This article comes from our partner Janine Windsor, President of LEAF (Leaders in Environmentally Accountable Foodservice). LEAF audits, consults with and certifies Canadian restaurants and foodservice facilities.

Food service is one of the most wasteful industries. Energy, water, and food are all too commonly wasted in restaurants. Food service operations are also extremely energy intensive, and use 2.5 to 5 times more energy per square foot than other commercial or retail spaces, and 1.13 million litres of water per year—the equivalent of 7500 bathtubs!

Roughly 8 – 20% of of food purchased by restaurants ends up in the landfill where it produces greenhouse gases. Nearly 100% of the total waste produced in restaurants could be diverted through waste reduction strategies, composting and recycling.

Needless to say, there is a ton of room for improvement when it comes to foodservice waste. Here’s how you can do your part and save some dollars while you’re at it:

  1. Do a waste audit. Track post-consumer waste to learn what’s going out of the kitchen just to come back to the garbage bin. This information can guide your menu and portion adjustments to reduce waste. Pre-consumer food waste audits can provide insight into over-purchasing and improper inventory controls.
  2. Focus on quality, not quantity. Consider offering lunch-sized portions to give your patrons more choice according to their appetite, and make sure less food ends up in the trash.
  3. Compost. If you don’t live in a municipality that offers composting, look for local companies or organizations that may offer this service. Some local gardening groups will pick up materials for free!
  4. Aim to be plastic-free. Provide straws only by request, and switch out disposable plastic items like ramekins for reusable plastic, glass or ceramic ones. It’s a one time cost that will save you money in the end.
  5. Serve water by request, without the bottle. Eliminate environmental duds like bottled water by installing an on-site filtration system. You’ll be helping the environment and reducing the amount of plastic bottles that need to be produced, transported and recycled.
  6. Install a rain barrel for watering landscape. It’s easy and cheap to install, and will save water and money.
  7. Install low flow faucet aerators and pre-rinse spray valves. These attachments are quick and easy to install, offer better water pressure, and will more than pay for themselves after a few months.
  8. Revamp your menu to center around your more energy efficient appliances. Closed equipment typically uses less energy than open equipment (such as deep fryers and charbroilers). Slowly reduce the need for open system appliances.
  9. Design a start up and shut down schedule. Stop the habit of turning all the equipment on first thing in the morning. Reducing the amount of time your kitchen equipment is running each day can add up to hundreds of dollars per year.
  10. Regularly calibrate and maintain your equipment to ensure its running at its most efficient and you’re not wasting money on extra energy costs.

Image credit: juggernautco