May 22, 2013

Guest Post – Counting the Cost of Waste in Catering

catering businessNobody in any industry likes to be deliberately wasteful, but many companies don’t realize how often they fail to make the best use of their resources. Sadly, nowhere is this more the case than in catering – whether its food ending up in the trashcan, bulky packaging items reducing workspace in the kitchen, or simply chefs and kitchen porters having to carry out menial, time-wasting tasks, caterers frequently spend more money than they need to on practices that are of no benefit whatsoever.

Waste comes in many ugly forms, and we’re now going to look at what it can entail, how to reduce it, and the benefits of doing so.

What is waste?

Caterers should not make the mistake of thinking that waste management begins and ends with food wastage, but it goes without saying that an awful lot of waste in the kitchen is made up of edible items that end up neither on a plate nor in anybody’s stomach. Americans waste a shocking 40% of the food they buy, and sadly caterers certainly have a significant hand in this squandering of sustenance. Whether it’s through putting too much on the plate, being too finicky with the parts of the foods they use, or storing foods unsuitably and allowing them to go out of date, a little more care from caterers could help make a significant dent in this figure.

Amidst this sea of food foolishness, however, it is important not to overlook things like packaging. Big, bulky boxes can take up a lot of cooking space, and don’t even fit nicely into trashcans in many cases. Other waste in the kitchen includes leaving electrical appliances switched on when not in use – which is bad for both the environment and whoever opens the bills at the catering company – and failing to get employees to use their time constructively. Kitchens can often end up understaffed because workers have to carry out too many manual processes like glass washing, which could be performed by machines – switched off after use, of course!

How to keep waste to a minimum

More and more U.S. caterers are adopting ‘zero waste’ initiatives, meaning that anything reusable is reused, anything recyclable is recycled, and barely anything ends up in landfills. This should ultimately be the aim of any caterer, but it is a big step that should be worked towards gradually. A good starting point is to monitor how much food is being thrown away. Are your waiters taking back clean plates or ones strewn with leftovers? If it’s the later, perhaps you are serving up more than you need to.

Chefs can be as picky as diners, however, and should be encouraged to dispose of as little food as possible. Meat cuts, bones and carcasses should not be trashed, but reused in stocks. Vegetable cuttings can also help here. Keep a look out on the Internet for recipes that use up leftovers, and consider adding them to your menu.

Elsewhere, try to order lightweight packages made of easily recyclable materials. You will soon see the difference in the volume of garbage coming out of the kitchen.

How costly is waste in the catering industry?

Aside from the obvious costs of paying out money for something that is not being used, caterers should also consider the damage that waste can do to their reputation. News is bound to spread if a caterer decides to go ‘zero waste’, and it will do much more for their publicity than a diner in which staff members are regularly seen scraping half-full plates of food into the garbage.

Wastefulness can lead to a cycle of lost income, since waste costs money that may need to be recovered by increasing prices on the menu. Regular customers are bound to notice these increases, and may consider dining elsewhere.

Besides the fact that all responsible caterers should have an environmental conscience, the advantages to their own bank balance speak for themselves, and caterers who have yet to up their efforts on the war on waste must do so without delay.

Norman James works for Alliance Online, which is one of the UK’s leading suppliers to the leisure, catering, and healthcare industries. The company’s clients range from household name hotels to up-and-coming trendy bars and luxury gyms. With over 18,000 products available, commercial catering firms can source their supplies from a trustworthy source. As well as taking its own environmental responsibilities very seriously, the company offers a range of biodegradable catering supplies, such as foam plates and refuse sacks, on its website:

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