Stop Wasting, Start Saving: Reducing Food Cost with Waste Management

Food waste is costly.  According to the USDA, food waste makes up 30-40% of the total US supply. This costs roughly $1.61 billion a year. At Restaurant Magic Software we want to help reduce food waste. We have identified 5 common reasons for excess food waste, and what you can do about it. With a little oversight you too can be on your way to reducing your food costs and improving your bottom line.

The first step to reducing waste related food cost is to figure out where your waste is coming from. Implement a tracking system to see where you are really losing your food. You may be surprised by what you find. The USDA estimates that merely tracking your waste can reduce your food costs as much as 2-6%. That’s worth a little effort, if you ask me. You can track waste with pen and paper, but to realize the full benefit, use a waste tracking software like Data Central’s Waste Management Module. With this tool you can easily track waste electronically and spot long term trends.

Common Sources of Waste

  • Over-ordering – It’s hard to know what you really need on hand. We all have slow days in the industry, or once popular dishes that fall out of favor. Without an inventory management solution, it’s really just guesswork, and that can be costly. Using software that can cross-reference daily head counts with sales items and weather conditions can show you sales trends. With this information you can make sure you are ordering just what you need on hand.
  • Accepting spoiled/wilted goods from vendors – Damage happens in transit, especially to fragile produce like leafy greens. Don’t let this waste into your restaurant. Train your staff to accept only quality food items. Make sure they know what to look for when inspecting incoming product. Give them clear direction on how to communicate with the delivery driver and vendor if something needs to be sent back.
  • Improper storage conditions – Carefully manage the conditions of your kitchen to optimize the shelf life of your food items. Make sure to keep walk-ins and food storage areas clean and in good condition. Pay attention to your dry storage. These items may not require as much attention as perishables, but you can maximize their shelf life by taking some simple precautions. Keep items like beer and wine in a dark, cool area to improve long-term quality
  • Organization – Devise a policy for food turnover and stick to it. Most of us use FIFO (First In First Out). This is great in theory, but hard to accomplish if the organization doesn’t support it. Make sure items are properly labeled and shelves are organized and uncluttered. There’s no way your kitchen staff can use the right item if they can’t see it.
  • Staff – Small waste can add up. Staff practices and attitudes make a difference. If your team isn’t scraping the mixing bowl you’ve got excess waste. Maybe just a little, but that little bit adds up over time. Make sure your staff understands the value of food cost and be clear about prioritizing waste. If you model the behavior and openly discuss waste-reducing practices it will be easier to get everyone on board.

If you really want to cut down on waste, consider using a comprehensive management solution. A software, like Data Central by Restaurant Magic, allows you to track and manage your food deliveries, record and identify waste, efficiently take inventory and get enterprise level reporting.  You won’t have to manage multiple spreadsheets or stacks of paperwork. It can give you all the information you need in one place, providing more meaningful insights into your food cost equation.

Data Central by Restaurant Magic is a comprehensive back office software management program with full-service support. We would love to talk to you about devising a strategy to reduce your waste and food cost. To find out more, please call us at (813) 288-2633 (toll free, 1(800) 933-4711) or visit our website at