Taking Food Waste off Your Restaurant Menu: Part 1

How realistic is a ‘zero waste’ commercial kitchen? What steps are F&B business owners, management, chefs and front of house taking to reduce, recycle and eliminate food waste in their restaurants altogether? Maybe you are closer than you think.

In this part 1, we’ve compiled some of the food waste management techniques and initiatives that restaurants and businesses around the world are employing in their mission to ‘zero food waste’ kitchen.

To learn more about reducing and removing the food waste generated through the dining experience read the second part of this series here.

Breaking Restaurant Food Waste Down

Food Waste

General estimates by WRAP* suggest that food preparation accounts for around 45% of waste, spoilage 21% and customer plates create 34% of the food wasted in restaurants.

So how can we tackle the first 60+% of food waste?

Journey to a Zero Food Waste Kitchen

Food Waste Management Techniques on a Restaurant Menu

1. Sourcing for Climate Smart Eating

Even before deliveries arrive in the kitchen, chefs are helping to reduce waste at the supplier level by using ingredients outside of the four staples of wheat, maize, rice and potatoes.

Amaranth seeds are whole grains, which are naturally gluten free, low in fat and a superb source of protein. Rye and whey cheese are other alternatives that are available but often overlooked.

Download these Recipe Cards from the Healthy Not Hungry Campaign site for climate smart ideas.

2. Roots, Rinds and More

Chefs are re-purposing meat and getting creative with roots and rind to stem the waste.**

Ideas include:

The rind of Watermelon

  • slow roasting the woodier bottoms of asparagus for purées and bisques.
  • dice and pickle the rind of a watermelon in champagne vinegar, sugar, water and pinch of salt for two to three days and then mix it into a salad with watermelon, spring greens, basil and reduced balsamic vinegar.
  • using the skin and other parts of more expensive ingredients such Prosciutto di Parma. Create everything from prosciutto powder, which can be used to rim cocktail glasses and prosciutto gelato to candied prosciutto for savoury-sweet desserts using skin and other scraps.
  • re-using cooked meats such as bacon and turkey the next day in dressings or cold on sandwiches.

3. Compost Compote

You may be surprised to learn that the following items commonly found in your restaurant can actually be composted together***:

Composting check list

Why should we compost?

Apart from diverting a large percentage of your restaurant waste away from your general bins, which in turn reduces collections and helps to make savings for the business, the biggest environmental benefit to creating compost is that it removes synthetic chemical fertilizers and prevents them from being present in our crops, streams and rivers.

How does composting work?

Successful composting actually relies upon an equal mix of both nitrogen-rich materials such as vegetable scraps and coffee grounds and carbon-rich materials such as newspaper and un-dyed paper. Making composting a realistic ‘zero waste’ solution for restaurants in particular to introduce.

Collect your fruit and vegetable waste, coffee grounds and filters and paper napkins for composting in a specially designed commercial kitchen bin such as the Nexus® Shuttle (pictured below).

Nexus Shuttle Catering Waste Bin

Where do we compost?

You can set up a composter on site or speak to your existing waste management contractor regarding their food / compostable waste collection services.

Waste management contractors will generally offer a service which collects your food waste for anaerobic digestion which converts the food waste into renewable energy or for composting.

Nexus Shuttle Catering Waste Bin

4. Local Flavours

Many chains and independents have already established policies around sourcing local produce, to help reduce the impact of mass food production and food miles on the environment.

Local Produce

But how can sourcing locally also help to reduce food waste?

Firstly, food from local sources is fresh and will not have been chemically engineered to withstand long transportation. It follows then that the fresher the food, the better it will taste, but there is also less chance of it arriving spoiled or damaged and so should result in less waste.

Secondly, if the quality of the locally sourced produce or the service is ever questionable, the route to provide direct feedback should be quicker and improvements made more effectively to ultimately remove unnecessary waste.

5. Hot Software

If you haven’t already adopted or trialled one of the many restaurant management software options to help you reduce food waste, among other things, you may want to take a look.

These systems are designed to give you a view across the entire operation in real-time. As well as wastage tracking, software features can also include supplier and stock information, recipe costing and menu planning so it is worth shopping around.

Kitchen Cut (, Winnow Solutions ( and LeanPath ( are just some of the solutions available and most offer a free trial or demonstration.

6. Go Lean

Lean thinking in restaurants isn’t new, it’s virtually in your DNA. Efficiency is key to cost management, staff retention, customer experience and customer satisfaction and yet there could still be some gains to be made towards achieving that big ZERO.

  • Prepared Proteins

Some chefs are removing the need to purchase the whole animal, eliminating waste and saving time and money by sourcing prepared proteins for some dishes. While others are...

  • Limiting storage capacity

Totally removing walk in refrigerators and freezers, to reinforce precise ordering practices.

Local Produce

  • FIFO and Standardisation

One of the Lean 5 S’s which directly impacts food waste in restaurants is Standardisation.

Creating a standardised system of covering, labelling, dating and initialling on the shelves and stock in your storage cupboards will support your First In First Out (FIFO) stock rotation.

Thus reducing spoilage and mistakes.****

7. Food to Share

Many restaurants have implemented initiatives which support local charities through the donation of surplus food.

Take a look online for your nearest food banks and soup kitchens. They will gratefully receive your good food which would otherwise be surplus.

For chains and larger establishments with a higher risk of surplus, FareShare rescue good food for frontline charities across the UK.

They operate through 21 regional centres, redistributing food that is in date and good to eat but has become surplus due to over-production, labelling errors or short shelf life. Check out their website here for more details:

If you would like to talk to someone about managing food waste in your restaurant, we can help.
Contact us today or talk to us on this website via Live Chat.

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Originally Posted: 09.08.17


Wednesday, June 28, 2023

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