Food waste promises to be a hot topic in 2021.
Data collected by the Sustainable Restaurant Association found that £1.8bn worth of takeaway food was thrown away in the UK in 2019. £376m of that was binned at the takeaway itself whereas the remaining £1.4bn was thrown away by households.
Customers surveyed cited that overblown portions were the most common cause of binning food.
The worst culprits? Rice and chips.
Reducing food wastage is not just an environmental and ethical exercise, but an exercise that can save your takeaway money in the long term.
Many restaurants, takeaways and catering businesses are already working with charities such as the Waste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP) to achieve the waste reduction goals of local councils.
Food waste is a massive contributor to environmental pollution and landfill.
The costs associated with waste management are also extreme considering that we throw away over 6 million tonnes of food each year in the UK.
For your business, reducing food waste can also dramatically reduce costs. WRAP found that food waste collectively costs takeaways and restaurants some £722 million a year.
It can be a fine balance to strike, especially when it comes to portion sizes as you may not know what your customers expect from your takeaway.
Even so, the benefits are there for all to say and there’s likely to be increasing pressure on takeaways and restaurants that don’t make an active effort to reduce food waste in the coming years.
The majority of takeaway-related food waste occurs on the customer’s side but WRAP still found that £376m was wasted on the takeaway premise itself.
By auditing your stocktakes, you can limit the amount of food that expires. Investing in a vacuum packaging machine can provide significant savings by safely storing excess stock for longer periods of time.
Switching to products with longer use-by dates can also help cut costs whilst simultaneously reducing food waste.
Do your customers actually want the portions you provide them? Asking your customers about your takeaway’s portion sizes shows that you’re conscious of food waste and will allow you to cut prices in-line with the smaller portions you provide.
Distribute a leaflet explaining that you’re collecting data on portion size from your customers.
Your customers could either fill out a form for collection by the driver next time or could post it to you in receipt of a money-off voucher, coupon or free side, etc.
Other options include links to online surveys, which can even be linked to QR codes that customers can scan to open up the survey automatically.
Failing that, you could simply place your email address on the leaflet and request customers send info about your products and portion sizes. Again, you can offer a small incentive such as a money-off coupon for their time.
If you have a dedicated local customer base, you could also post a questionnaire on social media, e.g. on your local area’s Facebook group or from your own business Facebook page.
WRAP research showed that customers find large portions unnecessary or even off putting and that they’d prefer more choice with smaller portions.
If that’s anything to go by then you could be sending out portions that you think pleases your customers when in reality, it just ends up in the bin.
Portion size is often poorly described on most menus. Barring pizzas, which are pretty easy to gauge from their diameter, customers are often left in the dark when it comes to portion size.
This leads to overordering and wastage.
Food which comes in containers, e.g. Chinese or Indian cuisine, is amongst the hardest for customers to gauge. Some takeaways indicate ‘small’, ‘medium’ and ‘large’ containers, but even that fails to describe exactly how much food someone will receive.
By accurately describing portion size, you will please your customers by offering a greater selection whilst simultaneously saving your business money by sending out smaller portions.
There are many charities that work with takeaways and restaurants to collect and distribute food that would otherwise be wasted. Plan Zheroes and FareShare are two excellent UK charities that specialise in this and they operate across most of the UK’s major cities and many towns too.
Reducing food waste benefits everyone involved.
By acting now, you can start saving money and protecting the environment.
As the profile of food wastage rises, more customers will be expecting their favourite takeaways and restaurants to take action.
You might just be a few steps away from saving money now and preparing for a future of nil food waste.