Reducing Food Waste in Hospitality & Food Service

Waste is the cost of doing business in any sector and the hospitality and food service industry is no different. However, excessive food waste creates two problems for any business.

One, too much waste is a financial drain on the business. As we said, some amount of waste is inevitable, but if it can be prevented, that’s saving, isn’t it? If you make a saving of a few pennies (or pounds) every day, it all adds up to benefit your bottom line.

Two, it is bad for the environment. If food waste ends up in landfills, it can contribute to the production of greenhouse gases which exacerbate climate change and global warming.

Three, recycling your food waste will soon be the law with the new Simpler Recycling Scheme. By March 2025, all businesses must recycle any food that is wasted.

So, the food service industry has three very good reasons to want to reduce food waste. And, that is why there is a drive to encourage businesses to tackle this problem.

Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) has led this drive and developed the Guardians of Grub initiative under the Courtauld Commitment 2030. That is a voluntary commitment across the UK food chain to reduce food waste collaboratively.

This initiative provides an actionable plan that helps the Hospitality and Food Service industry tackle their food waste problem. Here is what the plan recommends.

Three steps to reduce food waste.

The quest to reduce your food waste is a simple three-step process – target, measure, and act.

1. Target

This is the first step towards reducing food waste, where you set a target of how much waste you want to reduce (and, trust us, you can always reduce food waste). Make sure the target is achievable. Guardians of Grub recommends starting with a target of 20% for the first month.

2. Measure

It is easy to dismiss your food waste if all of it goes straight into the bin. That is why it is important to measure it. That gives you a sense of how much you throw away in a day.

And, it’s essential to separate the various categories instead of lumping them all together. These should all have their own bins so that you can weigh them at the end of the day.

What are the four categories of food waste?

1. Preparation

Food waste that you generate during the prepping of the meal. This includes offcuts, peels, rinds, seeds, etc.

2. Spoilage

Food that you need to throw out because it’s gone bad. It could mean food that’s past its expiry date or rotten vegetables.

3. Plate Waste

Uneaten food that is left on the plate. It would include bits that couldn’t be eaten as well, like bones.

4. Other

Food that was prepared but not served or eaten. This includes food that was returned from the table because it was not per the order or leftover buffet food.

3. Act

So, you can now decide on your action plan once you have your target and measurements. The steps can be divided into the four categories, and each will help you cut down on food waste.

Prevent spoilage

Food spoilage happens either because you have purchased more ingredients than needed or because you stored them improperly.

Smart purchase planning

The best way to reduce food spoilage is to plan your purchases more efficiently. What you are throwing away is excess to your weekly needs, so use that to determine how much you really need.

That will tell you how much you need to buy without having to throw out unused ingredients.

Here are the steps you can take to make smarter purchases.

  • Buy only what you need: Instead of creating a standard order, only buy the items you are low on.
  • Smaller orders: Increase the frequency of your orders and reduce the quantities. This will give you fresher ingredients that will be more likely to be consumed before they go off.
  • Required cuts: When ordering meats and fish, you will find that ordering the cuts you want will help reduce your prep time as well as waste.
  • Bulk buy: Non-perishable items can be stored for extended periods of time without going bad. You can order these items in bulk. That will be more cost-efficient for you and give you more freedom in planning the budget for perishable items.
  • Just-in-time buys: Discuss with your suppliers the option of just-in-time deliveries. That will help you manage your storage space better. It will also help reduce waste as your ingredients won’t be sitting unused for as long.
Proper storage

A lot of food goes bad in storage because it isn’t kept in the right conditions. It could also mean that it was stored but not organised properly, leading to inefficient use. Here are some ways you could make smart storage work for you.

  • Label your stock: Mark your ingredients by the dates they were purchased and the use-by dates so you know what needs to be used and when.
  • First in, first out: When storing freshly-bought items, put them behind the older stock. That way, you will use the older ingredients before using the new ones.
  • Store food immediately: When your ingredient orders arrive, put them away immediately, reducing the time they have at higher temperatures, where they start losing freshness.
  • Don’t overfill your storage space: Overfilling the refrigerator or freezer can make it difficult for the machines to maintain the optimum temperature. That, in turn, will lead to spoilage and food not lasting as long. Ensure that you have enough space in these storage spaces for air to circulate and the right internal temperature to store food safely.
  • Storage containers: When storing pre-prepared meals, store them in airtight containers or vacuum bags to keep them fresh for longer.
  • Longer-lasting options: Opt for frozen, dried, canned, or bottled options instead of fresh. These methods of preservation help keep the ingredients usable longer. That way, you can have them at hand without worrying about spoilage. And frozen and canned vegetables are as healthy (if not healthier) as fresh ones.
Efficient preparation
  • Plan an efficient menu: Instead of offering a huge variety of menu items, you might want to focus on a compact menu that is efficient. This way, your customers won’t have to suffer from decision paralysis (where too much choice leaves the person unable to choose). Also, it will reduce the number of ingredients you need to prep.
  • Plan ingredients efficiently: Keep the ingredients in mind when planning your smart menu. If you have some ingredients that can be used for multiple recipes, you will be more likely to use them before they go bad.

Plate wastage reduction

When someone doesn’t clean up their plate, it’s a sign that the portion size was too big. Of course, you don’t need to reduce your portion size the first time someone leaves food on their plate.

However, noticing how often and how much food is left uneaten after it was served can give you an idea of whether or not you are plating up larger portions than required. Here’s what you can do if your plate waste needs to be reduced.

  • Offer a range of portion sizes: Some people have a bigger appetite whilst others don’t want to eat too much in one sitting. So, in order to keep everyone happy, give them the option of choosing their plate size, including children’s portions. That way, everyone will be able to eat what they want and finish it.
  • Make sides optional: Whilst you may have a set of sides that accompany a dish, not everyone may want to eat all of them. Therefore, if you want to reduce plate food wastage, let the customer choose whether they want all of the sides. That way, you give them a better chance of ‘cleaning their plate’.
  • Educate your customers: When it comes to food, we often don’t think about wasting it or how it affects the environment. However, most people, when informed about better choices, most people will opt for them. That is why, if you educate your customers about how their food waste contributes to a larger problem, you will encourage them to support your sustainable choices. And it doesn’t have to be when they walk in, either. You can talk about your efforts to reduce food waste on social media and on your website.
  • Save leftovers for another meal: If, despite all your efforts, someone cannot finish the food on their plate, give them the option of taking it home to enjoy later.

Reducing other food waste

If you have already prepared the food and it’s not been consumed, it doesn’t all have to end up as waste. Here’s what you could do with it.

  • Redistribute it: If the leftover food is fit for consumption, you can prevent it from going to waste by redistributing it. You can partner with a food distribution organisation, whether national or local, and make a difference in your community.
  • Food waste recycling: If your leftover food is not fit for human consumption, you might want to consider recycling it. This method of waste management provides you with several benefits, one of which is less of an impact on the environment. That is because recycling your food waste means it does not end up in landfills. Instead, it undergoes anaerobic digestion, where it is ‘digested’ by microorganisms to produce methane (CH4, a biofuel), and the remaining digestate can be used as a biofertiliser. As a result, your food waste, instead of becoming a burden to the environment, provides a source of sustainable energy and food for the soil. Plus, it is also a cheaper way of disposing of your waste than sending it to the landfill.

What to know more about reducing food waste?

Within BioteCH4 we offer services which can take the stress out of food waste management, whether that be a waste collection service or the removal of oil-based waste. We will deal with all your recycling needs from either one of our AD plants across the UK, we like to think of ourselves as a one-stop shop for the recycling of a huge variety of food waste and our experienced team will make working with us easy.

Get in touch

If you are interested in our services and would like to get touch, please contact us at:

BioteCH4, The Control Tower, Hemswell Cliff Industrial Estate,
Hemswell Cliff, Gainsborough, United Kingdom, DN21 5TU

Tel: 01427 667744


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