Question: We operate a restaurant that does a lot of take-out, and I’m wondering about ways to reduce the amount of waste that’s produced.

Answer: You’re in luck—we just saw this great post written by Caitlin Perry on the LEAF website, explaining nine ways to reduce your take-out waste.

Take a look:

Nine simple ways to save money and reduce packaging

  1. Do a survey and see how many of your guests are taking extra food home with them. If you notice a large percentage of guests take leftover food home, consider adjusting portion sizes. This will reduce waste, and save on food and supply costs.
  2. Many customers actually sit in quick serve restaurants to eat, yet food is automatically served in disposable packaging. Offering “for here” or “to go” dishes and utensils in in quick serve restaurants (think Tim Horton’s) would dramatically reduce waste, yet very few quick serves currently have this practice . Post signage in your restaurant about your waste reduction efforts to educate your customers.
  3. Restaurateurs who live in municipalities without city-wide composting can source take-out containers and utensils that are compostable in a non-industrial compost facility (ie: can go into a backyard compost), and make sure customers know that they can be composted.
  4. Avoid styrofoam at all costs. It is the most environmentally detrimental take out option. Whenever possible, look for 100% recycled cardboard or compostable options.
  5. Invest in reusable plastic take-out containers. Charge a small fee to the guest if they want the take out container ($1 or so), which they get back in the form of a discount at their next meal when they bring the container back. Not only does this encourage reusing and reduce  package disposal, but it brings guests back into the restaurant. **A word to the wise: this may not be allowed by some health inspection agencies. Check with your local inspector.**
  6. Offer proper waste disposal for the take out containers at the restaurant, such as compost or recycling, and make sure lots of clear signage directs customers which containers to use.
  7. Only offer extra condiments, disposable utensils, and napkins if the guest requests it. Most times when take out is requested, the guest is bringing the food home and will have those supplies there.
  8. For cafes, take a page out of the book of LEAF-certified Caffe Beano: provide coffee sleeves only when requested and reuse sleeves that are left behind.
  9. Encourage guests to stay in the restaurant rather than getting take out. Offer an inviting atmosphere, primo customer service, and comfortable seating.

Ways for customers to get involved

At sit-in restaurants, ask how big the meal is before ordering it. Knowing how much food you will be served can help you avoid leftovers. Choose something that fits your appetite, or ask for a half portion so you won’t need to bring anything home in a disposable container. And avoid take out only locations whenever possible.

What about you? What measures have you implemented to reduce take-out waste? Share your thoughts in the comments section.
Image credit: istolethetv