Canadian Pizza Magazine

Features In the Kitchen Ingredients
Cutting the waste

What are some best practices to reduce food waste and related costs?


January 14, 2014
By Karly O’Brien

Topics

Managing food waste can be an onerous responsibility for operators, but the money saved is worth the time and effort.

Managing food waste can be an onerous responsibility for operators, but the money saved is worth the time and effort.

Dinesh Prasad , the manager of a BK’s Pizza in Esterhazy, Sask., learned this first hand. Over the years, Prasad said he has learned to minimize food waste by trying to find a use for 100 per cent of each ingredient. He estimated that his operation now wastes about two per cent annually of the food he purchases, which is usually the result of vegetables going bad. 

“It’s all in how you maintain your kitchen, I think. It takes a lot of extra time and effort to plan ahead, but it is worth it when you see how much you can save.”

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Prasad has fried chicken as a menu item. He buys an entire chicken wholesale for $7. He then breaks the chicken apart into different pieces that he can sell individually for $4 per piece or three pieces for $9. He uses the bones from the chicken to create a broth for chicken soup, which retails at $4 per bowl. Some parts of the chicken he will use as a topping for pizza.

He estimated that he makes about $40 from one chicken, not including the $7 he used to buy it.

Across Canada, about $27 billion of food annually finds its way to landfills, with eight per cent of it coming from food service and restaurants, reported Statistics Canada.

Giovanni Prioriello, president of DecorFood America, a company which supplies the hospitality industry and provides consulting, and Mary Rolph Lamontagne, a food author, consultant and blogger, have provided the following tips to Canadian Pizza magazine readers on how to manage food more efficiently through training and managing staff, fridge organization and menu design.


Designing the menu

Before purchasing food, an operation needs to have a well-thought-out menu. An overly ambitious menu is where Prioriello said food waste starts.

Sometimes menus are designed with too many options, which results in having to buy several varieties of cheeses, spices and meats that may not sell consistently from week to week. There are always going to be a few customer favourites, so slim down the menu and focus on what is selling the best.

Take advantage of the local movement and its leanings towards simplicity by purchasing minimal ingredients that can help save on costs.

Prioriello highly recommended using fewer ingredients that can be used for several different dishes. The key is to ensure that each recipe is still unique even if the same ingredient is being used for two or three menu items.

Lamontagne also raised this point.

“When you create a menu, you are keeping in mind how many various items can you use in so many ways,” she said. “If you can’t apply an ingredient to more than one dish, then maybe you want to reconsider putting it on the menu.”

She added that it’s best to be practical. Passionate chefs sometimes find it difficult to part with favourite menu items or ingredients that may not be getting the consumer reaction to justify keeping it on the menu. However, it’s best to put the customer first as the business relies on catering to the patrons’ preferences.


Organizing the fridge

After deciding what goes on the menu, it’s time to take a look inside of the fridge and determine what tracking system is
currently in place.

Are the fruits, vegetables and meat separated and labelled in the fridge? Are they properly refrigerated? These are some common questions to ask in order to examine how the food comes in and out of the fridge and whether the fridge itself is contributing to any waste.

Lamontagne recommended using a rotating system. New shipments get placed on the bottom shelf with each ingredient listed on the box. When the oldest shipments have been used, move the newer shipments onto higher shelves. This way it is easy to take stock and see right away if a new shipment is needed.

“There should be a different shelf for each shipment, so when the food comes in it should be on its own shelf and it should move around the fridge depending on how old it is,” she said.

She advises operators to be careful during peak hours. When the operation starts to get busy, organization can easily fall by the wayside with employees focusing on getting ingredients in and out of the fridge without properly packaging and wrapping the food.

“That is where I always find that there is a lot of loss because food service is fast-paced and people end up just throwing stuff back in without properly wrapping it and put it on the wrong shelf, which brings about confusion when taking stock,” said Lamontagne. “That is how a lot of food waste starts.”

Prioriello went a step further and said that operators would benefit most from having a kitchen management system that will communicate with an existing POS system.

The kitchen management system tracks invoices, how many of each ingredient there should be in the fridge, and how much was paid for each shipment of food. The POS system tracks meal orders, what is popular and what isn’t, and peak hours, to name a few of the reports it will generate. If the two systems communicate, then the kitchen management system will subtract the ingredients based on the orders on the POS. From there, the employee in charge of stock will go into the fridge to ensure that the systems are consistent with each other.

If there is less in the fridge than the kitchen management system says, then you may have another problem on your hands: your staff.


Managing and training staff

Unfortunately, missing food can be the result of disloyal employees.

Prioriello experienced a case like this while consulting for a restaurant in the Toronto area. While trying to create ways for the business to save money, he realized that the restaurant was paying too much for food based on sales. Prioriello decided to implement a tracking system for the food after which he caught a couple of employees stealing food  from the restaurant.

“It was the result of not managing the fridge properly and checking stock regularly. When you fail to do that then mischief can start in the kitchen.”

This case may not have been the result of food waste, per se, but it does reinforce the need to have a few staff members check on stock to verify the correct amount of food is in the fridge. It also shows how important it is to consistently track an operation’s food flow.

To start a system whereby the food flow is being tracked, your staff need to get on board with the idea. The best way to do that is by collecting employee opinion and feedback. “Ask them what they think and do some test runs of different management systems like a manual one, a computerized one and see what they think,” said Lamontagne. “This personalizes it for them and makes them feel like they’ve helped the business become more successful.”

It can be troublesome to train employees to follow new rules, but over time it becomes habit.

“Once it is in place and it’s been happening for a while, it becomes second nature, kind of like seatbelts. They will end up doing it as long as they see that it helps the business, but expect resistance.”

Although it’s tough to break out of old habits, the reward of purchasing less food, making the most of that food and saving money are incentive enough to make changes.