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Whether you are running a fast-food, full-service restaurant or fine dining establishment, finding ways to increase profit margins without affecting your customers’ dining experience is important to the survival of all restaurants.

So how do you increase the bottom line and do your part for the environment? A key solution for restaurant owners in increasing profit margins is to practice recycling and waste prevention.

Through periodic reviews of work practices and some resourcefulness, restaurants can find ways to cut purchasing, waste disposal, and utility costs, without having a negative impact on food quality or service.

While waste reduction and recycling will cut disposal costs, the biggest economic benefits come from resource efficiency. Smart purchasing and use of supplies will save businesses the most money of all waste management practices.

Waste Reduction Tips

Restaurants can reduce cost and minimize waste in many areas by implementing a simple recycling program which can include the following:

  • Avoid over-purchasing.  Over-purchasing causes spoilage and waste.  Take inventory frequently and adjust orders where necessary.   Consider using an inventory tracking system which includes a system to analyze inventory levels, spending and predicting future needs. Many inventory tracking systems also include tracking of orders and use. Order Tracking and Inventory systems like this can count quantities and ingredients used per dish or order, keeping track of how much stock is used and should be purchased.
  • Store items in the order you purchase them.  Use older items first.  Place newly purchased items at the back of the shelves and train employees on the order of use.
  • Inspect deliveries.  Many deliveries include unusable meats and perishable items which may have came open or spilled during shipment.  Accepting delivery of these items can cause discrepancies in inventory tracking.  Be sure to inspect deliveries and make adjustments to inventory tracking.
  • To avoid spoilage, store food tightly and appropriately, eliminating air in containers.
  • Use storage containers that can be reused and request that food be delivered in reusable and recyclable containers. 
  • Products that have a long shelf life should be purchased in bulk if you have the space available to store them. 
  • Use up all of a food product by reviewing your menu.  For example, instead of discarding, add celery leaves to a soup, make stock from steams and heads of vegetables. 

Additional Waste Reduction Tips by Group

Bar & Beverage

Make sure your purchases match your circumstances as it relates to type of customers, volume of customers, available storage space and other factors. For example:

  • If you don't have room for storing discarded bottles and cans then it is best to serve fountain or draft drinks.  
  • If space permits, buy in bulk.  Packaging waste is reduced when items are purchased in bulk.  
  • If food and drinks are served with disposables consider the permanent alternatives (such as changing paper plates or cups to hard plastic plates and cups).

Appliances & Equipment

Kitchen equipment and appliances will last longer and operate better when properly maintained. The bigger cost associated with improper maintenance is kitchen down time due to the malfunctions and failure of equipment and appliances.

  • All refrigeration and HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) equipment should have regular schedules for cleaning and maintenance. All coils and filters should be cleaned on a regular basis.
  • Check for air loss coming from refrigerator doors and freezers and make sure they close tightly.  
  • Check the temperature calibration of oven equipment on a periodic basis.  
  • Be sure to clean fryers and filter the oil on a daily basis (which will help extend the life of fryers and fryer oil).  

Grocery Items 

  • Buy bulk condiments.  Refill condiment bottles from condiments in bulk containers.
  • Instead of using packets of condiments (ketchup, mustard, creamers, etc.), use refillable condiment dispensers.
  • Recycle the buckets and pails that pickles, dressings, mustard and other items are contained in. 

Paper and Janitorial Supplies

  • Use paper products made from recycled materials.  Many recycled paper products are readily available and are cost-feasible.  Some examples are napkins, paper towels, toilet paper, bags, etc.
  • Don't use Styrofoam when possible.  Styrofoam takes up more room in both storage and disposal than paper/cardboard products.  Almost everything available in Styrofoam is available in a paper equivalent. 
  • Rather than using prewrapped straws, use straw containers (health department approved) to serve straws to patron.
  • Use washable and reusable dinnerware and table linens.
  • Use plastic trash can bags made of recycled HDPE instead of ones made of LDPE or LLDPE. They are much more environmentally and cost friendly.  HDPE works equally as well or better and cost less too.
  • Purchase cleaning supplies in concentrate, rather than in ready-to-use (RTU) form; then portion them into properly labeled dispensing bottles.
  • Use environmentally friendly cleaners. Cleaners that can be used for multiple surfaces are better than job-specific cleaners.

Recycling Tip 

Recycling can reduce your garbage removal bills. The majority of restaurants are required or encouraged to recycle by local law. Be sure to take a look at what is going into your trashcans and dumpsters.

  • Set up a cardboard and/or glass recycling program with one of your local garbage collectors.
  • Donate empty plastic pails or buckets to schools, nurseries, or churches; give them away, or sell them to your customers.
  • Donate old uniforms to thrift shops.
  • Donate edible leftover food to a community food bank, shelter or church group.
  • Consider working with an organics vendor to determine if off-site composting is a feasible alternative to disposal of food waste.
  • Consider a trash compactor as a means of reducing dumpster tips or container pulls.
  • Consider a Baler to bale cardboard and other recyclables in order to remove it from your waste stream.

Remember, all the information presented here can help your restaurant get started on the way to a better bottom line through reduced waste. Recycling usable waste goods makes an excellent combination for your business and the environment.

Contributor / Editor - Matt Kennedy - Refer questions to info@wastecare.com


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