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Reduce food waste in your restaurant & save money

Ours is an industry that produces an inevitable amount of unavoidable food waste, such as off-cutsand peelings, but it is also one that can use better food waste measurement to save money and improve efficiency. According to the Dubai Carbon Centre of Excellence (Dubai Carbon), the UAE ranks among the top nations for per capita waste generation in the world. Roughly, 38% of the food prepared every day in the emirate is wasted, which jumps to around 60% during Ramadan. The decomposition process of food waste emits methane gas, which is reportedly 25 times more damaging than CO2. Research suggests that 75% of all food waste is avoidable and could have been eaten and that, in the UAE, restaurants are the main source of food waste, contributing 32 per cent of the total. Dubai Municipality estimates that the cost of discarding food amounts to AED 282 million annually. These figures suggest that for the hospitality industry as a whole,incorporating a food waste reduction programme is now more important than ever. Reducing food waste isn’t just good for the environment, it can also increase your profits. The Fairmont Palm Jumeirah in Dubai managed to reduce its food waste by 61% and is now saving AED 500,000 per year.

According to a recent study - conducted by the coalition Champions 12.3 and funded by The Walmart Foundation and The Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Kingdom of the Netherlands - investing in reducing food waste can help restaurants make more money - in some cases, a lot more money. In its report, The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Restaurants, a review of 114 restaurants in 12 different countries found that:

  • each restaurant was able to keep their total investment below $20,000
  • nearly every restaurant achieved a positive return, with the average saving of $7 (USD) for every $1 invested in reducing kitchen food waste
  • within one year, the restaurants had reduced food waste from their kitchens by 26 percent on average, and over 75 percent had recouped their investment
  • within two years, 89 percent of the restaurants had recouped their investment.

If you’re looking to get started with seriously tackling food wastage, here are our top tips:
  1. Measure food waste. Simply by tracking food usage and waste, you can find opportunities to scale back production while still meeting customer demand. A “food waste inventory” can help you to identify how much and where food is wasted so you can implement changes (e.g. smaller portions, menu changes or substitutions) and monitor your progress. You can also engage the services of a food waste consultancy.
  2. Predict food orders. Having a system in place to help you accurately predict food orders, either manually or with the help of digital technology. Modern, cloud-based, POS systems use AI to provide you with more accurate data, a better understanding of food order patterns and more control over your kitchen, which ultimately leads to less waste (and more money in your pocket).
  3. Engage staff. Your employees are valuable resources when it comes to reducing food waste. Some of the most innovative ideas for reducing food waste comes from kitchen and front-of-house staff, not from management. Investing in training and certifying your staff is one of the best things you can do for your business.
  4. Practise good stock control. Efficient ordering and stock rotation are of primary importance when it comes to minimising food spoilage and waste. Make sure that stored food is clearly labelled with 'best before' or 'sell by' dates and make sure everyone who handles food in your business is trained on proper First In, First Out inventory management techniques.
  5. Evaluate your ordering procedures. Ensure that you only purchase the ingredients that you know your business will use. It can be tempting to ‘stock up’ or buy in bulk if your supplier has a good deal on, but doing so can leave you with more food than you need. Tawreed Fresh recently launched in Dubai and supplies fresh fruits and vegetables in just 3 hours, which can help you keep your stock levels lower and avoid spoilage and wastage.
  6. Have a plan for excess food. Predicting customer demand is more of an art than a science; as such, restaurant kitchens will often find themselves with extra ingredients. If you don't have a plan to use those extra ingredients, they could end up in the bin. Why not turn yesterday's leftover chicken curry into a lunch special today? You can also partner with the UAE Food Bank, which works to provide food for the needy.
  7. Composting and recycling. For the food scraps you can't use, consider if composting is a viable option for your restaurant. Many items that you might just toss in the trash once you’ve used them still have life left in them. Take used coffee grounds for example – there are plenty of inventive ways you can use them before they go in the trash. You can also use old lemons to disinfect surfaces, or even clean the inside of your fridge. You could try composting. It’s nature’s way of recycling food waste. Much of what you would have otherwise put in the trash can go on a compost heap.
  8. Switch to reusable non-food items. Disposable items such as paper, napkins, plastic cutlery and dishware can generate a tremendous amount of waste. Why waste money on industrial-sized bags of plastic forks and pay a fortune to haul them away every night if you can provide your guests with environmentally friendly, reusable items? We know that sometimes these simply can't be avoided, but where you can avoid single-use items, we encourage you to do so. You can find many useful suggestions and resources on the Zero Waste Week website.
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