How is food waste impacting your bottom line?
By Christy Simo
When it comes to sustainability and doing something simply because it’s good for the earth, well, a lot of people are on board with that these days. But smart restaurant operators and chefs know that the benefits go far beyond environmental concerns. Whether it’s sourcing more product from local farmers, recycling your grease or implementing energy-saving efforts, there are real impacts to your bottom line.
But what about the food you don’t use in your dishes? What do you do with the scraps and bits that don’t end up in your stocks and specials?
Food waste is a huge issue around the world. According to one statistic, some 25% to 40% of food grown, processed and transported in the U.S. will never be consumed. Much of that produce ends up in landfills.
While only 18% of that amount is generated by restaurants, that’s still billions of pounds of food rotting away that could instead feed hungry people or be reused to make energy or compost.
If the environmental and altruistic reasons aren’t enough to sway you, consider the business benefits. For every dollar invested to reduce food waste at your restaurant, you can see as much as $6 in return. Some studies estimate that the cost of food waste comes to as much as 4.2% of total sales.
The National Restaurant Association has formed several partnerships and initiatives to address this issue and provide restaurants ways to add money back to their bottom line The Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA), a collaborative effort between the National Restaurant Association, the Food Industry Association and the Consumer Brands Association, aims to address the root causes within an operation and to secure viable ways to donate or recycle unavoidable excess.
The alliance offers a free guide to help interested restaurants and other companies. Messy But Worth It!: Lessons Learned from Fighting Food Waste features dozens of tips on how to make changes in your own kitchens based on interviews with companies who have gone through the process themselves. The guide is available for free on the FWRA’s website at foodwastealliance.org.
The National Restaurant Association has also teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to create a set of reduction resources to help you cut the waste and save money.
86 Food Waste provides concrete steps you can take, from how to audit your food waste to how to design menus, as well as stats and case studies that show how these steps can help your business. Check it out at restaurantkitchen.org.
It’s not easy to reduce your food waste. There will be obstacles blocking your way. But if you start small and build steady changes into the way you run your restaurant over time, you can do it. Because these days, it’s just smart business.