What’s the most expensive object in a foodservice operation? Many managers will tell you it’s an empty seat, one which could otherwise be occupied by a paying guest. While empty seats certainly represent a significant concern, there’s another object in a foodservice operation which may prove just as expensive over time. What is it?
The garbage bin. In this modest vessel, food waste comes to rest. The foodservice operator pays for this food repeatedly. Initially, they pay for the raw materials. This is followed by labor expenses for handling and processing. Then there are energy and water bills for refrigeration, cooking, and cleaning. Finally, there is cost to haul food waste to a landfill. Food waste drains significant dollars from foodservice operations while adding zero value.
Economically, this food waste creates several problems:
- It drives up the cost of food for all diners because every customer shares in the “cost of waste.” If 10% of food becomes pre-consumer food waste, everything on the menu must be a little more costly to cover the expense of those wasted items. At the end of the day, we all pay more for waste, even though none of us ordered it from the menu.
- When food dollars go into the garbage, fewer financial resources are left to maximize menu quality and variety. Chefs want to dazzle guests, but they need resources to do so. It doesn’t help to put these precious food dollars in the garbage.
- Staff members spend significant time preparing food that may not be needed. They also clean plates following service, manually scrapping food waste and moving heavy totes filled with water-laden food. This prevents them from performing higher value-added activities for customers.
But there are solutions.
In the kitchen, start with a food waste audit. Determine a baseline waste amount. Then track food waste regularly. Daily pre-consumer food waste tracking represents a best management practice, very similar to reconciling the cash register every day. Use tracking data to target areas for improvement, and work on each area in a focused way, moving from one to the next sequentially.
In addition, provide guests with information about post-consumer food waste to raise their awareness. Eliminate trays in all-you-care-to-eat operations. Offer smaller portion options. Encourage dining guests to take only what they will consume.
Food waste can be reduced significantly with attention to the topic, collaboration among staff, and guest education. By doing so, the cost of waste will drop dramatically, and resources will move from languishing in the garbage bin to flourishing on a guest’s plate. Staff will have extra time available to optimize and enhance customer experiences. Everyone wins with food waste prevention; there are no losers. In this way, you can take a reduction food waste right to the bank.
Andrew Shakman is Co-Founder and President of LeanPath, a technology company providing automated food tracking systems and waste consulting services to the foodservice and hospitality industry. He can be reached via www.leanpath.com