Taking on a project to reduce food waste in professional hotel and restaurant kitchens may not seem like an exciting project, but, if done correctly, can improve quality and dramatically reduce costs.

The cost of food is one of our biggest expenses on the F&B P&L statement. As a food and beverage professional, how much time do we spend looking into this? At times, I am sure most of us complain about the fact that we never have enough money to buy all the supplies we need; I know I did! We need a new display stand, extra equipment, more glassware, there always seems to be something, but often we are throwing that much away on a daily basis by not taking enough care of one of our most expensive and fastest deteriorating products–food.

There are several ways you can approach this, but forming a food cost team is the easiest ways to attack this. Get the team together and make sure you have thoughts and opinions from all sides. Invite someone from the purchasing area or accounting, someone from the front-of-the-house, at least one or two people from the kitchen, of course, your Chef, and someone from the service end. Usually the team sees all of the waste going on and can help guide this process. I would start weekly at first, then switch to bi-weekly, and then monthly as you feel this process taking course and costs going down.

As I indicated earlier, the quality of the product served can also be improved greatly as you look at the freshness of the products that you are buying.  Over-buying and over-production of food, which in many cases is served later, reduces the quality of the end-product.

Here are some of the top items that can, from my experience, be explored as areas of concerns in most kitchens, well as, some good starting points to look at with your team:

  • Over-preparation – How much food is left over at the end of a large function? At the end of the night? What are we doing with this?
  • Over-cooked or Burnt —Do we keep track of mistakes and misfires? How do we account for this, and who is held accountable? Of course, we understand accidents happen, but this also should be taken into account.
  • Over-purchasing — How much lettuce do we throw away? What about bananas? Do we need a whole case?
  • Storage facilities – How is our fish purchased? How is it stored? Do you track how much is purchased to how much is sold?
  • Center of the plate inventory – Do we count this daily and compare to sales?
  • Theft – I know we don’t like to talk about this, but it does happen, and more often than you think. How do you know, and how are you checking this?
  • Product freshness upon delivery—Does the produce company send you the old lemons because they know that you don’t check? Is your fish the freshest when it comes in, or does it already have a week on it? Fish that lasts 2-3 days after purchasing can cost you a lot of money.
  • How much prepped and chopped food is left over and tossed at the end of the night? Are we filling the hotel pans to the top just because they are that size? What is left over at the end of the shift?
  • Soups and Sauces—How much are we heating up, chilling, and then reheating, while the quality is going down and down?
  • Creamer– Do we preset these?
  • Servers issues— Are we ringing in food correctly? How are we addressing these items?

The other topic to talk about is value retention when repurposing. Finding ways to reuse the product that was over produced or overbought can really help with your food cost. But, doing it smartly, can impact the bottom-line.  For instance, if you buy too much beef tenderloin, and then end up using it for burgers, you’re completely under-utilizing something that you may have paid $15 per pound for and selling it for basically at it’s cost. If you can’t sell it at the price you planned, what is the next best use? Can you create specials? Can you do a beef tip dish? In other words, can you create something that holds the value of the product? Just getting rid of it is better than throwing it away, but not always cost-effective. Doing some training with your culinary team can work wonders in this area.

As you see, with a little care, and the whole team on board, you can make a real difference. Center-of-the plate items can average $10-$15.00 per pound. Just a little time each day identifying problems and finding solutions to food waste, can really pay off and give you that much-needed equipment, or labor dollars, to reinvest back into the restaurant.

Russ Blakeborough, Managing Director, Focus F&B, has 30+ years of experience in this field and specializes in helping restaurants increase quality and profitability.  His years as an Executive Chef, give him an edge when it comes to food cost.  Put his experience to work for you today. Contact him at www.focus-fb.com

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