What Food Waste Operators Tend to Overlook. Turn Food Waste into Money with Profit-Boosting Ideas.

Oct 25, 2021
Waste from restaurants, specifically from ingredient trimming, storing ingredients for too long until they spoil and become waste and food that needs to be tossed out, because it cannot be sold or because it was dropped or damaged…all of this amounts to lost money. MHA is inviting you to turn waste into money to help your budget and create profit-boosting ideas for your restaurant.

1.     Create SOPs (detailed cooking instructions) to reduce the chance of over-trimming by employees. Since each employee uses their own discretion on how much they should trim ingredients, the remaining amount of trimmed ingredients differs. In addition, it causes unnecessary loss of ingredients. Even with recipes, if you don’t have a standard, the amount of ingredients on each plate will vary. If the employees are frequently ‘heavy-handed’, you’ll lose the opportunity to sell other menu items using the same ingredients.
The solution is to make a standard operation procedure, or SOP, starting with the preparation of each ingredient, namely the right meat cleaning, slicing and trimming methods. You need to establish the standard yield for each ingredient followed by instructions for ingredient storage and correct refrigeration and freezing categorization, which can reduce ingredient spoilage before use. 

On the way to the cooking instructions for each dish, you need to establish a clear amount for each ingredient. For better results, your restaurant should have set recipes, measuring out the same amounts of ingredients before cooking every time. Establishing cooking instructions is also important, because it helps reduce waste during cooking. Furthermore, all of these standard instructions should be created into manuals for strict employee adherence.

Learn about each type of restaurant standard in our course => “Systematically Creating Standards for Your Restaurant” Systematically Creating Standards for Your Restaurant by Pornchai Nitmethawong, restaurant consultant and restaurant management guru.

2.     Preparing or cooking too much food, especially for restaurants that pre-cook food before selling like fried chicken and sticky rice shops or restaurants that need to keep a stock of ingredients to accompany main menu items like soups, curries, desserts, etc. When the pre-cooked food doesn’t sell out, it becomes waste. You can’t sell it the next day because problems will ensue if there’s any spoilage and customers buy it.
Giving leftover food to employees is an option, but you risk them intentionally cooking too much food, so they can get it for free. And the prepared ingredients that aren’t cooked can also cause waste, especially meat that’s been removed from the freezer, which cannot be refrozen once thawed, or cut vegetables that need to be tossed out because they can’t be used. All of this means a waste in food costs.
The solution is to estimate daily sales by using existing sales information. If your restaurant has a POS system, you can recall the data to check the menu item sales for each day of the week. It’ll help you better calculate the sales for the next day, give or take a small amount. Restaurants without a POS system may have to record sales for a while first. Meanwhile, you can estimate your day-to-day sales and reduce the amount of food cooked. Once you get a clear set of data, you can plan your sales.
3.     Using pre-processed ingredients can help you save on labor, time and storage space. It’s true that pre-processed ingredients cost more than unprocessed ingredients. However, pre-processed ingredients can help you save the trimming time and they’ve already passed initial inspection from the suppliers to ensure the ingredients aren’t spoiled or near expiration. In addition, the ingredients are already trimmed. The amount is reduced, taking up less storage space. In any case, you have to choose reliable suppliers and you always have to inspect the ingredients upon delivery because even pre-processed ingredients can spoil. 
4.       Turn leftover ingredients into new menu items. Sometimes trimmings can be made into other dishes, for example, a salmon, once filleted, produces some leftover meat on the bones, fins and head. Normally, the meat on the bones can be removed and added to a salad. The head is usually made into a soy sauce soup and the fins are fried and served with a seafood dip, 
or if there’s a lot of vegetable trimmings left, try making a vegetable stock for soups. This stock can also use fish bones, chicken frames and shrimp heads.
Steak restaurants may produce a lot meat trimmings. Try mincing, flavoring and frying them into hamburgers, or even the vegetable trimmings from a Thai-style sour soup can be made into other dishes to add value to leftover ingredients.
5.       Keep checking the ingredient prices, because they’re always fluctuating. If the prices go up, you may have to reduce your stock. For example, if you used to order 15% for the safety stock, reduce it to 5-10%. Wait until the prices come down or changed to order the same amount. Otherwise, you can look for other cheaper suppliers. You have to compare the ingredient prices and quality from several suppliers to ensure they meet your restaurant’s standards.

How to Reduce Restaurant Waste and Boost Profit
- Create a par level for ordering enough ingredients for each round of use. A par level is the calculated amount of ingredients for each round of ordering, taking in to consideration the following key factors:
1. The average amount of ingredients used in a week.
2. The weekly ingredient delivery schedule.
3. The amount of safety stock.

In order to know your par level, you need to first create SOPs to ensure that the ingredient amount is exactly the same or similar for every round of calculation. This will help reduce the amount of extra ingredients ordered which can become waste.

- Establish ingredient standards by dealing with your suppliers before ordering. This lets you receive ingredients that better meet your needs because if they’re the wrong specs or the trimming doesn’t meet your size standards or the ingredients have been kept for so long that they’re near spoiled, so they’re sold cheaply, you won’t be able to use them and they’ll turn into waste. Even if you can use them in other menu items, it’s not worth losing ingredients for your main menu items for this reason.

- The person responsible for receiving ingredients needs to carefully inspect them. If any ingredient is not up to par, immediately have the supplier fix it or deduct it on the invoice. Do not let this pass. The restaurant owner has to reiterate this to the inspector. Every ingredient needs to be inspected thoroughly before it’s accepted. Letting it pass ‘just once’ makes the supplier think this error is acceptable and this can have you constantly and unnecessarily losing money.

- Know how to correctly store ingredients. Since different types of ingredients require different storage methods, storing them properly can extend their shelf life, reduce spoilage and extend storage life, especially for fresh ingredients such as fresh meats and vegetables. First, you need to start with methods for slicing, rinsing, bagging and arranging on trays to properly store in the refrigerator or freezer. You can learn more about ingredient storage techniques from our course “Professional Food Storage Techniques” by Chef Willment Leong, Founder and Chairman of the Thailand Culinary Academy. 
- Use FIFO in your stock management. If your restaurant takes out any ingredient at your convenience, switch to the ‘First In, First Out’ system by using the older ingredients first. This’ll help you reduce spoilage and when you keep the inventory, you need to label the ingredients clearly. Otherwise, put the ingredients in zones according to the delivery date if you have enough space in your freezer or storage room.

- Damage during cooking can also be prevented if the flow of your kitchen work is well set up. People shouldn’t be bumping into one another. The food arrangement should be standardized. For example, ingredients should be properly separated into containers and near the preparation station to reduce the chance of the ingredients being dropped. Once the ingredients are prepared, the dishes need to be placed nearby and the amount needs to be just enough for cooking in order to prevent spillage when taking up to serve.
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