One of 2017’s hottest food trends has nothing to do with the latest flavors or global cuisine’s next darling. Instead, it has everything to do with trash – or what used to be tossed out in many kitchens.
The zero-waste kitchen is on-trend and a win-win: Food waste reduction can be a traffic driver for sustainably minded consumers. It’s undeniably good for the planet. And, of course, avoiding wasted product will save your operation money. In fact, some 40% of consumers say restaurants with “sustainable” callouts are healthier than others, up from 32% in 2016, according to Technomic’s recent Healthy Eating Consumer Trend Report.
Here’s a look at how some operators are reducing food waste.
1. Embrace food preservation
Pickling is the perfect way to practice root-to-peel vegetable usage while differentiating your operation. Menu mentions of pickled items used as sides and extras are up 4.3% year over year, and callouts of kimchi rose 7.8% during the same time, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor data.
Mendocino Farms features a Kurobuta Pork Belly Banh Mi with pickled daikon and carrots, cilantro, cucumber, jalapenos and chili aioli on ciabatta. Chefs are also reducing waste by turning less-than-perfect vegetables into stocks and sauces, employing overripe berries in housemade jams and even frying up vegetable peels and scraps to use for garnish.
2. Creative consumer education
Sometimes, operators need to get creative to school consumers on an issue. Not long ago, Shake Shack offered a one-day-only Juice Pulp Cheeseburger LTO. The vegetarian burger, according to the chain, was made of “smashed leftover vegetable pulp from a cold-pressed juice operation topped with green leaf lettuce, melted cheese from Jasper Hill cheese trimmings, bruised beet ketchup and honey-mustard mayo, all served on a repurposed bread bun that incorporates a mash made from stale rye bread.”
Similarly, celebrity chef Jose Andres and his team cooked up paella and vegetable curry for 5,000 people in Washington, D.C., made with 2,000 pounds of produce that had previously been destined for the landfill (largely for cosmetic reasons). Such culinary “stunts” can help educate consumers about the issue of food waste.
3. Smart kitchen management
Operating an organized, efficient kitchen will go a long way toward reducing food waste. Buy only what you need. Invest in high-quality food-storage containers. Label everything. Conduct a food-waste audit to track where waste is coming from. Consider taking employees on field trips to visit area farmers to witness the care that goes into producing their ingredients. Contract with a composter who will turn any unusable food scraps into soil.
Chef Rick Bayless, who has been composting in his restaurants for more than 15 years, suggests outfitting the kitchen with round trash cans for compostable scraps and square trash bins for all other waste.
4. Repurpose ingredients
Avoid purchasing ingredients that are only used in one menu item. Look for ways to cross-utilize produce, sauces, proteins and more throughout your menu, or create new menus with an eye toward using existing ingredients.
A housemade pesto, for example, could be used in pasta or as salad dressing. Blue cheese could be used to dress up an LTO burger or could provide an upsell opportunities with loaded fries. Look through your menu to find inefficiencies that may be leading to waste and find ways to eliminate them.
Smarter food waste control through smarter technology
Lowering your restaurant’s food waste has many benefits, not only for the environment and for your sustainably minded guests, but also for lowering overall food costs. While lowering food waste is a great concept, it can be difficult to master without the right software.
Implementing a back office system in your restaurant will help monitor your food operations to lower food waste and keep your food costs under control. Using an integrated back office technology allows you to forecast how much to prep every day, which is essential to not over-prepping or under-prepping—both of which result in wasted food. Tracking your daily waste using a back office system allows you to drill down into the problem and adjust your operational issues where needed to help prevent future food waste. By preparing a forecasted production plan and keeping track of what’s wasted, a restaurant chain can easily stride towards better food waste management. Learn more at www.crunchtime.com.