In recent years, food waste has become a big topic across the restaurant industry. It’s estimated that restaurants in the US generate around 22-33 billion pounds of food waste each year. To combat that, many operations look for ways to reduce food waste without taking a big hit to margins.
While this may seem like a daunting task, there are easy ways to reduce food waste that your operation can implement right away. In fact, some of these ideas can also help increase restaurant profit in the process.
Take food scraps, for example.
Think about all the vegetable peelings and meat trimmings you produce while prepping your dishes. Typically, you would likely toss those scraps aside and move onto the main dish.
What if you could utilize those scraps in ways to reduce food waste while also bringing in additional profit? The cost of the ingredients has already been factored into existing dishes, so any additional use would be pure profit.
Are you intrigued yet?
Keep reading to learn about six creative ways to reduce food waste while increasing your restaurant’s profit.
6 ways to reduce food costs in restaurants
1) Fried Brussel Sprout Leaves
Nowadays, brussel sprouts are a hot item. Chances are you have them somewhere on your menu.
As you cut your brussel sprouts to prepare them for other dishes, there are leaves that fall off and are typically not desired for the original dish.
Take those extra leaves and fry them briefly, either in a deep fryer or in a pan of oil. Once done, toss them with salt, parmesan cheese, and a little lemon juice.
There you have it! A perfect appetizer or light bar snack. If desired, dress it up by adding a side of your signature aioli.
This is a great way to turn something that would be “trash” into a delicious addition to your menu.
2) Steak Tartare
You read that right – steak tartare.
If your operation does any type of butchering in-house, there is a great opportunity for you to utilize the meat trimmings into an entirely new dish.
Instead of using the meat trimmings for a stock or sauce, take the beef trimmings and remove as much fat as possible. Dice the beef finely and mix with a small amount of tartare seasoning.
- We recommend: ¼ Dijon mustard, 2 tbs olive oil, ¼ cup finely cut chives, ¼ Tarragon finely chopped, ¼ Sherried Shallots (Brunoise shallots and soak at least 2 hours in sherry vinegar), and salt and pepper to taste.
Finding ways to reduce food waste while also creating a new, high-value menu item sounds like a win to us!
3) Fried Root Vegetable Peelings
Your menu likely features a few different root vegetables – carrots, parsnips, beets, etc.
As you peel the items for their original dishes, save the scraps! You can fry the peelings and use as a garnish to another dish.
Or, lightly season the fried peelings and serve with an aioli for the perfect craveable bar snack.
Utilizing food scraps like this might be one of the easiest ways to reduce food waste.
4) Bring Life to Your Wilted Herbs
If you see your herbs are starting to wilt, you may think it’s time to toss them out. Before you do, consider some alternative uses for them!
Wilted herbs are a great option for pesto. Or, use them to create a marinade for proteins.
We recommend simply pureeing the herbs with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. From there you can rub on proteins, use as a marinade, or use as a pesto oil to add while plating a dish.
Finding ways to reduce food waste could also be a great opportunity to amplify your existing dishes.
5) When Life Gives You Lemons… Use Them All
Citrus is a staple item in restaurants, so why not get multiple uses out of your lemons and limes?
Once you squeezed as much juice out of your citrus as possible, save the remaining rinds. Add them to the bottom of a steamer with celery heads and fennel fronds to cook fish. This will add a subtle flavor to the fish that can elevate the quality of the plate.
Using an item like this in multiple applications is one of many great ways to reduce food waste while also enhancing your menu.
6) Don’t Fear the Fennel
Fennel fronds are a delicious and often underused item in restaurant pantries.
Save your fennel fronds and use them as a garnish, either fresh or fried.
Or, you can add the fresh fronds to a mixed green salad for a pop of flavor complexity.
Thinking creatively about your food ‘scraps’ can often lead to new and innovative ideas for your menu.
Next time you go to throw away some of your food scraps, stop and think of any additional uses as ways to reduce food waste. Or, plan ahead with additional tips to reduce food waste.
By following these tips or coming up with some creative ideas of your own, you can ensure that you are maximizing use of your ingredients and stretching your dollar. This will help reduce your food waste, elevate your menu, and generate additional profit. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?
Dining Alliance can help
Are you interested in learning more ways to reduce food costs in restaurants, or other ways a group purchasing organization can help you save money? Contact us! Dining Alliance has over 60,000 members in all 50 states and a combined purchasing power of over $12 Billion. We would love to meet you and see how we can help.