How to Reduce Your Restaurants Food Waste

How to Reduce Your Restaurants Food Waste - Chef Works

Author: Sarah Crago  

How to Reduce Your Restaurants Food Waste

Food waste is a global challenge with environmental, economic and social impacts. The hospitality industry is a major food waste offender. Follow these tips on how to reduce your restaurant's food waste and reduce your overall COGS (cost of goods sold).

Restaurant Menu Photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash

Reduce Food Waste

The Australian Government has committed to halving food waste in Australia by 2030. This is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 - By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.

Fact Check:

  • One-third of the world's food is wasted.
  • 25% of the water used in agriculture is used to grow food that is ultimately wasted – throwing away one burger is equivalent to a 90-minute shower.
  • Food waste produces 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions (3% of Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions). If food waste was a country, it would be the third-largest greenhouse gas emitter, behind the USA and China.
  • The food sector accounts for around 30 per cent of the world’s total energy & consumption and accounts for around 22% of total greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The cost of food waste to the Australian economy is $36.6 billion a year.
  • We are estimated to waste 7.6 million tonnes of food per year, equivalent to 312kg per person. Yet, 5.5 million people experience food insecurity every year in Australia.
  • Australia uses around 2600 gigalitres of water to grow food that is wasted – this equates to the volume of water in five Sydney Harbours.
  • The amount of land used to grow wasted food covers 25 million hectares, which is larger than the State of Victoria.

Business Case for Food Waste Solutions

There is a strong business case for investing in food waste solutions in your restaurant. It could end up saving you money and you will be contributing to food security and Australia’s food waste reduction goals.

A recent study conducted by Champions 12.3 (a coalition of executives from governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, farmer groups, and civil society dedicated to accelerating progress toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3 by 2030) found a significant business case for reducing food waste in restaurants.

Data was collected from 114 restaurant sites, located across 12 countries, and found the following results:

  • The average benefit-cost ratio for food waste reduction was 7:1 over a three-year time frame.
  • Within the first year of implementing a food waste–reduction program, 76 % of the sites had recouped their investment.
  • Within two years of implementing a program, 89 % of the sites had recouped their investment.
  • By reducing food waste, the average site saved more than 2 cents on every $1 (USD) of the cost of goods sold.
  • Restaurants achieved an average 26 % reduction of food waste by weight over a 12-month time frame. 58 % over three years, meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12.3 target of halving food waste.

The table below illustrates the Costs vs Benefits associated with measuring food waste in your restaurant. Measuring your food waste may involve some upfront costs, however, evidence shows that the benefits of measuring and reducing food waste and loss far outweigh the long-term costs of not addressing it.




  • Measuring food loss and waste and identifying hotspots
  • Increased operational efficiency
  • Expenditures on consultants and staff training
  • Lower operating costs (including purchasing costs, energy costs and even labour costs)
  • Purchasing new equipment and/or repairing existing equipment
  • Additional revenue via previously unsold foods
  • Changing purchasing or inventory management practices
  • Lower waste collection and management costs
  • Changing daily business operating procedures


Read more about the business case for reducing food waste from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation

5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste

Follow these five actions to achieve successful food waste reduction in your restaurant.

  1. Measure food inventory

    Conduct a food waste audit of your restaurant. This can simply be done by keeping a record of your food inventory – what is coming in, going out, and where it is being wasted. This will help you to identify hotspots in your food chain and assist in developing a food waste management plan.

    There are several templates and online tools which can help you measure your food waste, a good starting point is the Food Loss + Waste Protocol.

  2. Engage staff

    Staff engagement is key in determining the success of a food waste reduction program. Both kitchen and service staff need to be involved in the food waste reduction plan and given clear guidance from the leadership team. Listen to your staff, the most innovative ideas for reducing your restaurant’s food waste will come from those on the ground.

    Set realistic waste reduction goals and reward staff for meeting them, engagement will lead to success.

  3. Reduce overproduction

    Overproduction and large portion sizes are some of the biggest contributors to food waste in your restaurant. Batch cooking and buffets are often employed to save time and money, but they will end up costing you more in terms of food waste. Tracking your production and the food being left on customers' plates will help you identify waste hotspots.

  4. Rethink inventory and purchasing practices

    Once you have followed steps 1-3 above you can really drill down and examine your inventory and purchasing practices. This could mean working with suppliers to have a more agile delivery schedule and only order on a need basis. Streamline your inventory and eliminate the items which were identified as waste hotspots. Using local and seasonal produce is a great way to start and can bridge the gap between producers and your kitchen. Read more about innovating with local produce here.

  5. Repurpose excess food

    Achieving zero waste is an unrealistic goal for the majority of restaurants. You will find yourself with food waste, what’s important is to know what to do with it and how you can repurpose it to generate revenue or donate it to charities tackling food scarcity.

    Turning vegetable peels and bones into stock and preserving or pickling excess fruits and vegetables are simple ways to repurpose edible food waste. For the perished food, composting food waste is a great option and can also nourish a kitchen garden. Start small, grow your own herbs and greens, this can be done on a window sill and can supplement your staff meals if nothing else.

    Donating your excess food supplies to charities is a great way to give back to your community and help fight Australia’s food scarcity problem.

    Suggested charities:
    Foodbank Australia
    Food For Change

Food Waste Resources

To read up and find out more check out these resources:

Clean Up Australia
Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment
Food Loss + Waste Protocol
Stop Food Waste Australia
Commission for Environmental Cooperation

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