11 Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Restaurants

plate of food at a restaurant

It is quite common knowledge that much of our fresh produce goes to waste across the supply chain and in the hands of the consumer. How much of it, however, gets wasted within the hospitality industry, and how can we decrease these losses?

WRAP (the Waste and Resources Action Programme) has stated that the hospitality industry produces over 400,000 tonnes of avoidable food waste each year, costing the industry almost $700 million. The keyword here being “avoidable”, as in, we can put practices in place to curve and reduce those numbers! 

PostHarvest has provided 11 easy tips for your restaurant to reduce the losses, and increase your operational efficiency. This will not only help you be more environmentally conscious, but help increase your revenue long term.

1) Avoid over-buying stock
2) Store food correctly
3) Practice stock rotation regularly
4) Temperature control
5) Keep a stock inventory
6)Pay attention to use-by dates
7) Donate leftovers to a local charity
8)Anticipate the demand
9) Compost food waste
10) Provide plates instead of trays
11) Train employees properly


1. Avoid over-buying stock

Take accurate daily and weekly stock of all produce and ingredients and identify food that you use and that spoils at your establishment. It’s common to feel the need to buy in bulk if there is a potential rush or demand, or even if your supplier has a great deal on fresh produce items, but this can leave you with too much supply and not enough demand, resulting in spoilage.

Create reports and conduct a waste analysis on how much produce you will actually need in supply to keep your restaurant running, and avoid the temptation to over-order supplies to help reduce food waste.

2. Store food correctly

It is important to know what the required temperatures are for specific fresh produce items that you are storing at your restaurant. Different products require different storage conditions, and if not monitored and stored under best practices, can spoil quickly.

Simple steps such as ensuring your refrigerators and freezers are set at the correct temperatures, as well as low-risk foods being stored on higher shelves rather than the higher risk foods, can ensure that those areas are kept clean, as well as the produce staying fresh for as long as possible.

3. Practise stock rotation regularly

FIFO (also known as the “first in, first out” rule) is a great practice used across multiple industries around the world. This rule definitely applies to produce and food in general. Place order food at the front to be used as soon as it’s requested, and newer stock to be placed in the back of the shelves, ensuring that you are using the older produce first.

4. Temperature control

When temperatures aren’t controlled properly, produce can begin to rot, and harmful bacteria can begin to grow. With temperatures being monitored, food waste is less likely to happen, and with sensors in the cold rooms, there can even be real-time alerts once ethylene levels begin to spike. Temperature controls don’t only apply to fridges, but in hot foods as well. Cooling hot food too quickly, or reheating food too many times can cause it to rot and lose it’s quality quickly.

5. Keep a stock inventory

Maintaining an accurate and up to date stock and inventory is critical in reducing losses within your restaurant. Keeping a detailed list of all foods in storage, using FIFO, and knowing all use-by/ best-before dates is important to know, and there are many forms of software that can help you manage and report on all of your stock. This will help avoid forgotten foods and reduce waste, as well as save money.

6. Pay attention to use-by dates

WRAP has shown studies and research stating that up to 21% of restaurant food waste is due to food spoiling. Used-by dates are incredibly important to take note of and monitor to avoid these losses.

All employees that are handling stock and prep should abide by strict processes and be able to provide accurate reports that are analysed on the current losses, as well as what improvements can be made in the future, so be sure to check and report on use-by dates daily, as well as rotate stock correctly.

7. Donate leftovers to a local charity

Even with accurate stock take and ordering, there will always be additional or leftover food. Don’t fret though, as good can still come of leftover food, such as donations to a local charity organisation in your area. There are many that allow for leftover meals and donated food given to those who are in need. This ensures that extra food isn’t simply thrown away, but goes towards a cause and bettering the community.

8. Anticipate the demand

There will always be unexpected demand or even unexpected slow periods within the hospitality industry. It is tempting to cook food in large batches when expecting a large rush of customers, but you must consider how much of this food will be thrown away if there aren’t enough food orders in the end? Large batch cooking can create lots of wasted food that has to be thrown away at the end. Though it seems efficient, it can be a waste of time and produce.

9 . Compost food waste

There are many environmentally friendly practices that can be implemented at your restaurant that can also help you reduce waste. One of these practices includes putting any food that won’t make its way to an end consumer in a compost bin. All fresh produce, such as fruit & vegetable peels, old grain products and coffee beans can all be thrown into compost bins.

10. Provide plates instead of trays

If you operate a self-service or buffet restaurant, you might notice that many customers’ eyes might be a bit bigger than their stomach, and they can pile on excess food and menu items that they will not be able to finish. If your customers are given individual or smaller plates instead of large trays, these will decrease the temptation of placing too much, and not be able to finish it.

Offer free home takeaways for the foods they don’t finish anyway, this can help reduce thrown away foods if the customers can take them home for later.

11. Train employees properly

Employees should always go through a thorough training process depending on their position and understand how to operate in their role with efficiency. Food loss and waste is unavoidable, yet can be better managed with proper education and training. PostHarvest learning provides free online courses on food safety and prep and can help your employees reduce your restaurant’s losses.

It is by law that all restaurant owners and food handlers must be trained in food safety, and use best practices when working. Staff should all learn how to store, cook, and clear correctly, to avoid cross-contamination and losses.


Food waste is costing the industry billions of dollars a year, and your restaurant can help with waste reduction if using and abiding by best tips and practices. Ensuring your employees are properly trained and abide by the training will help your hospitality business run with efficiency, increase your bottom line, and reduce risks. Visit PostHarvest Learning courses for further training and tips.

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