How to reduce food waste in your restaurant

Reducing food waste can have a huge impact on your business - here’s how to do it.
Caroline Joyce
Jul 2023
4 min read

Worried about increasing levels of food waste within your restaurant? You’re not alone. Though research suggests the majority of food wastage happens at home or in the agricultural sector, UK hospitality businesses contribute to upwards of 199,100 tonnes of food waste every year - equating to roughly £682 million loss in revenue across the industry.

In this article we take a look at how food waste happens in restaurants and ways to reduce excessive wastage within your business.

Why is it important for restaurants to reduce food waste?

As well as the huge financial implication for businesses the environmental consequences of food waste are significant too, with the World Wildlife Fund reporting that a whopping 40% of all food grown every year is left uneaten.

Alongside that, a recent report from Champions 12.3 stated that UK restaurants throw away approximately 900,000 meals every day. When you think of both the revenue and environmental implications - not to mention the moral implications of throwing away that much food - it’s easy to see why reducing food waste has become a priority for so many businesses.

How does food waste happen in restaurants?

From oversized portions to poor inventory management, food waste levels can easily build up over time if left unchecked. Here are some of the biggest culprits when it comes to unnecessary food wastage.

Out-of-date stock

One of the biggest reasons for restaurants throwing away food is items reaching their expiry date. This can be the result of ineffective stock management, storage systems or processes.

Customer leftovers

Finding that your customers often leave a lot of food on their plate? Being over generous with portion sizes can have a significant impact on your food waste levels. A study in 2021 attributed 30% of UK restaurant food wastage to customer leftovers.

Over ordering

Always finding you are throwing away the same items? Ineffective menu planning and over ordering results in higher levels of food waste. Proper planning and ordering management will mean that you are only ordering as much as is actually needed.


Human error is natural, especially in busy hospitality businesses. When errors are made with orders or customer requests in relation to allergens, this has a significant knock-on effect on food waste levels.

Five tips for reducing food waste in your restaurant

Even with the best planning or intentions, some food waste in your restaurant is inevitable. When thinking about ways to combat the environmental impact of inevitable food waste, it’s worth considering charities, donation-based food waste apps or other similar local services.

To reduce the level of food waste more generally, there are a number of things you can do right away.

1.  Keep a stock inventory

Knowing exactly what you have stock-wise inclusive of expiry dates should be one of the first steps you take to tackle food waste in your restaurant. Stock inventory software gives you real-time data on what you have left and what might need to be ordered without re-ordering unnecessary extra items. The added benefit of using software like this means that you can use reports to track which items are being recorded as waste more often over time to further get a hold of food waste levels within the business.

2. Record your food waste

Recording your food waste can help you to start auditing exactly how much food your restaurant is wasting. With this information you can generate reports on where the waste is coming from; is it customer leftovers, out-of-date stock or possibly due to human error? From there you and the team can make changes to support reducing the levels. Food waste management software can be used to automate this process easily.

3. Monitor temperatures

Food regularly has to be thrown away when it is stored at the incorrect temperature. This can be caused by human error but also by faulty equipment. Using software like Trail, staff can record fridge and freezer temperatures periodically to monitor equipment - any issues are flagged in real-time allowing for speedy fixes and reduced levels of food spoilage.

4. Staff training

Human error can account for a significant proportion of food waste in restaurants. Spending more time on training staff on the importance - and implications - of food waste can have a big impact on reducing levels. Training should include all staff, incorporating front-of-house teams ensuring minimum errors in ordering and allergens, as well as kitchen teams who are responsible for preparation, storage and ordering.

5. Change your menu

You are recording your food waste and have oversight of your stock inventory - now it’s time to make the appropriate changes. From adjusting portion sizes generally (or offering different portion sizes for the same dishes) in response to customer leftover food waste levels, to removing dishes from the menu that are not being ordered and resulting in excess ingredient wastage - small changes can be implemented and tracked which can result in significant food waste reductions.

Using restaurant software to reduce food waste

Staying on top of food waste can be a difficult task if trying to do so manually, which is what makes investing in tech solutions all the more valuable. By automating inventory management, ordering, waste management and equipment monitoring, you will have full oversight of all aspects of food waste allowing for smarter decisions when it comes to reducing waste levels.

Whether it’s software like Trail to stay on track with day-to-day tasks, stock control or food waste management, using these types of software make reducing waste in your restaurant an easier and more manageable process.

Take a look at Access’ suite of hospitality management tech to find the right solution for your restaurant.

What customers are saying

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