3 tips for lowering food waste

bean burrito

Many chefs have started looking for unique ways to cut down on food waste and get more out of the food they buy. Not only does reducing food waste help boost a restaurant’s profitability, but it can also lead to recipe inspiration and innovation, as operators seek to use versatile ingredients in new and craveable ways.

Looking for ways to cut waste? Check out these tips.

Menuing versatile ingredients and repurposing leftovers

Menuing ingredients that can be used across menu parts—and across dayparts—is one crucial way to reduce waste. Beans, for example, are a low-cost ingredient, and they offer enough versatility to be featured any time of day, which can help operators avoid food waste from spoilage. Used in dishes such as breakfast burritos, lunchtime wraps and salads or dinnertime stew and chili, beans are a great way for operators to lower waste while offering delicious dishes to consumers.

Menuing items that repurpose ingredients operators already have in inventory is another great way to reduce waste. For example, Chick-Fil-A uses pickle juice as a meat marinade, and operators have long been transforming day-old bread into house-made croutons or breadcrumbs.

Beans can also be used in different ways—cooked, mashed or pureed, blended into a dip or used to thicken soup. The liquid from chickpeas can even be whipped into a dairy-free whipped cream substitute or used in place of egg whites on cocktail menus.


Using ingredients with longer shelf lives

Some ingredients have longer shelf lives than others, giving operators a longer window of time to use them before spoilage. Ingredients such as canned produce have a shelf life of up to two years, for example. But reducing food waste this way doesn’t mean sacrificing serving on-trend, flavor-forward menu items. Canned beans and other non-perishable ingredients can be menued with manageable portions of fresh, local foods to boost craveability without increasing food waste.

As far as long-lasting fresh produce is concerned, whole fresh carrots have a shelf life of four to five weeks when refrigerated, potatoes last three to four months when refrigerated and winter squash lasts for one to three months (refrigerated or not). For long-lasting fruits, look to fresh apples, which have a refrigerator shelf life of one to two months, and citrus such as limes, lemons and oranges, which also last in the refrigerator for one to two months.

Promote LTOs

If operators know that certain ingredients are nearing the end of their shelf life, they can create limited time offers or specials to help move those menu items faster. Limited availability dishes can also help create buzz, and changing up the menu according to what needs to be used can allow chefs to be creative while they work to eliminate waste. 

To use up produce, chefs can create unique quiches that can be offered as a special on brunch menus, and meats or seafood can be transformed into dishes such as pot pies or bowl meal specials—items where odds and ends can be used efficiently without compromising on taste or quality.

Reducing food waste may require a bit of creativity, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t mean sacrificing quality or taste. With a bit of planning and menu strategy, operators can eliminate food waste while still serving craveable, delicious foods.

This post is sponsored by Bush’s Best®


Exclusive Content


Why Wingstop isn't afraid of Popeyes' chicken wings

The Bottom Line: The fast-casual wing chain says its sales improve when another brand pushes the product. Here’s why that might be.


Mendocino Farms masters a meaty Philly cheesesteak sandwich—without the meat

Behind the Menu: The fast casual uses a mushroom-based meat alternative for its Philly Shroomsteak Sandwich, a new menu item targeted to flexitarians, not just vegans.


Pay hike for couriers shakes up food delivery in NYC

Customers are paying more, and couriers are working less. What it all means for restaurants is still unclear, but some fear it could get ugly.