How to use a Food Waste Diary in your Gastronomy

Hand on heart: Do you have an accurate overview of how much food ends up in the rubbish in your business? We’re not just talking about waste like bones, vegetable trimmings or potato peelings. We are talking about food that would still have been good enough to process. Keeping a record of them may seem petty, but in fact it makes a lot of sense to deal with it. Because apart from the nutritional value, a lot of money also goes into the dustbin. What helps here is a food waste diary. Not only does it help you quantify the amount and value, but it also gives you a lot of insight into how you can avoid wasting food. Try it yourself with our free template!

The radishes don’t look nice anymore, six eggs just broke, and whoops, when ordering for table 8, they forgot to fulfil the special requests and it has to be prepared again. Everyday situations in the kitchen of a restaurant all come to the same result: The food ends up in the rubbish. All right, mistakes happen. But in the long run, this creates a huge problem, the extent of which hardly any restaurateur is aware of. After all, it is not only food that is destroyed, but also a lot of money.

To find out what quantities and amounts are involved, there is only one thing that helps: keeping records. It sounds time-consuming and actually requires some discipline. Nevertheless, it’s worth keeping a food waste diary. You can only do something about it when you know where things are going wrong. And once awareness is awakened, you can save a considerable amount of money!

How does a food waste diary work?

In a waste diary, you note down all the food you throw away unprocessed over a certain period of time. And not only WHAT it is, but also how much and why. It is also worthwhile to distinguish between meals. Because at the end of the test period, it’s all about evaluating the data you’ve collected. If it then turns out that a lot of waste is produced at breakfast in particular, targeted countermeasures can be taken.

It also makes sense to add food costs to the list. These can also be estimates. Seeing not only the absolute amount, but also the financial loss that goes into the rubbish, leaves a lasting impression and can be quite frightening. 

What should you record in the waste diary?

  • What kind of meal is it? The amount can vary greatly from breakfast to dinner – and can be optimised accordingly.
  • What food is it exactly? Be as specific as possible, i.e. “Parma ham” instead of “cold cuts”.
  • Which quantity? Depending on the food, the units of measurement are of course different. Instead of “a piece of cheese”, you should already note down the number of grams. In the case of fruit and vegetables, it can also be advantageous to record both the number and the weight (2 apples/350 grams).
  • How was this food disposed of? Organic waste can still be good for something! Maybe something can be put on the compost or collected as pig feed in the canning bin instead of ending up in the residual waste?
  • Why is food disposed of? Common reasons are an expired best-before date, surplus or the appearance.
  • What is the value? Tip: You can also fill in the estimate at the end of the test period.
Source: Welthungerhilfe

What about leftovers that come back from the guest?

Leftovers also belong in the list. You do not need to name them individually, but primarily enter the weight in the list. However, if you notice that a particular item is often not eaten, you should enter this in a comment field. Obviously it is not well received – or the portion is too large.

Is it too complicated for you to set up such a waste diary? We make it easy for you: Here you can download a template! 

How to use the information from the food waste diary

Keep this list for a week at first. If you have several restaurants or a floor service, it makes sense to keep these lists separately and only merge them at the end of the test period.

At the end of the week, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty. Take the time together with your team and discuss results. Don’t be afraid to ask people from the service department to join in. They are closer to the guests and can also draw important conclusions.

Only if you know why your food is being thrown away can you change the situation. What waste can be avoided? How can this be done? Can something be made from the leftovers after all  or can routines be changed?

By talking to your team, you will discover new ways to avoid food waste. At the same time, you will sensitise your kitchen staff to handle food consciously.

Ideally, you will then repeat the records again or even carry them out in a fixed rotation. This way you can see if your measures are working and how your cash flow is improving.

Do you want to know how much money you can save with inventory management software? Use our free calculator and discover your savings potential at the touch of a button 

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