According to a 2019 Technomic survey, a majority of foodservice operators (about 73%) see their businesses becoming more sustainable in 2 years. It's clear that food waste is a serious problem today, and documentaries like the late Anthony Bourdain's "Wasted!" have shed more light on it. Over 40% of our food gets wasted while more than 40 million Americans go hungry, so there's a ton of room for improvement. This is a global issue that concerns humanity, our environment, and the foodservice industry as a whole.
In this practical guide, we've outlined how to reduce commercial kitchen waste, so that you create a more sustainable food service business that you can feel proud of. By optimizing your commercial kitchen design, preparing food with waste management in mind, and investing in self-cleaning equipment, you can drastically reduce your resource consumption.
When waste management first became a hot topic in the restaurant world, the focus was primarily about recycling and eco-friendly packaging. Now, we understand that source reduction (i.e. preventing waste in the first place) should be the number one priority. It takes time and effort to measure waste, but the payoff is definitely worth it. Along the way, some restaurants have even gotten creative with their leftover food scraps, transforming them into improvised dishes that thrill diners. After all, one man's trash is another man's treasure.
Maximizing Shelf Life
When handling food in the kitchen, it's crucial that you avoid cross-contamination at all costs. During the prep phase, if raw meat is stored near veggies or cooked food, bacteria can spread and create a dangerous situation. When this happens, you'll have to throw the contaminated food away. This is a common cause of waste. To maximize your food's shelf life, keep food storage areas separate and make sure that they are refrigerated properly. Store frozen foods at 0°F and refrigerated foods at 41°F.
Waste also accumulates when using ovens. Grease can build up and become difficult to clean, forcing cooks to rely on harmful chemicals, a lot of water, and a lot of their time. Rather than waste unnecessary resources to clean your equipment, we recommend investing in self-cleaning ovens. These efficient and convenient models use built-in water jets to remove grease, with multiple cycles that range in intensity, leaving your oven sparkling clean. With a boilerless design, our Combitherm®️ oven uses 80% less water than other ovens with self-cleaning systems on the market. There's also an automatic grease collection system, so you can easily and safely dispose of grease without carrying pans around the kitchen.
Training Staff on Best Practices
Ultimately, it's difficult to reduce waste if your staff isn't doing their part. We recommend holding a brief training session where you go over source reduction, recycling, avoiding cross-contamination, and smart cleaning practices. You should also use the opportunity to gather insights from employees about where they see the most waste. Are ingredients going bad on a regular basis? Is there a way to reduce packaging and single-use plastic? Get your team on the same page, and together you can come up with some great ideas for waste reduction.
Source reduction should be a top priority, but if you do end up with a lot of food waste, there are other options besides tossing it in the trash. Here are two of our favorite recycling ideas:
Post-Consumer Waste (Alternative Disposable Options): "Post-consumer" waste refers to any food that a customer orders, but doesn't finish. Of course, you should offer to-go boxes so customers can take food home if they like (paper is more eco-friendly than plastic). When it comes to food left behind, you can try composting it, and then using it in a garden or bringing it to a compost plant.
Donating Remaining Food: Any fresh food that hasn't been contaminated should be sent to a food bank or a local charity. Typically, larger institutions have more resources for storing meals and feeding hungry people safely. To start, we recommend looking at programs like Feeding America and then searching for local organizations in your community.
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