Restaurateurs: Five Tips For Reducing The Waste Your Restaurant Produces

When you run a restaurant, you need to be able to cut costs wherever you can, and cutting the costs on something like your waste management bill is obviously better than cutting costs by serving lower quality food or hiring less experienced team members. Luckily, there are a range of ways you can cut down on the amount of waste your restaurant produces, and ultimately, that means you don't need as large of a dumpster or as many collection days throughout the week – two things that can save you money.

1. Reduce your portion sizes

If every plate that comes back into your kitchen has leftover food on it, your employees are likely scraping a lot of food into the garbage. Throughout the week, that can build up quickly and seriously add to the amount of waste your restaurant produces.

If you are constantly throwing out one particular item like mashed potatoes, salad or vegtables, cut those serving sizes down. If you want your customers to have huge servings, just give them the option of asking for seconds on certain items – that way, they aren't disappointed, but you don't needlessly waste a lot of food either.

2. Compost organic waste

In addition to leftover food items, you likely throw away a lot of vegetable peelings and other organic items. Instead of putting those items into your dumpster, turn them to compost. If you have a garden at the restaurant, you can obviously use the compost on that or you can give it to your employees who garden.

If you buy a compost tumbler, you just pop your scraps into it and turn it once in a while. As soon as your scraps break down, you have compost. Alternatively, if you don't want to keep your scraps on site, many communities have composting programs where you can arrange to have your scraps picked up.

3. Buy products with recyclable packaging or minimalist packaging

Aside from food, much of the waste that goes into a restaurant garbage can is packaging. If you want to reduce your overall waste production, reduce your packaging. Look for vendors that don't over package their foods – for example, you don't need fruits and veggies individually wrapped, you just need them to arrive in a large box.

Also, look for vendors that use recyclable packaging. That could be recyclable cardboard or plastic, or it could mean containers that get picked up by the vendor and reused like plastic milk crates.

4. Donate old oil to biodiesel drivers

If you are throwing out old oil, you typically have to put the oil into a container, so it doesn't get all over the inside of the dumpster. For example, you might pour the old, cold fry oil into the plastic container it was in when you bought it.

However, you don't have to fill your dumpster with old oil and plastic containers that could be recycled. Instead, you can give it away or sell it.

People who drive biodiesel cars need old oil to keep their cars moving, and there are many organizations and individuals who will pick up the oil at your restaurant so you can use the space in your dumpster for other waste.

5. Pay close attention to inventory management

If you want to really reduce waste in your restaurant, your head chef should be a critical player. Your chef should be skilled at inventory control. That means he or she should know how to order food in the correct quantities so you don't end up running out of some items or throwing out excess.

This delicate dance requires knowing when the restaurant is likely to be busy and writing specials that utilize the "leftovers" or "excess" foods in your fridge. However, even a chef with incredible inventory management skills will occasionally order too much food. For case like that, you don't have to fill your dumpster either. Instead, when you realize you are not going to use some of your food, donate it to a local soup kitchen or food bank.