We spoke with Portland restaurants, bakeries and breweries to hear how they’re finding ways to minimize food waste through tracking, transforming trim into new ingredients, and educating customers.
Mediterranean Exploration Company & Shalom Y’all
Our staff’s creativity in reducing waste through cross utilization can be seen throughout our restaurants, including:
- Using citrus peels and juiced rinds as a syrup base for cocktails and agua fresca.
- Turning broccoli stems into a new broccoli coleslaw side dish.
Staff pay attention to what goes in the compost and look for ways to use scraps before they get tossed. For example, we were producing over 150 pounds a week of lamb caps, a by-product of lamb chop ribs. We started collecting the lamb caps from three of our locations, cooking them down with shawarma spices, and turning the meat into a new carnitas dish. We also rendered the fat and it added it to our kebabs to keep them juicy.
We now have virtually no waste from the lamb chop caps and we’ve turned a loss into a profit!
Hopworks Urban Brewery
Our kitchen has always been very conscientious of food waste but we still felt that too many food scraps were making it into the compost. We pay close attention to food waste and track it where possible so we can be smart about purchasing.
- We track traditionally slow volume days (certain holidays and times of year) and adjust PAR levels during those times.
- We use a waste sheet log to track all food that gets tossed (spoilage, over production, trim, etc.).
- We’ve reduced the number of items on our menu that need to be pre-prepped.
- We’ve increased our ability to cross-utilize ingredients.
We’ve reduced our food waste and substantially reduced our food cost percentages since implementing these efforts.
Even though we consistently meet our food cost percentages and we have a strong environmental ethic, we still find preventable food scraps making their way into the compost.
- We’ve built our menus to have lots of cross utilization.
- We ask purveyors to provide our food pre-prepped when possible in the amounts we actually use, and at the quality needed to reduce loss.
- We scrape pans, empty containers, and fully use everything.
- We use a waste log sheet to track overdone pizza, spoilage, and other food waste. We also give credit to managers who carefully track waste, which in turn improves their bonuses.
- We post recommended servings for many of our menu items that can be comfortably shared.
- We solicit ideas from customers about products we carry and portion sizes.
Reducing food waste not only helps our bottom line but also helps us to connect with our customers.
Por Que No?
Because we make everything from scratch, we often have meat, fish, and veggie trim. Guest waste is a large portion of food scraps wasted, especially tortillas.
- We invested in extra freezer space to save trim and overstock to be repurposed later into soup, stock, or sauces.
- In some cases, we switched to more expensive cuts of meat that need 25% less trimming before cooking.
- We started using visual guides to help staff properly size our fresh tortillas. Right sizing the tortillas has helped to reduced front-of-house waste.
We’ve saved on food and labor costs, and reduced food going into the compost from both the kitchen and from the guests.
Being a high-quality cooked-from-scratch kitchen, we break down our own meat, which produces lots of trim waste.
Instead of tossing the trim in the compost, we use everything we can. Bones are cooked into a rich stock and we render our own tallow.
Turning trim into ingredients not only reduced what is tossed out, but has become key to making the delicious au jus used on our steaks.
Grand Central Bakery
Our cafés have always been very conscientious of food waste but we still find preventable food scraps making it into the compost.
- We compost everything at the dish pit, so we notice what people leave on their plates.
- We noticed our breakfast garnish (a piece of fruit or two, depending on the season), was mostly being left uneaten and so we decided to eliminate it.
- We require café managers to report food cost numbers to their managers and co-workers each month. If their goals are not met, they have to conduct additional tracking and staff re-training.
The feedback loop of tracking and reporting wasted food shines a light on the opportunities to reduce food waste and run our cafés better.
Spin Laundry Lounge
We noticed our compost bins were filling up faster than usual, so we started tracking what was going into the compost. We used a spreadsheet that tracks the types and cost of items getting composted.
Through this tracking, we saw that a lot of pastries got composted at the end of each day. So we:
- Switched to a vendor that didn’t require minimum orders for delivery.
- Tracked which pastries were selling and which weren’t and adjusted orders.
- Considered which pastries had longer shelf lives.
After just one month, we had reduced pastry waste by 55%!
Urban Farmer and Departure Lounge
We recognize that all waste is an opportunity to be turned into a resource for the restaurant, and we give staff the flexibility to test ideas out and be innovative.
- We turn vegetable trim into fermented products, like house-made kimchi and pickles.
- We render our beef tallow and use it to make candles (reducing our use of Sterno-fluid).
Giving our staff the license to experiment supports our no-waste culture.
Guest waste is the largest portion of food scraps wasted. By paying attention, we’ve found that customers were barely eating salsas and sides (grilled onions, salad, pickled fruits and veggies, etc.).
- We educate customers by telling them how the sides “finish the dish” and how they must try them to “complete the dish experience”.
- We’ve reduced the salsa portion sizes to more accurately reflect what is being consumed.
Now we have less food waste, which is not just money lost on the food itself, but also money lost on the labor spent on preparing the food.
Fire on the Mountain
Two of our biggest opportunities to reduce wasted food are improving ordering accuracy and not cooking more wings than we sell.
We’ve put feedback loops in place where we can track ordering mistakes and overcooking so we can catch opportunities for staff to adjust. Tracking and sharing that information with staff is very effective at keeping food waste prevention fresh in their mind.
Tracking and sharing that information with staff has reduced both food waste and food costs.
We want to hear from you! Have you found ways to reduce food waste? Email or give us a call at 503-823-7037.