Waste Management Strategies for Restaurant Kitchens

The average restaurant produces a whopping 100,000 pounds of garbage every year. Now, imagine that amount of waste going straight to the landfill or, worse, in our oceans. If you want to manage waste more responsibly both for the benefit of the environment and your business, here are the three 3R’s that you need to follow:

Reduce

The less waste you produce, the less waste that goes to the landfill and the more money you can save from handling it. Here are several ways you can reduce waste that comes out of your restaurant kitchen:

  • Do proper forecasting. This can help reduce the number of ingredients left unused at the end of each order cycle.
  • Order in bulk. Whenever possible, order in bulk to reduce the amount of packaging that comes with your orders.
  • Use your own packaging. Speak with your suppliers and ask if you can use your own reusable containers for your orders to cut back on packaging waste.
  • Monitor inventory regularly. Spruce up on your inventory management to reduce food spoilage.
  • Ban plastics. Get rid of plastic cups and cutlery for dine-in customers. Limit the use of food-grade plastic gloves. Order liquids in large, refillable containers. Offer compostable take-out containers instead of plastic tubs.
  • Modify your menu. Get rid of items that don’t sell and eliminate ingredients that are not frequently used.
  • Set up condiment stations. Instead of serving condiments in single-use containers, set up a condiment station where diners can refill condiments. Alternatively, serve condiments and other side items on reusable wares.
  • Employ proper storage measures. Reduce food waste by storing fresh produce and dry goods properly.
  • Educate staff. Train staff to avoid unnecessary food waste (e.g., cutting food properly, practicing the FIFO method, maneuvering to avoid spills, etc.)

Reuse

chefs cooking in the kitchenA significant part of controlling waste in a restaurant is reusing ingredients whenever you can. For example:

  • Reuse vegetable scraps and bones to make stock. You can even freeze stock for later use.
  • Refresh wilted vegetables by placing them in cold water.
  • Plant lettuce hearts, pineapple tops, onions, and other produce to regrow food.
  • Turn potato peels into a crispy potato skin dish.
  • Use lemon rinds, leftover soda, and old vinegar as cleaning products.
  • Cook fruit peels with sugar to turn them into jams or marmalades.
  • Grind stale bread to make breadcrumbs or toast them to make croutons for salads and soups.
  • Use leftover items to make daily specials.
  • Bake leftover bread into delicious bread pudding.
  • Crumble stale cake and turn them into cake pops.
  • Make a compost pit with food scraps, coffee grinds, tea bags, compostable plates, paper towels, and other organic materials.
  • Find an environmental franchise that can process your oil to extend its life or convert it into biofuel.
  • Use slightly spoiled milk as a buttermilk substitute in baked goods. You can also use sour milk for making cheese in-house.
  • Throw citrus peels into the garbage disposal to get rid of nasty odors.
  • Save meat drippings to make flavorful sauces, soups, dressings, etc.

These are just some examples of how you can reuse food scraps instead of chucking them directly into the trash bin. Thus, think twice before throwing out food from your restaurant. There might be a way to reuse food for other purposes.

Recycle

Having a recycling program is a vital part of restaurant waste management. However, it is often easier said than done, so make sure to:

  • Educate both your staff and patrons on what can and cannot be recycled.
  • Have proper recycling bins in the kitchen.
  • Find a suitable recycling firm that can take your waste for a reasonable cost. In some cases, you can even earn a little extra money by sending your recyclables to local firms.
  • Properly label recycling bins with clear instructions on what goes where. Consider adding graphics to make it easier for patrons to throw their garbage in the proper place.
  • Donate your food scraps to animal feed manufacturers.
  • Give your used oil to recycling companies that turn oil into biogas.
  • Buy products that are made from recycled materials.

Making a conscious effort to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste at your restaurant benefits everyone involved: you, your employees, your patrons, the community, and Mother Nature. Since restaurants are some of the biggest waste producers globally, you have a civic duty to minimize the amount of waste you produce daily.

Apart from the ones mentioned above, what other restaurant waste management strategies can you think of? Please share them with us in the comments below.

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