Stop Waste, Save Food: 10 Easy Ways for Restaurants


Hello and welcome! We’re here to talk about a big problem – wasting food in restaurants. Have you heard the saying “Waste Not, Want Not”? It means if we use what we have carefully, we won’t run out of it. This old saying is at the heart of what we want to do: cut down on how much food restaurants throw away. You might wonder why this matters so much. Well, when food gets thrown away, it’s not just the food that’s wasted. All the water, energy, and work that went into making it are wasted, too. Plus, throwing food away costs restaurants a lot of money and harms our planet. But the good news is, we can change this!

In this guide, we’re going to explore how restaurants can waste less food. We believe that every piece of food can be used somehow. By working together and making small changes, we can make a big difference. We’ll show you ways to keep food out of the trash. This means thinking creatively, planning carefully, and maybe even trying some new things.

Let’s get started on this journey. We’re excited to share ideas and tips on how to make sure food serves its purpose – feeding people, not filling up trash cans. Together, we can make a big impact and help our planet, one meal at a time.

What Causes Restaurant Food Waste?

Let’s talk about why so much food gets thrown away in restaurants. Knowing why it happens is the first big step to stopping it. Here are some common reasons:

  • Making Too Much Food: Sometimes, chefs prepare more food than needed. They want to make sure there’s enough for everyone. But when not all food is eaten, the leftovers end up in the trash.
  • Food Going Bad: Ingredients can spoil, especially if they’re fresh like fruits and vegetables. If a restaurant buys too much or doesn’t use it quickly, the food can go bad before anyone gets to eat it.
  • Customers Not Finishing Meals: Often, people don’t eat everything on their plate. This could be because the portions are too big or they didn’t like the food. Either way, the uneaten food becomes waste.
  • Buying More Than Needed: This is about keeping track of what you have and what you need. Sometimes restaurants order more food than necessary. If they don’t use it all, some of it might get thrown away.
  • Not Planning Well: Without a good plan, it’s hard to use everything. For example, if a chef doesn’t plan how to use all parts of a vegetable or meat, some of it might be wasted.
  • Mistakes in the Kitchen: Sometimes, food gets wasted because of mistakes while cooking. Maybe a dish gets burnt or a wrong ingredient is used, and it can’t be served.

10 Ways to Eliminate Food Waste in Restaurants

1. Perform a Waste Audit

Think of a waste audit like being a detective for your restaurant’s trash. You want to find out exactly what food is being thrown away and how much of it there is. For a few weeks, keep a close eye on the garbage. Write down everything food-related that ends up in there. This might seem like a lot of work, but it’s really helpful.

It shows you what’s being wasted. Maybe you’re making too much of a certain dish, or perhaps some ingredients go bad before you can use them. Once you know what’s being wasted, you can start to think of ways to use more of the food you buy. This means less throwing away, which is good for your business and the planet.

2. Create a Waste Tracker

Now, imagine having a diary, but instead of writing down your thoughts and feelings, you write down what food gets thrown away each day and why. This is your waste tracker. It’s a powerful tool. Maybe you notice that every Tuesday, you have a lot of leftover bread. Or perhaps a certain dish isn’t as popular as you thought, and half of it ends up being thrown away.

These notes help you see patterns and problems. With this knowledge, you can make decisions that reduce waste, like making less of that unpopular dish or finding a new way to use the leftover bread.

3. Sell or Donate Surpluses to Your Local Community

Imagine cooking a big meal and having lots of food left over. You wouldn’t want it to go to waste, right? The same goes for your restaurant. Sometimes, you’ll end up preparing more food than your customers can eat. Instead of throwing this food away, you have a couple of great options. One is to sell it at a lower price as the day ends.

This way, more people can enjoy your food at a discount. Another even better option is to donate this surplus food to local food banks or shelters. These places are always in need of food to help feed those who are less fortunate. By donating, you’re helping people in need and making sure the food doesn’t go to waste.

4. Maintain Proper Food Storage

Keeping your food fresh is a lot like keeping your clothes in good condition. Just like you wouldn’t leave your favorite shirt out in the sun to fade, you shouldn’t store food in the wrong place. Different foods need different types of storage. Some foods need to stay cold in the fridge. Others might need to be frozen to stay fresh for a long time. And some foods are just fine sitting on a shelf at room temperature.

Learning the best way to store each type of food means it will last longer and taste better. This reduces the chance of having to throw food away because it went bad.

5. Create a Composting Plan

Composting is a bit like recycling, but instead of turning plastic bottles into new ones, you’re turning food scraps into something useful: rich soil. Not all food waste needs to end up in the trash. By starting a composting program, you can take things like vegetable peels, fruit scraps, and coffee grounds and turn them into compost.

This compost is amazing for gardens because it helps plants grow. It’s a way to turn waste into something valuable. Plus, it’s great for the environment because it keeps these scraps out of landfills where they’d just turn into methane, a harmful gas.

6. Design New Offerings Based On Your Surplus

Imagine you often end up with extra carrots. Instead of letting them go to waste, think like a chef on a cooking show. Challenge yourself to come up with a new dish that uses lots of carrots. Maybe it’s a carrot soup or a carrot cake.

This way, you use what you have too much of and give your customers something new to try. It’s a fun way to make sure you’re not wasting ingredients and to keep your menu interesting.

7. Embrace Multi-Use Menu Items

This is like having a magic wardrobe where everything matches with everything else. Choose ingredients that you can mix and match in many different dishes. Tomatoes are a great example. You can chop them up for salads, slice them for sandwiches, or cook them down into a sauce.

This means you’re less likely to have leftovers sitting around because you can use the same ingredient in many ways. It’s a smart strategy to keep things simple and waste less.

8. Run Weekly Specials

Think of weekly specials as your restaurant’s highlight reel. If you have a lot of something, like zucchini, make it the star of its own dish for a week. This could be a special zucchini bread or a grilled zucchini side dish.

These specials can attract customers looking for something new and help you use up what you have too much of. Plus, it adds a bit of surprise to your menu, keeping things fresh and exciting.

9. Reduce Spoilage by Ordering to Par

Ordering to par is like packing for a vacation. You want to bring exactly what you need – no more, no less. If you buy too much food, some of it might go bad before you can use it. But if you buy just the right amount, you’ll use it all up. This takes some practice.

You need to learn how much of each ingredient you use on average. Then, order just that amount. It helps you avoid waste and saves money because you’re not buying food you don’t need.

10. Train Staff On Inventory Management Best Practices

Imagine your restaurant is a team, and everyone plays a part in winning the game against waste. Teach your team how to keep track of what you have, what you’re running low on, and what’s about to go bad. Show them the right way to store different foods to keep them fresh longer.

When your whole team knows how to handle food correctly, you waste less. This saves money and makes your restaurant more efficient. Plus, it feels good for everyone to work together on something important like reducing waste.

Successful Restaurants Monitor and Control Their Food Waste

Restaurants that stand out in reducing waste watch it closely. They look at what they throw away and find out the reasons. This helps them make smart choices in buying food, preparing it, and serving it to cut down on waste. They often use a simple system to keep track of food waste. This way, they see what gets wasted most and work on using those items better.

Efficient restaurants also train their staff to be waste-conscious. They teach everyone from the kitchen to the dining room how to save food, use it wisely, and avoid waste. This team effort makes a big difference in reducing waste.

Besides, successful places use tech tools to help them. There are apps and software that can track food use and waste. This tech makes it easier to see where they can improve.

Sharing their success stories and tips with others also helps. By talking about their efforts on social media or in local communities, these restaurants inspire others to join in reducing food waste.

Lastly, they often have a plan for unexpected food surplus. This could mean having a partnership with local charities to donate food that won’t be sold but is still good to eat. This way, they not only reduce waste but also help those in need.


1. Why is it important to reduce food waste in restaurants?

It’s important because wasting food means losing money and hurting the environment. When we reduce waste, we save resources like water and energy, help fight hunger by donating unused food, and cut down on pollution from landfills.

2. How can a waste audit help my restaurant?

A waste audit helps you see exactly what and how much food you’re throwing away. This information lets you make better choices about buying, preparing, and serving food, so you waste less and save money.

3. What is a waste tracker?

A waste tracker is like a diary where you write down all the food your restaurant throws away. It helps you spot patterns of waste, so you can find ways to use more food and throw away less.

4. Can I really save money by reducing food waste?

Yes, you can save a lot of money. When you buy only what you need, use food wisely, and throw away less, you spend less on buying food. Plus, you can even make money by selling food that would otherwise be wasted.

5. How do I store food properly to avoid waste?

Learn the best way to store each type of food. Some need to be kept in the fridge or freezer, and others are fine at room temperature. Proper storage keeps food fresh longer, so you have more time to use it.

6. What is composting, and how does it reduce waste?

Composting is turning food scraps into rich soil for growing plants. It’s good for the planet because it recycles food waste and reduces the amount of trash going to landfills.

7. How can creating new dishes help reduce waste?

If you often have certain ingredients left over, use them to create new dishes. This uses up what you have and adds exciting new options to your menu.

8. What does “ordering to par” mean?

Ordering to par means buying just the right amount of food you need. It helps you avoid having too much food that might go bad before you can use it.

9. Why should I train my staff about reducing waste?

Your staff can help a lot in reducing waste. When they know how to manage food correctly, from storing it to keeping track of inventory, your restaurant wastes less food and money.

10. How can selling or donating food surplus help my community?

Selling food at a discount or donating it helps feed people in your community who might be hungry. It’s a way to make sure good food doesn’t go to waste and supports those in need.


Reducing food waste in restaurants is not just about saving money; it’s about caring for our planet and resources. “Waste Not, Want Not” is a powerful reminder that by taking small, thoughtful steps, we can make a big impact. It starts with understanding the problem, then moving to action with smart inventory management, menu planning, portion control, and more. Everyone from kitchen staff to diners has a role to play in this important effort.