Restaurant food waste can quickly lead to inflated food costs. If a chef has made a special stew on Tuesday and there is a lot of leftovers, discarding this food, while it’s still good, will lead to restaurant waste.

You're throwing money away if you’re not trying to get profit from it.

restaurant food waste

In the ideal world, the 63 million tons of food that restaurants waste in the United States annually would be reduced to zero. And one method of achieving this is to use analytics and past orders to better forecast sales. When your sales are accurate, you can order less food, waste less and ensure higher profits at the end of the year.

But there will always be times when your food waste percentages are higher than other times. Turning this waste into profits can be done by:

Chef Specials

Creative chefs may be able to use the leftovers to create a “special of the day.” The special of the day may be able to turn leftover vegetables and roasts into a delicious soup. Your head chef should be in charge of these specials, and they’ll need to be creative to offer a dish that resonates with your customers.

Owners should work with chefs to try and create a leftovers menu that will be able to turn common leftovers into other dishes. Breads, for example, will only stay fresh for a day or two. If your bread is stale and ready to be discarded, the chef may be able to turn this potential waste into croutons, or the bread can be served baked with olive oil drizzled on it with ripe tomato slices, salt and pepper.

Reusing leftovers while they’re fresh is the key to success.

leftovers menu

Turn Leftovers Into Ingredients

A common issue with restaurant food wastage is that leftovers are looked at as dishes rather than ingredients. Changing this mindset will further help the right chef turn leftovers into a delight for guests.

Pasta that’s leftover can be turned into a frittata. Keeping the pasta free of sauce or other ingredients makes it versatile. You may be able to turn the pasta into a pasta salad special for the next day. When sauces or other ingredients are involved in the creation of a dish, try and keep the ingredients separate so that they can be repurposed.

Portions for Two

Restaurants provide oversized portions 92% of the time. You may see this statistic and assume that your portions are too large, and this will mean adjusting your portion size. If you always have extra pasta at the end of the night, it may be time to adjust portion sizes to reduce waste.

But you also have the option of offering portions for two.

You can run specials for couples who want to share their meal. For example, you may offer fettuccine for $12 a plate, but couples can order a larger portion, meant for two for $20 or $22 when you have excess fettuccine cooked.

The deal will entice more patrons to order the larger portion size. You'll sell more food, but take a minor hit on profit margins. However, you’ll also be able to negate the cost of food waste.

restaurant food wastage

Discount of the Day

Similar to the special of the day, the discount of the day will include your normal dish. You may offer cream of mushroom soup as a special on Tuesday because you have an excess of the soup from Monday.

Servers should be pushing these discounted dishes to be able to get rid of food that may spoil if left for too long.

You can use chalkboards at the entrance of the restaurant to further turn potential waste into restaurant profits.

Sell Leftovers Via Apps

Two apps are helping restaurants offer leftovers to people who use the app. “Too Good to Go” and “Food for all,” are two apps that can help you sell leftovers. You will be selling food that was made but faces the risk of being thrown out at the end of the day.

You will sell the food for around 50% off, depending on the app, but it’s an option to reduce waste.

Millions of meals will be saved, and patrons purchase the food on the app, pick up the food at the designated time and everyone is happy. You can use these apps on those occasions when it’s a “do or die” situation and the food will end up in the trash at the end of the night.

Some apps have capped the maximum price for food at $5, and a lot of the apps are currently expanding. It’s always smart to see if they’re available in your area so that you can use them to your advantage.

Food waste in restaurant statistics show that 40% of food produced will end up in the trash, so selling at a high discount is recommended at the end of the day.

how to reduce food cost

Donate Food to the Hungry

A key part of restaurant food waste management includes donating food to the hungry. People in your local area are going hungry, and you’re throwing food away that can provide key nutritional benefits to these individuals.

Donating to the hungry will not turn into direct profits.

But consumers are going to view your business in a positive light due to your contribution to the community. Charitable events and gestures, such as donating food to the hungry, are great for marketing and help the community.

You can use the fact that you donate leftover food to the hungry to increase your customer base. People in the community are more willing to spend money at establishments that are known for giving back to the community. Donating is a great way to give back, and with 1-in-8 people in the United States going hungry, or roughly 37 million people, you can make a positive impact on the hungry.

Leftover Menu Days

If you know that a dish will stay fresh for two to three days, you can offer leftover menus once or twice per week. These menus will have to state clearly that the consumer is going to be purchasing leftovers, and the price will be lower to reflect this fact.

You can ditch the leftovers and also offer discounts after a certain time towards the end of the night. Applebee’s has made this trend very popular, and what they do is offer half-price appetizers after a certain time every day. The restaurant will offer this promotion after 9pm on weekdays and 10pm on the weekends.


People may come in just for the appetizers and purchase additional items. But the company is also able to offload a lot of the food that they’ve prepared that hasn’t sold yet. The promotion is as much about lowering food waste as it is about bringing people into the restaurant late at night.

Food waste is a major problem, and if you continually find that you have leftovers that are thrown out, you may want to consider lowering inventory and reducing forecasts on how much food to cook when prepping for the day.