Food waste represents a growing economic concern worldwide. Approximately one-third of all food designated for human consumption is being lost or wasted annually. This leaves a massive toll on the environment, humans and on business.
When it comes to minimising food waste in business, there is huge room for improvement. It’s estimated that Australian businesses throw away more than 1 million tonnes of food waste every year and it is an issue that affects everyone in the food supply chain from cafés and restaurants to catering and food production.
Getting a sense of the scale of the issue at national and global level highlights the problem we have with food waste. Here are some headline stats:
One third of all food produced is lost or wasted – around 1.3 billion tonnes of food – costing the global economy close to $940 billion each year.
If one quarter of the food currently lost or wasted could be saved, it would be enough to feed 870 million hungry people.
8% of greenhouse gases heating the planet are caused by food waste and if food waste was a country, it would be the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after USA and China.
The Government estimates food waste costs the Australian economy $20 billion each year.
For more information about these stats, we encourage you to read more and to get started we would recommend the Oz Harvest website.
Food Waste is bad for business
The amount of food a business throws away is a key indicator of the efficiency of a business. Poor food management hurts your bottom line in two ways:
Lost revenue from not being able to sell the produce
Reduced profitability due to still having to pay for it in the first place
Increased waste costs to dispose of it
A study of University of Arizona found that the percentage of food waste in fast-food restaurants is about 9.55% and in restaurants with full service it is even higher, sitting around 11.3% of the total amount of purchased food. Cost of food for the preparation of meals is the second largest expense in the restaurants industry, right after personnel costs. Reducing your food waste therefore will directly impact your bottom line.
10 Ways you can reduce food waste in your business
Here are some tips to reduce food waste in your business:
Smart production planning: small batch production is one effective way minimise food waste, as only the required portion of food needs to be defrosted for use.
Store products properly: all products should be stored in standard food boxes or food packaging wrap where appropriate. This will prevent cross contamination. Hot items must be properly cooled before being refrigerated, to prevent the growth of bacteria and to maintain the internal temperature of the fridge for other items.
Keep everything labelled and organised: in preventing food spoilage, organisation is key. Clearly label all orders with the date it arrived and when it must be used by. Be sure to arrange them by the First In, First Out storage method, placing new items behind older items so the oldest stock is used first.
Staff engagement: setting targets for food waste reduction is a proactive way in identifying ways to cut down. Ask front-of-house staff to pay extra attention to what dishes are consistently left half eaten, it may be necessary to reduce the portion size.
Train your team: good food safety practises go hand in hand with reduction of food waste. Effective food safety training will educate food handlers on the best methods to safely prepare and store your food to prevent spoilage and protect your customers.
Regularly rotate the food in the fridge and warehouse: Set the foods that should be used first in front of the food that is stored newly. A very convenient way of storing food in the refrigerator is the rule “right to left”. New foods always store on the right side of the fridge while existing food you move further to the left. When you taking the food for preparation you are of course using the reverse order “from left to right.” In this way your food will be always fresh and you reducing food waste.
Track food waste regularly: Whether it’s every day, one week a month or once a quarter. Keep staff accountable by keeping a daily waste sheet in the kitchen and require staff to write down and initial any wasted items. Understanding the type of food you are wasting allows you to consider alternatives, opportunities to creatively repurpose in other dishes, etc.
Improve your prep schedule: Review prep schedules and aim for food to prepped and cooked only when needed.
Reduce surplus waste at the end of the day: Offer end-of-day specials to get some return on surplus production. If you have an evening drinks crowd, serve end-of-day surplus as free canapés to attract more customers.
Extend the shelf life of your produce: Solutions such as eWater have been scientifically proven to reduce food spoilage and extend shelf life of fresh produce, including fish, fruit and vegetables. Potentially doubling the shelf life of your produce will make a world of difference to how much food spoilage you have to contend with.