The Restaurant ManThe restaurant business is a game of tight margins. Lose a few percentage points on your Food Cost and that profit you were hoping for is eaten up. This is the first in a series of weekly posts looking at ways to reduce your food cost. In no particular order we’ll start this week with Monitoring Wastage.

Reduce your Food Cost by Monitoring Wastage

There is story that has become the stuff of myth and legend among apprentices about a big name chef (Gordon Ramsay, Matt Moran, Luke Mangan… the name changes depending on who is recounting it) who became so enraged that he emptied all the food waste bins onto the kitchen floor to demonstrate how much good food was being thrown away by sloppy and lazy chefs in his brigade.

That particular story may or may not be true, but looking in the bins is one of the first things I do when helping a restaurant or café make more money. Wastage does not just represent money you’ve spent to buy whatever is being discarded, but also money you’ve lost in revenue and profit by not selling that item. And of course higher wastage also means higher waste disposal costs.

Why does Wastage happen?
  • Poor Planning and Ordering – the food goes off before it can be used and sold.
  • Lack of Stock Rotation – again meaning that some stock reaches its expiration date before being used.
  • Poor Training – the staff don’t see the link between wastage and profit. Sloppy habits of more senior staff quickly spread to junior staff.
How to reduce waste

As usual it comes down to knowledge, organisation and control. You can’t control what you don’t measure. Implement a waste log so you know what and why items are being discarded. Every now and again look in the waste bins. Monitor the number of bags of rubbish being discarded every day. Be smarter about planning and ordering (the subject of a future article in this series on controlling Food Cost) and rotate your stock especially perishable items. Be smarter about your menu planning, if an ingredient can be used in more than one dish there is less chance of it being wasted.

And if you do have some Food Waste…

Sometimes food wastage is unavoidable. If it’s edible you can put it to good use by donating to OzHarvest for distribution to homeless and other charities, rather than just binning it.