1. THE ONLY FACTOR YOU CAN TRULY CONTROL IN YOUR RESTAURANT IS YOUR FOOD COST
Chef Tavel Bristol-Joseph of Emmer & Rye and Henbit is passionate about reducing restaurant food waste for a variety of reasons, but sees controlling food costs as a motivator for getting creative with food scraps. He challenges his cooks to come up with creative ways to use byproducts of their most popular dishes. Using every part of the ingredients they purchase has enabled them to slash food costs, thus significantly boosting their profit margin. The leftover tomato pulp created from one of his star dishes, cacio e pepe, is now used to make tomato paste and even panna cotta.
2. Go Small-Batch
At Emmer & Rye, Bristol-Joseph’s team has implemented a rotating dim sum menu that allows them to create small-batch, get-them-while-they-last dishes, and make food out of scraps too small for the full menu. He suggests letting your customers know that these dishes are only made in small quantities, to up the exclusivity factor – and the price tag. Diners are more adventurous now than ever, and will soon start to line up for surprise small plates.
3. Don’t Let Special Events Derail You
A question from the audience led Jesse Griffiths of Dai Due Butcher Shop & Supper Club to give advice on reducing restaurant food waste during special events. He says to use the volume to your advantage. Structure your event menu to reduce waste from the very start of the planning process. When Dai Due hosts special events or is a vendor in food festivals, multiple items on the menu share the same ingredients, so each ingredient can be used in its entirety. He says it’s extremely important to nail the per-person count, and often reaches out to the festival beforehand for a final ticket count. Chef Marcus Samuelsson also encourages operators and chefs to find a happy medium with portion control at events, so guests leave happy, but not overstuffed.
4. Know Your Numbers
Gena McKinley’s work as a zero-waste advocate and strategic initiatives manager with Austin Resource Recovery has exposed her to some hard food waste facts. The amount of food waste in America is nearly 40%. She encourages all restaurant operators to analyze how much food is really being thrown away – and figure out how to better implement food waste solutions. Many restaurants are turning to tools with daily forecasters and prep calculators to help with smarter ordering as well. For more information on Austin’s Universal Recycling Ordinance, click here.
5. Tell the Story on Your Menu
While Bristol-Joseph’s menu at Emmer & Rye doesn’t spell out the commitment to restaurant food waste, the menu uses key terms that tell diners how ingredients are reused. Bristol-Joseph says letting diners know that certain ingredients may change depending on the day’s delivery is key. The menu is peppered with terms that highlight food waste solutions like "brine", "nuka", "sauerkraut" and "fermented". At Dai Due, Jesse Griffiths and his team directly highlight their commitment to "nose-to-tail," and speak to how ingredients rotate seasonally on their website and on social channels.
6. Bonus: How To Get Started with Reducing Restaurant Food Waste
All panelists agreed, "Just Start!" Griffiths noted it was difficult at first for him, but prioritizing food waste is like a muscle – it gets easier the more you work to perfect it. Chef Samuelsson says to first approach it from the standpoint of making your menu cost less to produce, then think about how to make the quality and taste top-notch. To ensure full buy-in from the entire team, training is key. Make sure everyone – from the server, to the kitchen manager, to the dishwasher – is aware of how each role plays a part in consciously reducing food waste. Chefs Samuelsson, Griffiths and Bristol-Joseph see reducing food waste as a challenge that’s had a great impact on their creativity with menu development as a whole, and has generated close connections with diners who share their passion.
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