Canadian Pizza Magazine

How to reduce food waste at your pizzeria

By Andrew Hind   

Features Business and Operations Sustainability food waste pizzeria operations

Finding ways to reduce waste in your pizzeria is good for the environment, customer service and your bottom line

PHOTO: BOOPHUKET/ADOBE STOCK

Canada has one of the highest rates of food waste in the world. When the entire supply chain is factored in, the number reaches a staggering 396 kilograms per person every year, according to a study from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation.

Much of this waste is lost in transport, at warehousing, in retail settings and at the private home. But restaurants are not immune: they are responsible for their share of this food waste crisis. 

Thankfully, Canadian restaurateurs are eager to be part of the solution as well. Finding ways to reduce waste, perhaps even becoming a zero-waste business, is good for the environment, good customer service in an era when sustainability is increasingly front of mind for consumers, and good for the bottom line.     

So, let’s take a closer look at food waste specifically within the restaurant industry. Studies have consistently shown that anywhere from four to ten per cent of food purchased in restaurants never gets to customers (largely due to improper storing, over-ordering and improper training), while 30 to 40 per cent of food served to customers never gets consumed (portions that are too large being the leading cause). That amounts to more than a billion dollars in waste every year just in Canada. 

It’s a problem. 

72% of restaurants report having to increase hours worked by owners and managers to compensate for the lack of staff – Restaurants Canada Foodservice Facts Guide

And restaurant owners know it. In the Restaurants Canada “Restaurant Outlook Survey,” nine out of 10 respondents said they will invest in environmentally sustainable operations over the next three years. 

It helps that consumers have made it clear they know it as well, and that they will support with their patronage those restaurants that aim to do better. While we don’t have recent numbers from Canada, statistics from the United States are illustrative. There, 50 per cent of consumers say that they consider whether a business recycles, donates leftover food, or tries to reduce food waste when choosing a restaurant. Almost as many (47 per cent) are even willing to spend more at these restaurants.  

But restaurant owners are already harried and profit margins thin. Can they afford the time and money to address this issue? The answer is yes. The good news is that there are several relatively easy, inexpensive steps that can be taken to reduce food waste. And rest assured, the cost-to-benefit ratio of any investment of time or money spent in the process should encourage one to make the leap: studies have shown that for every dollar spent on food waste reduction, restaurants will see an average of $8 in savings. 

METHODS TO REDUCE FOOD WASTE

Focus on reducing waste, not recycling: Many restaurants have a comprehensive recycling program, some going so far as engaging in composting. That’s laudable, but it’s more important to focus on reducing food waste in the first place. This should be front of mind for owners, management and staff.  

Invest in software: Because food makes up the majority of a restaurant’s inventory, managing it well is vital to fiscal success. Inventory management can be accomplished the old-fashioned way with manual counting and spreadsheets. However, inventory management software helps ease the process and more accurately counts and tracks your products. It can also show important financial and performance data and reorder stock when it reaches certain levels. 

Create an inventory team: Owners and managers can’t do everything. They need to delegate. Create a small team of responsible individuals (two or three people) who will be responsible for tracking inventory. If the same individuals perform this task every time, they will become more efficient and will spot trends and ongoing issues. Having more than one person ensures they can check each other’s work for errors and reduces the risk of theft.

Track inventory on a consistent schedule: Count and monitor your inventory on a regular basis to see how quickly you’re using food and ingredients (called cycle counting). Plan to take inventory at the same time of day on the same day every week or month to ensure consistency. However, you can track different types of stock on different schedules. You might track more perishable food every few days, and track bulk or less frequently used items every other week. Whatever schedule works for you is fine, but make sure you stick to it. 

Organize inventory: Put labels on shelving to help staff find items quickly. This makes restocking goods easier and quicker. Identify the most-used goods and keep them in the same easily accessible spot. Ensure that older product is always brought to the front. 

Do a waste audit:  Create a team to do an audit on how much food is wasted, where the waste originates and the nature of the waste. The team should include kitchen staff, since they are familiar with the preparation process, and front-of-house and cleaning staff as they will be able to tell the quantity and nature of waste left when customers leave after eating. You may identify problems in preparation, perhaps due to lack of training. You may also identify which dishes are portioned too large or include items patrons don’t enjoy. An audit will best inform you as to where to focus your food waste efforts. 

Address the menu: Change the menu as needed after the waste audit. Identify the dishes that record the most leftovers and reduce the size of the portion served. Change or eliminate sides that customers leave. Eliminate underperforming dishes. Keeping ingredients on hand just in case  someone orders the item is a recipe for wastage.

Employee accountability:  In business, it’s often said you are only as good as your staff. It’s certainly true in this context. Any success in reducing food waste is highly dependent on the buy-in of employees. Without their attention to detail and the result, it simply won’t work. Help them understand the program and the importance of it. Take the time to thoroughly train all staff on waste reduction efforts and be consistent in the efforts – it will soon become second nature. Make sure that you hold staff accountable for how well they perform these new tasks.

Resources:

Finding ways to reduce waste will soon become second nature. It’s good for the environment, good customer service and good for the bottom line. 


Andrew Hind is a freelance writer from Bradford, Ont., specializing in food, history and travel. He is the author of 25 books and the proud father of one.


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