01 Plan efficiently
02 Measure and analyze your food waste
03 Design a smart menu
04 Serve reasonable portions
05 Order responsibly
06 Practice good storage routines
07 Build a zero-waste culture in your kitchen
08 Go beyond your kitchen
10 Mind the taste!
Benefits: A good overview of your stock, production and service will allow keeping your food waste to the minimum and cutting costs. It will also be easier to continue monitoring the profitability of your business.
Tips for efficient planning:
1. Make structured plans for procurement, production and service and organize them accordingly.
2. Calculate adequate volume of products needed for the day based on the number of expected diners, ratio per guest and historical data.
3. Establish a way to regularly collect information and updates regarding your diners as their dietary restrictions/needs or headcount. This will allow you to estimate the number of portions and avoid overproduction. Consider introducing reservations/confirmation if the number of expected diners shifts dynamically.
4. Use digital tools, or a customized sheet to organize your planning and detail your production needs. Update the database regularly, especially if you identify miscalculations.
5. Plan work assignments according to staff experience and skills to reduce the amount of food waste. Make the executive chef responsible for guiding others in terms of production volume.
6. Plan mise en place properly. Check the condition of your utensils and equipment regularly.
7. Carefully calculate the amount of ingredients to be precooked in advance. Consider if more products can be served à la minute.
8. Depending on the type of canteen, if you do offer serving stations, make sure to control portion sizes as well as maintain food quality and presentation.
9. Depending on the type of canteen, if you charge by a meal, budget an end-of-day food discount to still make some profit.
10. Provide diners with doggy bags or takeaway boxes.
11. Make a contact list with the names of local community organizations, NGO representatives or church institutions to contact if you have surplus food that can be donated. Reach out to the preferred organization beforehand to ensure that they are on standby, to quickly pick it up.
12. Draft a list of local producers that you can contact to propose sales or barter of your by-products.
Measure and analyze your food waste
Benefits: Careful calculation and tracking of food in your kitchen will allow you to identify where your losses are, and how and what you can still optimize. Having a clear strategy in place makes it easier not to throw away surplus food or byproducts during preparation or service on busy days. You will avoid throwing away valuable resources and potential ingredients. Once you identify your wasted foods, you can make changes on your service, menu, and portion sizes accordingly.
Tips for analyzing food waste:
1. Monitor the preparation and service process from kitchen to plate to investigate where the waste occurs. Provide separate bins: for storage waste, preparation waste and for plate waste. This is how you will be able to recognize the type of waste and its origin.
2. Register and analyze kitchen and plate waste regularly, using a digital tool or simply a scale and an Excel sheet. After two weeks, you should be able to identify the first areas for improvement. Later on, if you want to analyze your waste in more detail, divide the kitchen waste for what comes from the preparation process, and what comes from the buffets and is an effect of the overestimation.
3. Go through the waste carefully with your team and think how you can avoid it in the future. Develop a plan for reducing food waste and set up realistic, job-specific goals. Check the progress and inform your team to keep them motivated.
4. Measure the size of portions and buffets and adjust their size regularly, based on the collected and analyzed waste data.
Design a smart menu
Benefits: A menu designed with an optimal amount of ingredients, and with multiple uses for each ingredient in mind, means that you store and waste less food. Flexibility in menu design can help you include surplus ingredients, which will prevent not only food waste but also money loss.
Tips for designing a smart menu:
1. Create a short and adaptable menu with different daily special options that can feature ingredients approaching its “use by” date or surplus food.
2. Check your storage and use the ingredients you already have in stock as a starting point for your menu.
3. Consider what is worth highlighting in the menu. It could encourage customers to choose according to your priority or profitability. This way you can reduce food waste while at the same time maximizing profit. If you run a corporate canteen, try to source information not only about the number of diners but also their specific dietary restrictions or preferences and take it into account during menu creation.
4. Provide clear information about ingredients in your menu, especially allergens.
5. Choose ingredients that you can use in several dishes and from nose to tail (including stalks, leaves, and stems). For example, collect quality meat cut-offs and peels for broth. Putting it in the composter should be the last resort solution.
6. Find ways to replace ingredients that you rarely use or find new uses for them.
7. When serving fresh ingredients, prioritize local produce that is in season - it will help cut the journey from farm to table and provide great taste.
8. Consider offering portions in different sizes, as well as a diverse choice of sides, to help your customers avoid ordering or helping themselves to food they will not eat.
9. Ensure that diners can make changes and substitutions to dishes.
10. If you see that diners often request a replacement of an ingredient, or reject a dish only due to one ingredient, provide a suitable equivalent.
Serve reasonable portions
Benefits: Monitoring your portion sizes empowers your kitchen staff to promote quality control. It ensures that diners always receive the portions and quality they have come to expect from you.
Tips for establishing portion size:
1. Depending on the type of canteen, if you serve portions, design them by weight. Consider the type and amount of dishes, their food cost, as well as habits and preferences of your dinners (such as: do they have one course per lunch break, or more?).
2. Analyze plate and buffet waste regularly to estimate the optimum amount of each food.
3. If you have serving stations, adjust portion sizes and pay attention to food quality and presentation.
4. Have a staff keeping an eye on buffets to prevent dinners from contaminating the food and control when to restock it and when to downsize.
5. Warm only the food that is to be served next and avoid preparing too many trays to be kept warm for hours (this reduces the chance of reusing the surplus).
6. The size of crockery and buffet serving cutlery implicates portion size. Consider offering smaller sizes for plates, glasses, and utensils, and encourage diners to refill as needed.
7. Demonstrate the size of the portions or provide information. This helps customers to take an adequate amount of food. Be ready to provide your customers with doggy bags or takeaway boxes for their leftovers.
Benefits: Close cooperation with suppliers will get you much more than better prices. It ensures better information about products and ingredients and their shelf life and use. It also opens access to sustainable products (useful for menu storytelling) and environmentally friendly delivery (reusable containers, fewer one-time orders).
Tips for responsible procurement:
1. Define goals and objectives for your procurement, such as cost savings, quality control and sustainability. Monitor them regularly.
2. Before ordering, review your storage and first try using the ingredients you already have. Check freezers and workstations for products left behind.
3. Use calculation sheets to estimate amounts and volumes of products, based on the production plan.
4. Match your orders with your stock level and production calculations to reduce storage space and improve rotation.
5. Establish good relationships with your suppliers to discuss different volume options, to only buy what you need. Negotiate your delivery plan and suggest reusable (or at least more environmentally friendly) containers.
6. Check if your suppliers offer surplus products at a discount due to their upcoming expiration date. Buy in bulk, and then vacuum pack and freeze for future use. You can incorporate them in your menu as a daily special, to minimize food waste from suppliers.
Practice good storage routines
Benefits: Full control of your storage and patterns of product usage improves efficiency and time management. Over time, this will help you save money by preventing overordering, keep your produce fresh and use as much of it as possible.
Tips for smart storage:
1. Implement the First-In-First-Out (FIFO) rule in your storage: make sure that the products with the shortest expiration dates are the first to be used.
2. Follow strict rules to return products to their assigned places after use.
3. Make sure that staff know how to correctly store different products. Take into account the proper form (roots and tubers with removed leafy green tops), temperature, air circulation and proximity of products (e.g., potatoes and onions cannot be stored together).
4. Carefully choose proper storage containers (e.g., with tight-fitting lids for the refrigerator).
5. Check the condition of your equipment regularly to ensure optimum quality of storage, e.g., temperature or humidity.
6. When you secure the ingredients for later, make sure to label them with the opening date and shelve them accordingly.
7. Vacuum pack and freeze, if necessary.
8. Use Excel spreadsheets, or other tools, to track your stock level and support proper planning and ordering. Stock waste can be tracked and registered in this way, too!
Build a zero-waste culture in your kitchen
Benefits: Food waste starts early: in the kitchen processes. Having skilled staff ensures that the product is used to the maximum and less waste is created.
Tips for building a zero-waste culture:
1. Create a collective understanding of everyday zero-waste practices and procedures. When possible, assign a person responsible for the zero-waste policy. This way you make sure everyone is on the same page and routines are followed up.
2. Plan work assignments according to staff experience and skills to reduce the amount of food waste.
3. Make sure that the staff, and especially junior staff members and apprentices, are well-trained on specific waste prevention actions:
the FIFO storage rule,
checking expiration dates and the quality of food (tasting, smelling, and touching food for spoilage),
using products smartly (finer peels, smarter cuts, etc.),
tasting products and, if possible, semi products, to ensure a balance in flavors.
4. Agree on common, realistic goals for food waste prevention, and provide regular updates to the team on progress and success rates to keep them motivated.
5. Turn waste prevention into a team building exercise, or a competition for individual members, with prizes. Engage them in registering/tracking/weighting the waste in their sections, based on agreed, feasible goals.
6. To keep the chef motivated, encourage and challenge them to create a daily special out of the excess food. Appreciate them for improving or inventing new, zero-waste recipes.
7. Offer regular staff meals from unused produce or allow the kitchen team to take the surplus food home, as a bonus.
Go beyond your kitchen
Benefits: What is waste for one, can be a resource for others. Try bartering your by-products with local producers to secure additional income and support charity to make a difference in the world.
Tips for reducing waste:
1. Depending on the type of canteen, consider end-of–the-day discounts on unsold meals and signing up for food rescue apps.
2. Establish cooperation with a local community, charity NGO, food bank or church organization for the donation of your surplus food. Notify them well ahead so they can be ready to pick up or receive it as soon as possible, preferably on the same day.
3. Secure unserved food deemed for donation. Keep meals/trays out of sight from diners and with an unbroken cold/warm chain.
4. Assign one person in charge of food donation and surplus management, to oversee the cold/warm chain, as well as ensure enough storage space.
5. Make sure you comply with food safety regulations and applicable taxes/withdrawals.
6. Look for the social/community fridges in your area to donate the surplus food.
7. If you find no way to reuse surplus food or organic waste, do not throw them away yet. Find a local business that will see your waste as a resource, e.g., coffee grounds, and will be willing to pay or barter for it.
8. Try to approach farmers to exchange it for their products, as animal feed or compost, or simply give it away.
Benefits: Better communication within your team and with your customer leads to improved efficiency and customer experience. It helps to build common values and awareness of how to avoid food waste.
Tips for better communication:
1. Share your strategies and tips with your consumers so that they can be proud for choosing a zero-waste establishment. Create appealing and informative resources for your diners, printed and digital. Mention your zero-waste approach in the menu, on posters in dining room and paper placemats.
2. You can partner with the managers to reinforce the messaging in dedicated corporate intranet sections, or in their social media channels.
3. Help dinners make better choices by demonstrating portion sizes and making recommendations.
4. Communicate to the diners that you are providing doggy bags for takeaway if needed.
5. Provide clear information about ingredients in your menu, especially allergens.
6. Ensure effective communication between the customer service staff and the kitchen.
7. Find the best ideas and formats to communicate with your personnel and guests and gather feedback: satisfaction surveys, social media exchange, or other activities. Invite your staff and customers to come up with zero-waste suggestions based on their needs and preferences.
8. Communicate donation facts with your customer so that they can use them in their messaging, for increased goodwill and sustainability reports.
Mind the taste!
In a successful canteen business, tasty food and top-notch presentation go hand in hand. Encourage the kitchen team to taste products and if possible, semi products, to ensure a balance in flavors. This will decrease the amount of plate waste and provide great dining experience, which can increase revenue and secure long-term relationships with corporate clients.