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3 key strategies to say goodbye to kitchen waste


It’s a sad fact: Restaurant operators are often consumed by the amount of food that gets chucked into the trash at the end of each night.


By Jack Kohane


It’s also a brutal truth that food wastage isn’t only created by diner leftovers, but also from kitchen waste created by spoiled food, trim waste, or overproduction of food.

Working with her suppliers, Tammy Olivier has found ways to reduce the waste, expand her menu, and increase her sales. For one thing, the purchasing coordinator with Edmonton, AB-based Booster Juice Canada, with over 330 locations worldwide serving up smoothies, fresh-squeezed juices, hot food, and snacks, finds multiple uses for kitchen products.

One of her suppliers, Unilever Food Solutions, helped Olivier stretch Booster Juice’s food applications. “We’ve done that by having multiple applications for several of their sauces,” she says “They (Unilever) understood the value of not bringing in too many SKUs for new products, which improved our margins and made our franchise partners happy.”

Create a more efficient back-of-house

Kyla Tuori,  corporate chef with Unilever Food Solutions Canada, helps operators to find the best solutions for their particular needs. “We strive to lay out processes that can create all kinds of efficiencies BOH,” she says. “We provide solutions with regards to menu layout, descriptions, signature dishes, innovative/on-trend flavours, and multi-functional products. Re-evaluating these areas on a regular basis can align an operation for success.”

She also points out that creating a more efficient BOH routine can hinge on the use of accurate measuring to ensure consistency, reduce waste, and monitor potential pilfering. She advises that chefs and operators use scales to meticulously measure out ingredients as well as portions.

“Your recipe should always be the basis for your selling price. Be creative with extra trimmings to make daily specials or signature items. Adding a variety of extra foods to bases or standard soups is a great way to make a signature dish. Meat trimmings or excess produce can always be used for delicious chopped or bound salads with a little mayonnaise or salad dressing. Finally, accurate ordering of ingredients will ensure that food spoilage, and consequently waste, is reduced.”

Waste not, want not

High Liner Foods Chef and Culinary Manager Philman George understands the pain of waste. “Nothing hurts like having to throw out seafood because it has spoiled,” he says from his Concord, Ont. culinary centre. “If you have a variety of seafood offerings on your menu, a dish like seafood bouillabaisse is very important because it gives you the chance to utilize all of your various seafood items into one highly flavourful dish. This in turn helps refresh seafood inventory more quickly, reduce waste and increase profits.”

Emphasizing that many establishments see profits dwindle because of the amount of money that’s lost in the heart of the house, aka the kitchen, Phil urges operators to analyze their whole business. “Step back and look at the entire process. Assess your prep waste, know that you can also reuse and recycle food items that are not on your menu.”

For example, fats cut from meat can be rendered and used as oils, day-old bread can become croutons, vegetable peelings or rinds of cheese can help to flavour soups and stocks. “When operators and chefs come to me for help on reducing waste and labour, I’m very hands-on,” says Phil. “First I say I can’t give you an idea until I see your operation. I look to see what station is getting hit the hardest, the capabilities of your staff, your menu and your equipment. I have to do the groundwork before I can recommend a product that is going to fit.”

Improve your kitchen efficiency

Improving the efficiency of a kitchen is crucial, says McCain’s North American Director of Culinary, Chef Brooke Brantley, based in Lisle, Illinois.

“First, consistently review how your staff are working together. Regular staff meetings with incentives or contests give you an opportunity to ask what they feel would improve things. Another key consideration is paying close attention to one of the key tools in your kitchen: your fryer. By using tactics to keep your oil clean and using high oleic oil, you have less need to change oil. That helps save on costs but also saves the labour in changing the oil. With good oil strategies you can save up to half of your oil costs over the course of a year and contribute to supporting sustainability.”

Adds  Judy McArthur, customer marketing manager with McCain Foods Canada in Toronto, “They [brand representatives in the field] work closely with operators to bring them ideas and strategies to reduce labour, save costs and deliver the best customer experience in a profitable way. We are active in engaging with customers in our culinary centre and in their own kitchens to deliver key trends and recipes to keep their operations efficient, popular and thriving.”

It’s just that kind of hands-on support that helps operations like Booster Juice banish the waste and stretch the dollars.