Forty-three thousand tons of food are thrown out in the United States each day. All that waste adds up financially and environmentally. There are many steps you can take to initially cut back on waste in your food service establishment. Here are some ideas:
1. Try to run a seasonal, locally-sourced, varying menu, or even just one “everything” dish. One World Community Kitchen in Salt Lake City has mastered the idea of a zero-waste restaurant. There is no set menu. Every day the dishes offered change depending on what is available and what is leftover from the previous day, so the extras don’t go to waste. All of the food is organic, sustainable, and locally grown.
2. Cut back on the amount of food initially purchased. Try to keep accurate tabs on slow and busy times of the week, month, or year to reduce over-ordering. Order less when in doubt: it’s better to run out of a certain item at the end of the night than throwing away the extras. This will save money on food inventory and reduce the amount of wasted food.
3. Encourage kitchen staff to be conscious of food waste when preparing for service. Often once food is prepped, it cannot be saved if there are leftovers. So only prep what is absolutely necessary for the shift.
4. At the end of the day or night, allow employees to eat excess food that cannot be saved for the next day. Put extras out family-style and let servers, cooks, dishwashers, etc., eat the leftovers and take food home. This will not only cut back on trashed food, but it could increase morale by offering a free meal at the end of service.
5. Be aware of health codes in the kitchen. Sometimes food must be thrown out because it is not kept hot or cold enough or it becomes contaminated. Stress the importance of health code awareness to kitchen staff so that food does not go to waste due to carelessness.
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Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on Google Plus
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