raspberry tart on wooden table

How to reduce your catering kitchen’s wasted food

Britain’s hospitality and catering industry throws away 0.9 million tonnes of food each year. Usually, 21% of this food waste is the result of spoilage, with 45% happening during food preparation, and 34% of it as plate waste.

making two pizzas with chuncky chopped toppings

We’ve put together four tips on how to reduce your food waste, so that you can stop your food business from wasting food and effectively save vast sums on a valuable resource.

1. Offer portion sizing options

It’s estimated that a third of food waste in restaurants is from customers plates, not the kitchen.

raspberry tart on wooden table

To combat this, why not start offering varied portion sizes to your customers? That way they’ll be more likely to eat what’s in front of them. Of course, there will always be customers with eyes bigger than their stomachs, but this can go a long way towards reducing your restaurant’s food waste.

2. Donate your surplus stock

If you have a surplus of unused stock, then you might consider donating some of it to a good cause.

There are plenty of homeless shelters and other charitable organisations located all across London and the UK which would be very grateful for your donation, and doing so would ensure that the money you spend on the food goes towards a good cause, rather than towards topping up a landfill.

Most organisations have strict guidelines on which types of food they are willing to take, so make sure you do some on research the organisation before you donate. For example, North London Action for the homeless accepts both fresh and non-perishable ingredients, but they are one of the few who do.

Usually, shelters and charities will only accept non-perishable ingredients, like pasta and various tinned items. Fare Share, a food redistribution charity, offers to work with businesses in the food industry to find the “most cost and time effective solution for dealing with your unsold food”.

brown fusili pasta in jar

3. Make sure your staff know the difference between ‘use-by’, ‘display until’ and ‘best before’ dates …

‘Use-by’ dates:

  • Indicate when the food is unsafe for consumption.
  • The penalty for selling food after its ‘use-by’ date can make customers very ill, and lead to a fine of up to £5,000.

‘Best before’ dates:

  • Indicate when the food’s quality is likely to be past it’s best, but the food is still safe to eat.

‘Display until’ / ‘sell-by’ dates:

  • Purely for the produce seller’s benefit.
  • Produce isn’t required by law to include these dates, they’re used by retailers to manage stock.

Your whole kitchen staff needs to be made aware of these distinctions, most importantly for the safety of your customers, but also so that they don’t wind up throwing away perfectly good food.

4. … And the proper storage guidelines

Improper storage causes food to go off faster, so make sure all your staff are properly briefed on the correct ways to store all of the different types of produce which are relevant to your business. This is important first and foremost as a way to ensure the health and safety of your customers, but also as a way to avoid food waste from spoiled produce.

You should always keep your fridge at a temperature below 5 degrees celsius, otherwise you run the risk of your food expiring quickly. Bread should not be kept in the fridge, as cold temperatures cause bread to go stale faster.

mixed fruit selection

Fruit and veg on the other hand will benefit from being kept chilled. Raw meat and poultry should be stored in sealed containers at the bottom of the fridge to keep the meat fresher longer, and to stop the spread of bacteria.

Wrap as many of your ingredients as possible when you store them, because exposure to oxygen and light causes food to expire faster. Therefore you should also try to store all of your produce in dark places, rather than putting them out on display for decorative purposes.

Most foods, including meats, can be frozen for at least 3 months before the quality starts to deteriorate, as long as the food in question has been frozen before the ‘use-by’ date. So if your business purchases food in large batches, as is often cost effective, then freezing will likely be a viable storage option.

Meat should be eaten within 24 hours of it defrosting, but raw meat should never be refrozen. To reduce waste, you might try freezing your produce in smaller portion sizes, and then defrost as needed.

crabs chilled in ice display

Cold room storage with Dephna’ can offer you access to facilities which are well maintained and equipped with state-of-the-art cooling systems, so you can be sure that your produce will stay fresh. Our cold rooms are made to the highest standard, and renting the space requires no capital outlay from you, so they’re suitable for any business big or small.