Waste Not. Want Not.

By Kristin Aduna, Director of Customer Success

I spend the majority of my days talking with restaurant owners and their teams about the challenges they face in their operations. As most weeks go; I had a lot of conversations about managing food cost and narrowing the gap between Actual and Theoretical food cost.

There are many reasons for this variance; often it is due to waste. How can waste be avoided? And how, when it can’t be avoided, is it accounted for? Below are a few tips that can help:

  • Write out your recipes. Writing out your recipes to account for waste will help you better understand where it is coming from. For example, if you purchase whole turkeys to roast onsite it is important understand that a 17 pound turkey does not make 17 pounds of usable bird… it’s probably more like 11 or 12 lbs. Account for the yield and base your plate cost on the portion that actually makes it to the plate.
  • Conduct a waste audit. Conducting a waste audit allows you to see how much you are truly wasting.  Have you ever looked in your restaurant’s dumpster? Not just a peek while holding your breath to see if it’s full, but a good, hard, pungent look all the way through? If not, you should. I will tell you right now, this will not be glamorous and it will not smell great, but understanding where your issues with waste are will save you money. Without conducting a waste audit, there is no way of truly knowing what your potential cost savings are.
  • Start a waste journal. Let’s face it – accidents happen. If I am strolling out of the walk-in with a gallon of ranch in my hands and slip, that ranch hits the floor. If there is a waste journal, that ranch can be accounted for, Remember to leave a field for the reason the product was wasted.
  • End the over-prepping. At some point, over prepping is unavoidable. However, if my trusty waste journal tells me that I am throwing out gallons of fresh salsa every two days, then there is a problem in the amount of salsa I’m prepping. A lot of operators would rather have too much than not enough, which is understandable. However, you could liken over-prepping to taking money outside and lighting it on fire.  You can greatly increase kitchen efficiency and profit margins by minimizing waste caused by over-prepping.
  • Utilize the first-in/first-out method. It may take a little longer to unload shipments but moving the older stock to the front of the shelves and putting the new stock behind it will ensure that you are not wasting good product. Also, be sure to mandate date labeling on all perishable products to help with storage and rotation.