For business owners in the dining and hospitality sectors, the issue of food wastage is one that simply cannot be ignored. Not only does wasted food represent a serious environmental concern, but it can also cost your company significant amounts of money.
Data from the Waste and Resources Action Programme has estimated that food waste costs the UK hospitality and food service industries £2.5 billion on an annual basis, with 920,000 tonnes of food thrown away by the sector each year - around three-quarters of which could have been eaten.
The figures prove this is a serious problem, but fortunately, businesses can reduce their unnecessary food waste this summer with a few simple steps that will help them to operate more sustainably, while also bolstering their bottom line.
Before you can make any progress on this issue, it's vital to first examine where the problems are arising.
As such, restaurants should review their processes to see why food is being wasted in the first place - it could be that ingredients are going out of date, that mistakes in food preparation or in taking customer orders are cropping up, or that the portions are simply too big.
Once the causes of the waste have been identified, it's worth taking time to calculate how much this is costing the business. This will provide a clearer metric for measuring progress - as well as an incentive to take action.
Better stock management is a vital part of preventing food waste, as it ensures that older stock will always be used up before it has a chance to go to waste, while also helping to avoid overbuying of any ingredients.
Reassessing your approach to temperature monitoring is also advisable, as many food items go to waste due to being stored in the wrong environment. Sensors that issue alerts when temperatures rise above a safe level, for example, can help to prevent this.
Sometimes, accumulating unwanted food items can't be avoided, but it's important to remember that this doesn't necessarily mean sending the stock straight to landfill.
Many items will be recyclable, while a lot of waste food can be placed in a compost bin, where it can still be put to good use. Additionally, many restaurants choose to form links with local charities and food banks, so that any excess food can be donated to those in need.
Your staff will have the biggest role to play in determining whether or not your waste reduction efforts are successful or not, so it can really pay to invest in the right training to provide them with the knowledge of how to store and cook food correctly, avoid cross-contamination and keep the premises clean. Additionally, staff can also offer feedback on which ingredients and dishes are most commonly going to waste.
It's also worth remembering the contribution that customers themselves can make in reducing waste. Where possible, diners should be offered the option of taking their leftovers home with them - not only will this eliminate wastage, but it will also give the customer a fuller dining experience, and a better sense of having received value for their money.