So you’ve opened a restaurant- you’ve got a location, a business plan, a name, and have probably already worked out most of a menu to present to customers. Well, congratulations! Sometimes that can be the hardest part of the decision making process. Once all of the big picture ideas have come together, it’s time to deal with the nitty-gritty details like picking your food supplier, picking your vendors and service providers, and starting to hire essential staff to run the restaurant. These decisions are often time-consuming, filled with back-and-forth conversations, contractual obligations, fine print, and balancing costs. Most restaurateurs spend their main focus on selecting food sources, which admittedly, can make or break a restaurant. But there are several obligations a health inspector will insist on that can, and usually are, overlooked. Most of this comes down to back-of-house services you may not even realize you need until the situation presents itself or the health inspector informs you of requirements.
Here’s a short list of the BOH (Back of House) services for waste and recycling you may find yourself needing right away or after a few months of serving:
Don’t worry! We will go over the list with you one by one, listing state minimum requirements, resources to locate these services and ways to implement them with your team.Did we forget an important BOH service? Don’t worry, for the next couple months we will be adding articles for any restaurant services we may have missed. Come back next month for the next set of cost-saving tips!
The average restaurant can produce thousands of pounds of trash and waste a week! Usually restaurants average around 2000 lbs a week, but it can fluctuate widely depending on what type of restaurant you run, what type of food you serve, and how to deal with your waste! Typically, there are 5 types of waste a restaurant can generate- solid, liquid, organic, recyclable, and hazardous. Most states in America require a location that serves food to address all 5 of these issues when applicable. We’ll go through and address each type of waste individually in this article.
Solid Waste Management (And Ways to Reduce Waste)
The Environmental Protection Agency defines solid waste as “… any garbage or refuse, sludge…Nearly everything we do leaves behind some kind of waste.” To be considered “waste”, the material must be considered abandoned, inherently waste-like, or recycled in certain ways. Otherwise, it may not be considered waste and could fall under another governmental category. There are several ways to deal with solid waste- not just getting a trash hauling company and washing your hands of the whole thing- you could be wasting (pun intended) valuable resources, cost savings initiatives, and ways to better yourself, your restaurant, and the environment. To address waste, use the 3 R’s- reduce, reuse, and recycle- and do it in that order too! We’ll do the same below.
To reduce and keep low the amount of waste produced, you have to start by understanding how much waste you are currently producing. If you are a new and opening restaurant, you want to get measurements on how much waste you will be regularly generating. Most trash haulers suggest the day before a pickup, to weigh all of the trash at your facility. If there is no ability to weigh, a visual inspection can be done for the number of trash bags or bins will work adequately. Almost all trash removed by a trash hauler will go into a landfill. Land filling waste should be a last resort, as the material there can take thousands of years to decompose.
To reduce solid waste:
These suggestions range from pricey to free- whether an action would work best for your restaurant depends on what your goals are and what is financially feasible. Beyond just reducing usage, solid waste can be additionally managed by reusing certain resources and making sure you have the proper recycling program.
Reusing is often lumped together with reduction, but these can be implemented in different ways. Reusing when it comes to restaurants often is talking about reusing the leftover ingredients of one meal and using it for another. Though this is definitely a form of reuse, we classified this as a type of food waste reduction and we’ll speak to that further on in this article. Instead, we are talking about ways of reusing a service or product for both employees and customers. We used two guides to come up with our restaurant reuse list- 3 Steps to Reduce Plastic and Benefit Your Restaurant funded by the EPA with PSI Inc, and Reusable Foodware Service Guide-Rethink Disposable, made possible by the Clean Water Fund. Links to the PDF downloads are under the chart- please feel free to utilize to better your restaurant and our environment! You can use a combination of these initiatives to go landfill free! Our company has done it, and now rremove thousands of pounds of solid waste without it ever going back into landfill- and you can do it to! Follow the steps in this guide and you will have the tools to go completely landfill free by the end of this article.
Some things to consider about your trash hauler: Often multiple-use products cost more than disposable products, customers can/will take with them products the restaurant would have reused. The best way to combat this is to have clear return area for reusable items, or to creatively incentive the return of reusable supplies. One downside to reusable items is that they need to be regularly cleaned, but the cost savings over time dramatically offset the labor involved in cleaning. The Reusable Food Serviceware guide has a cost analysis worksheet a restaurant can undertake to see if switching to reusable items may save you money.
Consider investing in these products to replace your current “disposable” product:
The last way to reduce solid waste is something some people are already undertaking. Though it is acknowledged by the world as a way to reduce our carbon footprint and the amount of items going into landfill, but at last check in, the EPA reported that only 35% of Americans regularly recycle. In general, adding a recycling plan to your waste disposal can reduce your garbage removal bills! Additionally, most foodservice locations are encouraged by local government to have a cohesive recycling plan in place. A basic recycling plan usually can be implemented by your waste hauler, so make sure that the trash company you pick also accepts recycling and what types of recycling they may accept. For example, some trash companies bring all of their waste to a landfill- some have composting and incinerating capabilities that can reduce your bill and your carbon footprint, so make sure to ask what they accept and the ways that they process waste. Waste companies that compost and incinerate are able to generate energy and product from the materials you provide, which usually result in a cost reduction at the restaurant level. But just like sorting with recycling, separating waste streams for incineration, composting, and landfill may require extra work personnel-wise with sorting even though it is a cost reduction. Labor and cost reductions will have to be weighed in most scenarios.
Regardless, most waste companies accept certain forms of recycling, and they will be clear when you contact them what they do and don’t accept. We’ll generate a list below of typical recycled foodservice items, but vendors will often work with a restaurant directly to provide them with the best possible service- but make sure you look for a best fit depending on their abilities.
|Types of Waste Hauling/Recycling:
Certain haulers will accept major appliances and other bulk items in certain circumstances. Call your local recycling center if you believe something should be recycled but you aren’t sure how.
|Solid Waste Removal Resources (They Recycle!):
East Coast Resources:
Liquid Waste Management
A separate, yet different part of waste is what can be considered “liquid waste” involves semi-hazardous liquid material that must be handled specially and cannot be added to solid waste (often if a trash hauler finds you are putting liquid waste in, they can deny service, charge extra fees, or cancel your account). Make sure to cover all of your bases by ensuring you have proper understanding of what your liquid waste is and how to deal with it.
Some liquid waste can be handled by your trash hauler, others cannot. “Liquid Waste” as a technical definition provided by the Environmental Protection Agency– “A liquid [waste] is any material that will pass through a 0.45 micron filter at a pressure differential of 75 psi.” which is a very fancy way of saying this- any products combined with water to create a liquid must be treated as liquid waste and be reprocessed and broken down into non-liquid components and water. Typically, this is your wastewater, fats, oils and grease. Wastewater produced in the front of house (by customers) for a typical restaurant is part of your water bill and is not something you usually have to deal with.
On the other hand, there are several BOH liquid waste management features most restaurants are required by inspectors to have including grease control devices like a grease interceptor, grease traps, and recycling services for leftover cooking and frying oils. Check out the infographic on the right to see the main differences between a grease interceptor and a grease trap- sometimes it can be beneficial to use both depending on your setup in your kitchen. Grease Traps and Interceptors are great for dealing with a type of liquid waste called “brown grease”- contaminants caught in water that are held so as to not affect your plumbing- which can be organic matter like food particles or different kinds of grease and oils. Grease traps and interceptors need to be regularly maintained so your kitchens do not overflow, backup, or create bad smells. Don’t know which grease trap or interceptor? Check out this guide from the National Restaurant Association for Fats, Oils and Grease!
There is another type of waste called yellow grease- which is different from brown grease in that yellow grease is generally unpolluted used cooking oil that have gone through a frying process (there is a list below of examples of different types of oils that should be recycled). Most restaurants will have fryers and grills that need to be regularly cleaned and the oil changed out. When a fryer is cleaned or the oil changed, the old oil needs to be disposed of properly. Used cooking oil from the fryer cannot be poured down the drain to go through a grease trap or interceptor- too much grease will clog your plumbing and cause you thousands of dollars of repair. Used cooking oil from the fryer can actually be recycled- and often it does not cost the restaurant a thing! UCO (Used Cooking Oil) recycling programs are often free of charge for customers, and depending on the vendor, restaurants can actually have revenue based on their waste stream for yellow grease. Yellow grease can be stored in outdoor containers that are regularly serviced by a grease recycler, or there indoor options like an inside tank plumbed directly from your fryer to a tank your recyclers can service from the outside. Outdoor tanks are usually the more cost-effective option, but if not properly maintained by employees can get messy whereas inside tanks may require an initial investment but your fryer and waste areas will always be clean and safe for employees.
When selecting a grease recycler (usually your trash company will not offer this particular service since yellow grease & UCO are considered semi-hazardous and must be processed differently) there are a couple things you should keep in mind. The first and foremost is a good understanding of how much grease your restaurant is or will be going through, which can be gauged by how many fryers you have and how often you change them. Typically, to fill a fryer is about 70lbs, which is about 1.5 plastic jibs of new cooking oil (about 7 gallons). Grease yields about 70%, since a certain amount of grease ends up in the food itself. So 1 fryer during 1 clean-out typically produces 5 gallons (30% less than what we started with). So logically, if you have 2 fryers and you change the grease weekly– (fryers (2) * clean-out 1 weekly (5gal)= 10 gallons/week. Or, 40 gallons a month. Now when you speak to your grease recycler, you are able to relay to them that you generate about x amount of grease and they will be able to tell you what the best container set up is and how frequently it needs to be recycled. If you just want to take a look at containers and costs for restaurants for grease recycling, take a look at this guide for residents and restaurants with MOPAC, a grease recycling company.
FOG (Fats, Oil and Grease) Examples in a Kitchen:
Food Waste Management (And Going Landfill Free!)
The last type of recycling that a restaurant or foodservice team can utilize is one that has increasingly grown popular over the past few years as sustainability efforts have ramped up on a global scale. What we have dubbed “Food Waste Management” is also called organic recycling, composting, etc and can go by a variety of names. The common denominator is the attention being drawn on how much food goes to waste in America. According to ReFED- Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data- a nonprofit guide for food waste, “The United States currently spends over $218 billion growing, processing, transporting, and disposing of uneaten food…. Each year, 52.4 million tons of food is sent to landfill…” And just to reinforce, it is not just governmental bodies asking for active food waste management, but customers themselves- A study by Unilever revealed that 72% of U.S. diners care about how restaurants handle food waste, and 47% would be willing to spend more to eat at a restaurant with an active food recovery system. In general, the three key methods to food waste reduction is prevention, recovery, and recycling. Prevention is a restaurant actively trying to reduce the amount of food that goes unsold including buying in smaller batches, smaller plates and trayless dining, menu design, produce specs, donation matching partnerships, waste tracking, and inventory management.
ReFED’s Food Waste Reduction Efforts By Industry:
|Corporate restaurants (including franchisors if applicable) have regulatory structures, policies, and procedures that govern operation and branding. Successful waste-reduction strategies for these operators tend to connect corporate growth with food waste prevention strategies, so that the time and work spent implementing food waste strategies are in line with corporate profitability goals. Corporate restaurant businesses usually benefit from economies of scale and have resources to provide employee training and make infrastructure investments. If the business is franchised, the corporate team can often play an invaluable role in educating franchisees about the financial and reputational benefits of implementing food waste solutions. This can be a highly effective way to motivate franchisees to reduce waste and meet sustainability goals.||Franchisee restaurants are independent businesses that have the right to operate under the franchisor brand. Day-to-day operations such as staff training are the franchisee’s responsibility. Because of this, the franchisor usually cannot mandate waste reduction efforts by a franchisee, except through certain license agreement provisions (e.g., specifying certain ingredients and portioning) and joint procurement arrangements (e.g., sourcing “imperfect produce”) or other incentives (e.g., reduced purchasing costs, tax benefits, reputation in the community). As independent operators, franchisees may find the guidance for independent restaurants in this report useful.
|Independent restaurants can be single establishments or multi-unit operations. These restaurants have the freedom to act alone, without corporate or shareholder oversight, but often possess fewer resources to tackle food waste. Many, however, have the flexibility and freedom to work with farms and outside
groups to implement creative food waste solutions such as using imperfect produce on their menu or rotating dishes to accommodate seasonal produce. Efforts are often launched by empowering an employee passionate about reducing food waste and a program is built organically over time.
Discussed in this article we have hashed through some of the key waste and recycling needs of restaurants and the foodservice industry. Managing a restaurant can be a complicated task with many vendors, products, and personnel all constantly shifting and changing. It is important to work out waste hauling, recycling, and reduction efforts so they stay in the background rather than becoming a central issue. Restaurants are always forward-facing toward customers, trying to give the best image possible to customers, so the last thing customers should have to worry about are issues in the back of house. But with this guide and other coming articles, we hope to highlight the hard work restaurants and vendors put in to create the best possible food and experiences for customers.
Catch us in our blog with the next articles in the series (MOPAC Blog):
Vendor Relationship Management
MOPAC Rendering is a organic by-product recycling center based in Souderton, PA. We have over 140 years of experience, over 12,000 local East Coast accounts, and we service over 6 states. Our focus is on creating offering premier service and products using the highest standards in compliance and sustainability. If you have further questions about our service or our expertise, Contact us today through our website, our Facebook, or our Linkedin.