1. Reduce your menu
Wastage is like an invisible disease: it's hard to see and quantify and sometimes it does irreparable damage. This is especially true for restaurants that have a large menu, but don't have a large number of customers. A few days ago I was reading a comment on a Facebook page for pizzaioli/pizza chefs where someone was doing a trial shift at a pizzeria and they were describing how difficult it was having to memorise the 120 pizzas that are in their menu, in a pizzeria that only does 60 pizzas a day. Somebody else pointed out that it should not be to difficult as they have 250 pizzas on their menu! I'll leave the rant about long menus and the paradox of choice for another article, but suffice to say that too many items will lead to increase wastage.
2. Start a waste list
In some restaurants I worked for the head chef would put a list by the bins and chefs had to enter whatever they were throwing away (or instance out of date food). This practice can help you to be more aware of dishes that are not selling or if your team are making batches that are too big or maybe they are not rotating the stock/supplies in the right way
3. Check expiry dates
You need to make sure that the ingredients you buy have a decent shelf life. Sometimes suppliers won't tell you some items are in their "clearance list" as they are near expiry date and the will just send them you! This is true both for ingredients like mozzarella for pizza - that normally have a couple of weeks shelf life and you can afford to buy in slightly larger quantities as what you don't use this week you can use the next - and highly perishable foods like salads in which case you want to pick the bags at the bottom of the crate, which will be newer and hence will expire later.
4. Plan on how to use off cuts
Can you make a fishcake with your fish trimmings? A pie with your meat trimmings? A pasta bake with your cold cuts off cuts? A soup with your veg unwanted bits? On the other side of the medal can you afford not to have a perfectly square turbot or diced carrots so that you can use all of it?
5. Join an App or offer a Surprise Box
The internet has made cutting waste a bit easier. Nowadays we have apps like Too Good To Go that can help you get rid of the last few portions at the end of the night/week. The main problem with those Apps it that you don get that much - typically 33% of the menu price, or in other words customers are paying £3.33 and expect to get £10 worth of food - and you pay, in percentage, very high fees - around £1.18 on the £3.33 purchase. I had a go at this myself but in the end I gave up as ti was just not worth the time and hassle, also because you have to list how many surprise boxes you will be giving away the day before, if you don't have loads of left overs - for instance you own a restaurant where most items are prepared to order as opposed to a carvery or Sunday roast venue - you may end up having to give away fresh food! An idea around this could be to offer your own surprise boxes that you can advertise on your social media or app, offer a "mystery dish" ( a bit like Lastminute.com hotels) or offer discounts at the end of the night or week so that when we close the doors there is very little left in the fridges.
Alan shares his experiences, struggles and tips to help other small restaurant operators.