Restaurant Food Waste – How Much Food Is Thrown Away by Restaurants & Why?

reducing food waste in restaurants

All restaurants strive to serve fresh food to their customers. While that sounds great to consumers, it does mean that old or unused food needs to be discarded to make room for fresh ingredients. But what happens to all that wasted food? Restaurant food waste is a substantial and growing issue in America. Approximately 22-33 billion pounds of food must be tossed in our dine-in/carry-out experiences. And that’s not counting hotels, hospitals, and schools.

Today, we will explore why it’s unreasonable to expect restaurants to utilize 100% of their food supply. We’ll examine the restaurant experience, food waste concerns, and potential solutions to further reduce food waste.

Food waste at restaurants is inevitable, despite many restaurants’ efforts to maximize food usage. Read more for ways to reduce waste and take better care of our planet.

Looking for a provider of restaurant composting services in Houston to improve the sustainability of your restaurant? See what Moonshot can offer today!

Where Is All the Food Waste Coming From?

So, why is the average food waste percent in restaurants so high?

There are varying sources like management and extensive menus. But the leading cause? Oversized portions. Some restaurants serve portions 2-8 times larger than is recommended by the FDA or USDA.

Another stat involves food waste cost. Recent studies reflect $162 billion in food waste-related costs and $2 billion in lost profits annually. 

It’s time to help Planet Earth. She needs us. And despite its best efforts, the restaurant business can use some help, too.

why do restaurants throw food away

Why Do Restaurants Throw Food Away?

These stats beg the question: why do restaurants have to throw away food?

According to a report from Business Insider, here’s the deal. Almost 85% of food that isn’t used in American restaurants is thrown out. This happens in various ways. 

  • We don’t eat certain parts of food: seeds, pits, peels, rinds, shells, etc.
  • Some food goes bad before we can get to it.
  • Mistakes are made in the kitchen.
  • Customers leave food on their plates – an average of half a pound is wasted per meal served.
  • There are incorrect orders.
  • Sometimes food is sent back when the customer isn’t satisfied.

The scenarios seem overwhelming when you think about how much food is thrown away by restaurants. However, many of these cases are due to consumers and not the restaurant. The Moonshot team consistently works with restaurant owners and/or operators who attempt to optimize their food usage and reduce waste wherever possible.

5 Methods for Reducing Food Waste in Restaurants

Now, let’s talk about how to reduce food waste in restaurants. Yes, let’s look at how you can directly affect all the numbers we’ve covered so far. We’ll cover five core ways consumers and restaurants can reduce food waste.

how to reduce food waste in restaurants

1. Buy Ingredients with Aesthetic Imperfections

Maybe you’ve heard imperfect fruits, veggies, and more referred to as “ugly produce.” This is a $6 billion problem, and it can all change with a perspective shift.

Minor blemishes aren’t affecting freshness or quality. Just because the fruit is a bit deformed or crooked doesn’t mean it’s no good. In this case, it’s time to lower our standards. As a restaurant manager, using “ugly produce” can immediately help reduce waste in the food supply chain.

how much food waste does a restaurant produce - portion size

2. Ask for Preferences & Differentiate Portion Sizes

Some of the most wasted foods are chips, side veggies, and salads. If asked, customers might opt to pass on certain complimentary appetizers or side dishes. Further, if restaurants offer more portion sizes at different price points, those choices could help reduce waste.

For the consumers out there, asking if smaller options are available is an easy way to leave a smaller food waste footprint on the world.

average food waste percent in restaurants - puree

3. Repurpose and Multi-Use Ingredients

Get creative. Find a way to make soups, sauces, or smoothies with leftover produce and other ingredients. If you use artichoke hearts in a salad, don’t throw the rest out. Incorporate the rest of the veggie on a pizza or in a new pasta special.

why do restaurants have to throw food away - reuse

4. Discount Pricing 

Cooking with “day old bread” or even selling it as such isn’t a new concept. It’s a great way to reduce waste. Use what you have. Some restaurants offer discount items and reduced prices on certain days of the week. This can even help increase business on that otherwise slow day. 

average restaurant food waste - composting

5. Composting

Did you know the average restaurant produces about 100,000 pounds of trash each year? It all heads to the landfill. Some of that is food waste. Composting can be a great solution to introduce into your foodservice process. 

You can compost more than food. Paper products like napkins, cups, and plates can also decompose.

Composting kitchen scraps and select consumer waste items can be a key to environmental success. It falls on the restaurant to ensure that the type of dinnerware/serving trays/utensils are compostable.

By recycling alone, most restaurants can cut their waste totals in half. By recycling and composting, some restaurants have been able to cut their waste by nearly 90 percent. That’s not only incredible; it’s possible. 

More than ever, people are sustainably-minded. Your new eco-friendly composting system could attract top-talent employees and new faithful customers.

Learn How Moonshot Is Making Composting in Restaurants Easy

You ask, “How much food waste does a restaurant produce?” We answer with some of the most up-to-date information.

Moonshot is on a mission to make composting in restaurants easier than ever. It’s great for the environment. And your customers love knowing their dine-in/carry-out experiences are backed by sustainability practices. Visit our homepage for more information on how our Houston compost collection services work! Join us as we starve landfills and end food waste!

Let’s make restaurants the best – all-around. Shoot for 5-stars in every way!

Contact Moonshot today to learn how we can help!