turning off patrons. Taking advantage of the growing trend of reducing food waste is a great way to achieve both.

By taking a few simple actions to reduce food waste, operators can position themselves as a conscious business that appeals to the heart of their patrons. And that – is worth money. The best thing is, it will be good for the community, for business and for the planet, all at the same time. 

This World Kindness Week, we take the opportunity to promote being kind to others, and to the world. Here’s what restaurants should know about the massive ‘Food Waste Reduction’ trend and ways they can be kinder to the planet, their customers and themselves.

The Food Waste Pandemic

In America, it is estimated that 30-40% of all food produced is wasted. This is the highest per capita waste rate in the world, and restaurants are a leading contributor to food waste. It has been shown that 4-10% of food is lost before it reaches the table, and 17% of what gets served is left uneaten. 

A major part of greenhouse gases come from food lost to landfills. Rotting food releases methane, a gas almost 30 times more harmful than carbon dioxide. 

Covid-19 Boosts Food Waste Reduction Trend

More and more people are supporting food waste reduction efforts. One investigative report revealed that over 50% of people surveyed would definitely take action to reduce food waste after the pandemic.

Awareness of food waste is not new and consumers are already accustomed to paying for ‘greener’ services.

San Francisco’s mandatory composting ordinance, for example, encourages residents and businesses to reduce their landfill fees by shifting as much as possible to composting. Though this won’t solve the whole problem, it’s a valuable start.

Covid-19 boosted the Food Waste Reduction trend, partly because higher unemployment rates commonly result in less food waste.

In addition, concerns about food availability during the pandemic awakened people to more conscious consumerism and the public started arriving at supermarkets with focused lists. People began stockpiling food and, once at home, made use of as much as they could before venturing out again. 

San Francisco Tech Ecosystem Is Doing Its Part

The startup scene gives us a peek into  the future, and many food-tech companies are built to take on the  food waste problem. Planetarians create zero-waste plant based meat alternatives (and also provide free tastings in San Francisco). 

Treasure8, also from San Francisco, is repurposing ingredients into nutrient-dense foods to battle hunger. Because people suffering from food shortage usually get empty calorie foods that are low in nutrients, any quality food that can be upcycled or donated goes a long way.  

“using ingredients that otherwise would not have gone to human consumption are procured and produced using verifiable supply chains, and have a positive impact on the environment.”

Reducing Food Waste to Increase Bottom Line

Giant food corporations are already taking advantage of how important food waste is to the public. They spend millions on commercials that display responsible values. Unilever’s Hellman’s brand, for example, aired commercials during Super Bowl 2021 and on the web encouraging consumers to reduce food waste at home.

This demonstrates that the big guys see enough opportunity in promoting the reduction of food waste that they’ll buy a Superbowl spot to promote it

Restaurants should follow suit by reducing food waste and marketing themselves as a business that cares about the environment. A business that is sustainable and takes part in upcycling food.

The 2021 conscious consumer chooses where they spend their money based on shared values with the company they are supporting. They realize that sustainable food costs more, and they are willing to pay up to 10% more for it because they see the long term financial gain. 

In short, besides bringing in clientele, a few steps to reduce food loss can be used to justify higher menu prices.

Let Diners Know about Your Efforts to Reduce Food Waste

Here’s where it gets interesting. While consumers want sustainable services, 74% feel they have trouble finding them. So make it easy. Market your efforts to reduce food waste. 

When the city of Nashville rolled out their initiative to reduce food waste, they realized that creating a highly publicized competition between restaurants on social media was very successful. 

To drive profits, restaurants need to explain how food is being saved and how leftovers are mobilized to help the community. It is the second half of taking action. Use social media, educate your serving staff, and communicate in your menu!

7 Quick Tips to Reduce Restaurant Food Waste

Every pound of food thrown away is a cut from your bottom line. Food loss can be reduced at every stage of the restaurant food cycle. Implementing even one of these 7 easy tips will have an immediate impact. 

  1. Improve Forecasting – Recalibrating stock cycles and replenishment rates post-pandemic is hard, especially with current uncertainty in major broadliners. Do the best you can to improve forecasting using the right software. These articles by Toast and 7shifts are a start. 
  2. Ensure proper storage – Food spoilt  before it even has a chance is the worst. Recheck and recalibrate your storage protocols and systems.
  3. Get pre-prepped food – A great amount of food is lost during normal processing of food, like peeling and cutting. Cheetah’s Just-in-Time service can provide ready to cook foods which require zero waste and minimal handling on your part. 
  4. Improve handling and cooking skills – No chef wants to waste food, but some cooks are just not trained to get that extra squeeze out of every item. Get your staff on board and train them in proper handling and preparation. 
  5. Repurpose Repurposing yesterday’s produce as new menu items, like focaccias or desserts can be done using a dehydrator. New menu items are better than the trash. 
  6. Compost Check if composting leftovers is suitable for your business.
  7. Donate – Most restaurants avoid donating food so as not to be subject to liability. Food Runners in The Bay Area collects food anonymously, shielding restaurants from liability when leftovers are passed to soup kitchens and food banks. 

Like every change implemented in a business, whatever you decide to do, start slow. Choose a method and see how your internal systems and customers react.

And remember – market your efforts. It is the consciousness of today’s consumer that has brought food waste into the spotlight. So tell them about what you do to make a difference, and in turn, help your bottom line. 

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