Restaurant Tips: Managing Food Waste Cost

The U.S. Wastes 40% of Its Consumable Food

The United States only consumes about 60-70% of the food that it produces. In 2010 alone, the USDA estimates that about 133 billion pounds of food was tossed out, or about $161 billion dollars annually. Food waste happens at every step of the food process from the raising and selecting farmers do through the packing and transportation and then even at the household level, where families are trashing their leftovers instead of consuming them. For a typical restaurant owner, they hope to achieve virtually zero waste, meaning all incoming raw material or product is equal to the consumable product, but that is a goal and often not the case. There are several reasons a restaurant can be actively losing money through their waste end, plus missing opportunities to create possible revenue. There are several quick and easy ways that a restaurant can implement to create sustainable food waste cost reduction.

The first step in this process is start actively recording and measuring when a restaurant throws things away. Is it a returned order? Is it prep waste? An incorrect food assembly? There are a lot of reasons perfectly consumable food is thrown out, and by tracking how a restaurant is wasting food it gives an insight to possible future improvements. If a store finds itself throwing out ends of hand-cut steak, it is possible to turn beef trimmings to into a patty or slider. Consistent records can quickly determine what changes a restaurant must make to lower their food waste costs.

Common food waste cost problems:


Spoilage is a common problem with a common solution. To catch ingredients and produce before they go bad, make sure to train employees on the FIFO (first in, first out) method for storing food. Make sure to store newer items behind older items to ensure the older items are used first. You can also frequently check deliveries to make sure the receivable foods are in optimal condition, whether ripe or in season. Receiving produce that is still slightly green can allow for a little longer shelf time. To reduce spoilage it is key to store foods in the right temperature environment. For example, freezing or fridging bananas will stop some of the ripening enzymes so a green banana in the fridge will stay green forever. Putting potatoes in the fridge makes them convert their starches into sugars and creates a chemical that is believed to be harmful for people. So storage is key, and can vary drastically from item to item.


If expired food is a consistent problem for a restaurant, it is worth trying to get deliveries in smaller orders, or to make smaller batches to better follow your needs. Try to match the needs of a restaurant with truck orders orders as well as employee production to lessen the waste margin. Common order problems like incorrect items or too much of an item can result in an expiration, often because a restaurant is eager to not run out of a certain product and overestimate its usage. But if there are items that have not been exposed to customers and stored correctly, try to incorporate it into a near future meal, even as a side to reduce food waste.The ServSafe program is a good resource for a restaurant to understand how to safely store and serve leftovers.


A problem in busy restaurants is overproduction & leftovers, or having made too much of a certain meal for the night and being unable to reuse it. Instead if a restaurant made amounts closer to demand, they would not have surplus that cannot be served to customers.This requires a deeper understanding of a restaurant’s forecasting process. If there is a large amount of overproduction, a restaurant might consider scaling a recipe to closer follow the true amount a restaurant produces. In a smaller sense, starting tracking the weather, the day of the week, the season, and typical sales to better factor a restaurant’s needs for the day. Make sure you are receiving the right amounts and quantities, and that your employees follow through for daily changes and changes to recipe sizes.


Make sure to check how much employees are trimming food during preparation. Try to get creative with trimmings whether this means incorporating them into salads or soups. For any meat scraps, trimmings or offal, MOPAC has a Fat & Bone Collection Program. Our program features red containers with “Inedible” written on them, and we collect these containers and recycle leftover animal byproducts into other useful materials like animal feed or tallow for cosmetics. We can also help with other waste end revenue with our restaurant grease recycling program.