Strategy #3: Reducing the wasting of food at the storage and preparation stages

Reducing the wasting of food at the storage and preparation stages

3.1 Proper storage of food

According to EPA’s Reducing Wasted Food and Packaging Toolkit, some basic methods to help employees reduce waste include:

  • Organize food products so that employees can easily:
    • Properly store food to prevent spoilage
    • Use older products first
    • Find products when needed
    • Monitor inventory levels

Other EPA recommendations cover cooking, food preparation, and plating practices and are addressed in other sections of the guidance.

For more food waste source reduction strategies, tips on how to prevent food waste by type of facility, and additional case studies, see EPA’s Reducing Wasted Food and Packaging Toolkit

3.2 Reduce food preparation waste

Back-of-the-house operations can reduce food waste before a customer even touches their food. LeanPath estimates that 4-10% of food purchased is tossed before making it to the plate. In the Intel/Bon Appetit study, LeanPath found that trim waste and overproduction were the top reasons for food wasting (see graphic below). Note however that the amount of trim waste will vary considerably based on whether the operator uses a lot of fresh product in their recipes and whether they purchase convenience produce and meat (items pre-cut). In the latter case, on-site trim waste will fall dramatically but the waste still exist upstream - it has simply been pushed from the retail to the processing sector.

From Prevention Case Study: Intel Corporation’s Café, August 2010.

From Prevention Case Study: Intel Corporation’s Café, August 2010.

The UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association, as part of its Too Good To Waste campaign[1], surveyed 10 member restaurants in London in 2010. The results as well as recommendations for reducing restaurant food waste are summarized in the Restaurant Food Waste Survey Report (2010):

Three top reasons for food waste generation included the following:

  • 65% of food waste comes from preparation, including overproduction due to lack of careful ordering and efficient menu planning, lack of attention to customer demands and trends, not using prep waste in other ways (e.g. broths, soups), off cuts and anything ruined while cooking
  • 30% of food waste comes back from customers’ plates
  • 5% of food waste is classified as ‘spoilage’ – out-of-date or unusable items

EPA’s Reducing Wasted Food and Packaging Toolkit suggests that even simple strategies like “refining knife skills” can reduce prep waste.

3.3 Small batch preparation

This can be especially important where there is less control over predicting what and how much food customers will choose, for instance when providing food buffet style. However, small batch preparation should always be a goal. It leads to less waste and fresher food!

EPA’s Toolkit recommends reducing batch sizes when reheating foods like soups or sauces or preparing food to avoid leftovers.

Case Study: Crieff Hydro in the UK


[1] Too Good To Waste launched in London on October 5 2011, with the aim of raising both consumer and industry awareness about the appalling scale of restaurant food waste, alongside offering viable alternatives for diners and restaurants: