Reducing Your Restaurant Food Waste (Plus 5 Tips)

Owning and operating any business has long nights of paperwork and reconciling accounts to try and find where to cut costs make room for profits. While they aren’t the most fun, these tasks are sadly necessary to create a sustainable and successful business, especially for virtual and ghost kitchen startups.

The higher pressure of monitoring the incoming and outgoing costs is increased within the food industry as the goods provided cannot simply stay on the shelf until someone buys them. Working to cut down on food waste will lower the cost of operations for both you and your customers. 

Every dollar invested in cutting food waste saves seven dollars on average for restaurants.

So, how much does your business lose on waste? 

While individual items might not seem like much, those numbers can quickly add up. When you're juggling online orders, a loyalty program, and POS integration, it's sometimes hard to remember your inventory management best practices. 

However, all the hidden food costs that eat at your margin mean that you need a better system.

How Restaurants Are Tackling Food Waste

That's why so many restaurants turn to online ordering software with a POS tablet integration to effectively manage inventory access, online sales, and even promotions or discounts that could impact inventory performance. 

Use Tech to Reduce Food Waste

Building a strong and organized management system is a foundational aspect of creating an efficient kitchen. Making use of a restaurant SaaS can turn a stressful collection of various platforms into a single, easy-to-use dashboard so you can focus on strategy over implementation.

Another perk of using one central program to track your ghost kitchen is the decrease of food waste through proper planning. Making sure you only have what you need on hand will make foul expirations less common and give you more chances to change up your menu, using ingredients near that dreaded "best by" date.

When you find the right inventory platform that meets your needs, you'll be surprised at how it boosts your delivery times, order turnaround, and bottom line. 

Suppose you're using a legacy POS system or depend on manual input to track delivery orders, up-serve opportunities, and sales data. In that case, you're making it harder to see where waste occurs. 

Not only are these methods outdated, but they're also needlessly complicated. When you can't set up a customer data integration with your website to track online orders or view stock levels, you must find ways to join separate processes manually. For a restaurant owner, this can negatively impact your bottom line. Many entrepreneurs and vendors invest in streamlined POS systems that make online orders and inventory tracking a much simpler process.

When you invest in this online ordering platform, it can help you eliminate waste in real-time. You can forecast your inventory needs more accurately, predict incoming orders based on customer data, and connect online food orders from your restaurant website to your POS for more accurate tracking. 

On top of that, restaurant owners can worry less about human errors impacting brand performance. Plus, many modern online ordering software platforms enable you to review your inventory via a mobile app. Even if you're not at your restaurant, you can still use your smartphones to take a look at your stock levels.

Run an a Waste Audit of Every Storage Area

Known as a waste audit, this comprehensive style of taking inventory will make sure that what you're keeping on hand actually matches the needs of your kitchen. It's also an important practice to find areas of opportunity in your storage solutions.

Make sure that each ingredient is being stored at the correct temperature and that certain foods that spoil each other aren't staying in the same place.

Rethink Your Menu

Depending on your food delivery orders, this can significantly reduce waste and free up inventory simultaneously. 

With the right ordering system, you're better equipped to determine which ingredients are and aren't performing. You can then use your restaurant POS system to adjust future online food orders for that product. Then, you can tweak your menu to incorporate that ingredient elsewhere instead of wasting it or risking spoilage. Restaurants of all sizes depend on cross-utilization, not only for their profits but also for their hungry customers.

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The modern customer base often focuses on sustainability and clean eating. Restaurateurs can embrace this business value, utilize a reduced-waste approach in their marketing campaigns, and boost table reservations and curbside pickup requests. This boosts customer satisfaction for your brand, makes for easier menu management, and allows for the seamless integration of your online food ordering software and your restaurant POS. This allows for greater takeaways and valuable insights and enables you to rethink your inventory ordering experience to enhance cross-utilization and taper down waste.

Establish a Routine

While many corporate restaurant partners have company-wide inventory management standards, independent brands often struggle to develop lasting routines. While it's one thing to integrate your delivery platform, mobile device app, or online ordering website, it won't make much of a difference if you don't regularly review the pertinent data. That's why the next step is to establish an effective routine. For many brands, it's a good idea to do weekly checks, especially if you have a rotating menu or seasonal dishes. This is a great way to ensure product freshness for both in-person and online food requests.

On the other hand, brands with a more static menu may want to consider starting with weekly inventory reviews and then moving to monthly ones. However, the longer you go between your inventory reporting reviews, the more likely it is that you'll face higher levels of waste. With a routine, you can make it easier to support your delivery zones, avoid transaction fees for additional ordering due to low stock levels, and address customer needs.

Create an Inventory Management Team

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When you have too many cooks, it's easier to muck up your inventory management. That's why it's essential to create a team dedicated to ongoing inventory management tasks and reviews. The premise is simple: it prevents these workflows from changing too many hands. You can even subdivide your team to greater effect. One member can handle the inventory reviews for phone orders and mobile ordering, while another can address customer support and its impact on free and discounted menu items. This is a good way to ensure that tasks stay consistent, though assigning team roles may not be necessary. For smaller teams, you may want to consider training each member on the inventory best practices.

Since your inventory can impact your takeout, dine-in, and online orders, you must have a team that can quickly spot points of interest and helps you make decisions. Usually, this team consists of admin-level staff members and managers. This applies to all kinds of brands, including cafes, drive-throughs, and fast-casual concepts.

Know Your Kitchen's Routine

Thanks to the advances in food tech, your restaurant's SaaS is able to track order times, customer peaks and the type of food most often ordered. To break that down you'll want to know:

  • Your busiest time of day
  • The amount of each item ordered
  • How long orders take to complete

Each of these can help you pinpoint changes to make to the prep work in order to keep as close to the actual amount of food needed each time the lunch rush comes through. If you're regularly making too much prep food for a dish that doesn't sell, it may be time to either cut the item entirely or limit how much prep is done and have it simply be a reactive dish needing an order before any work is done on it.

Get Customers Involved!

Let's say you've gotten your food waste down to almost nothing. This feat is something to share with your customers and online following! Not only do you get to show how committed you are to being as sustainable as possible, but you can also make changes that more heavily impact the customer with less backlash and they'll understand it's all done for a greater purpose.

Most kitchens offer to-go containers for leftover food so you can push this even more with eco-friendly boxes, getting guests excited to take the food home rather than leaving it on the plate to be discarded.

Large plates of food can often be cut down in regards to the portions given which reduces waste for you and your customer on every single order. At the end of the day, it's important to remember that running a ghost kitchen is a relationship between you, your customers and your ingredient providers. Keep an open and honest dialogue while pushing towards sustainability and savings together and you'll be amazed at the support you can receive.

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