How to reduce food waste in catering operations

Producing food requires resources such as land, energy, and water; according to WRAP, 25-30% of total food produced is lost or wasted, with food waste contributing to an estimated 8-10% of total man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In the UK around 9.5 million tonnes of food is thrown away each year, with 920 thousand tonnes of this being from hospitality and food services, 75% of which is avoidable and could have been eaten.

By law, all food handlers must be trained in food safety, but this should also extend to being taught how to reduce waste. Poor food preparation contributes to a large portion of food waste, which can significantly reduce your profit. Therefore, it’s crucial for staff to learn how to store and cook food correctly, keep a clean kitchen, and avoid cross contamination.

Here are some ways you can reduce food waste in catering operations:


Store food correctly; ensure fridge/freezers are running at the right temperatures to preserve quality and prevent bacteria growth which leads to food expiring prematurely. Make sure you place meat and raw ingredients on the lower shelves and low risk foods on higher shelves.

Stock control

Ordering more produce than needed leads to overstocking ingredients which can result in unnecessary food waste, especially when they have a short life span. Keeping an eye on stock levels and monitoring supply and demand regularly helps you calculate how much of each product you need to order. Storing older orders in front of newer orders (also known as the ‘FIFO’ rule; first in first out) will ensure the oldest products will get picked off the shelves first and help reduce wastage.

Buy local or grow your own

Allotment gardening has enjoyed a real resurgence in recent years and is a great way of eating seasonal produce whilst reducing your food miles. Many restaurants now change their menus regularly to reflect what is in season and widely available locally at the time. Produce that is in-season is picked at peak ripeness, so it is better tasting and has maximum nutrients. Shopping locally can also prolong the shelf life of products as it uses fewer food miles to get to your kitchen, and storage/travel conditions won’t comprise the quality.

Optional sides

Rather than having side dishes included in a main course such as chips, if they are offered on your menu as optional extras only those who want sides will order them rather than leaving them on the plate, which inevitably ends up in the waste bin.

Create new recipes with food waste

Utilising food waste effectively can include using parts of a product you previously considered waste. For example, banana skins can be used to make banana bread; not only does this reduce unnecessary waste, but the skins contain lots of nutrients which would usually go to waste. Many chefs in the public eye are now looking encourage reducing food waste by creating delicious recipes with these alternative ingredients. In addition to this, vegetable peelings and animal bones can be used to make meat and fish stocks.

Turn waste into compost

To reduce your food waste and avoid sending it to landfill, put food waste in a compost bin so it can be utilised. You can compost almost all food, such as fruit and vegetable peelings, grains, bread, ground coffee etc., – anything except meat, fish, and dairy products.

Donate leftovers

Donate leftovers to local food share schemes, charities or food banks for people who need them. This will avoid any waste that would otherwise been thrown out, whilst helping those in your local community who are less fortunate.

Our free leading-edge menu management system, CaterCloud, helps with stock management and costing to reduce wastage to prevent excessive portion sizing and excess stock. It also calculates nutrition and calorie information, with our team of experts and developers ensuring our system is always ahead of the game with any new legislation to protect your business and save you money.

CaterCloud is the leading integrated solution for allergen, nutrition, menu planning and cost management and it’s FREE TO USE – sign up here.

Published on March 8th, 2022

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