Fast casual restaurants not only fit into a unique niche with diners, but they also have unique opportunities when it comes to operations. Many chains are taking the opportunity to source only locally grown, organic and sustainable ingredients, and consumers have shown that those purchasing options make a difference to them. As the trend of sustainable sourcing continues to gain traction, restaurants are looking to set themselves apart from the competition with eco-conscious consumers.
Food Waste: Throwing away money in more ways than one
Consumers are not blind to the fact that food waste is an epidemic in the US. Roughly 40 percent of the food grown for consumption is thrown away every year. As a restaurant, food waste should be at the top of your priority list because the food you are throwing away is likely costing you money. Pre-consumer food waste, trimming, over-production and spoilage cost you money for obvious reasons, but what about that post-consumer waste? Any leftovers that your customers don’t take with them costs you money in what you eventually have to throw away. What a lot of restaurants don’t consider is that with all the food waste you produce, there is a potential goldmine for your restaurants that the pickiest consumers will love: food waste recycling.
The Basics: Reduce and donate
Food waste reduction should be a priority in your restaurant for the simple fact it costs you money to throw food away. Food waste reduction begins in the kitchen with training. Simply reducing food waste is an amazing start, but you’re not going to be able to completely eliminate it. That being said, you should always try to get the most out of the food you produce.
The most obvious way to recycle food waste is by donating it when you can. Being involved with the community shows consumers you care, and those same consumers will funnel money back into your restaurants. Social responsibility is extremely important to consumers these days. Food donation programs limit you to “pre-consumer” food waste but can still have an important impact on consumers.
Get creative, gain customers
We’ve established that consumers like fresh, locally sourced, organic ingredients and are also conscious about sustainability. So, why not design a food waste program that supports both of those ideals?
Post-consumer food waste is not only the bulk of the food waste you produce, but it’s also the hardest to manage. By doing something as simple as offering accessible, eco-friendly to-go containers for customers to take their leftovers with them, you can easily promote sustainability. You can take that concept a step further and add a separate bin next to your trash bins specifically for food waste. By setting up a collection program with the right vendors, you can then have that food waste collected to be composted. Ideally, you can even arrange those food scraps to be sent to the local farms where you source your produce to create a closed-loop recycling program that your eco-conscious consumers will absolutely love. Waste less, recycle more, and look great doing it.
Food waste is inevitable, no matter what you do in the restaurant business. That is why it is important to keep looking for creative solutions, and ways to fix old problems with new innovations. No matter how you choose to address the issue of food waste recycling, it is important to keep your employees and your customers informed. Just as much as you brag about where you get your produce, you need to brag about how you handle it. Food waste recycling can be the centerpiece of your marketing strategy.
this article was originally featured on: FastCasual.com