The National Restaurant Association reports that the United States wastes 63 million tons of food every year. The monetary impact is $218 billion – wasted. The average restaurant in one year creates more than 50 tons of food waste. Approximately 30-40 percent of all food is wasted every year with most of it winding up in the trash.
Chipotle has designed a bold plan to dramatically reduce waste from its restaurants from going to landfills. It will reduce waste, increase composting, and has pledged that 80 percent of its restaurants will participate in a food donation program. It hopes to divert half of its waste from landfills by 2020.
There are three key trends in 2018 that restaurants can capitalize on to reduce food waste, save costs and demonstrate that they care about their planet and their communities:
Root to stalk, nose to tail: It’s not just trendy diners who are clamoring for using whole plants and whole animals in menus. It also benefits the restauranteur looking to cut down on food waste. Think: Carrot tops garnishing soups, broccoli stem slaw, bone marrow appetizers.
Upcycled ingredients: Shavings from fruits and vegetables can be turned into sauces or pressed juices. Spent grains can be used to add texture to breads. Cookies and cakes past their delicate prime can be pulverized and baked to turn into crumbs and toppings.
Nonprofit partnerships: Increasingly, restaurants are turning to nonprofits to help them get food to those in need instead of a landfill. The public-private partnerships can funnel everything from excess inventory of ingredients to prepared meals to members of the community that nonprofits serve. A Food Saver Challenge in Nashville, as one example, saw the Country Music Hall of Fame reduce its trash by 24 percent, in part by donating food.
Wasted food by the truckload is the elephant in the room for restaurants nationwide. By tackling it in earnest, successful restaurants will contribute to a more sustainable planet, earn the admiration of customers who care about the environment, and bolster their bottom lines by cutting costs.