August 31, 2021

86 Food Waste: Motivate and engage employees to reduce food waste

Gen Z’s are “looking for meaning” in their work, and reducing food waste is a compelling cause that resonates with them.

Reducing food waste in restaurants isn’t as simple as devising and enforcing policy. While these steps are essential, successful change depends on a restaurant's efforts to foster a culture centered on sustainability.

If staff view food waste reduction efforts as just one more thing to do, new policy won’t solve the problem. The National Restaurant Associated teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund with support of Essity/Tork to create the 86 Food Waste report. One of the seven strategies describes how to make food reduction a core part of your restaurant’s culture.

Step 1. Engage employees

  • Designate one or two “champions” of food waste reduction. These staff members are instrumental in bringing food waste reduction to the forefront of operations.
  • Discover what staff already know about food waste, what they need to know, and most importantly what motivates them. From this information, create clearly defined roles and responsibilities for staff.

Step 2. Raise awareness and empower employees

  • Discuss food waste and its impacts on the environment consistently throughout daily meetings, training, casual conversations, and especially when onboarding new staff.
  • Disperse food waste audit results with all staff. They need to track food waste-reduction efforts and be part of a shared goal. Ask them what they see being thrown out and get their input on why they think it’s happening. Get them involved in solutions.
  • Provide the tools and information required for change. At Subway, small changes in trimming techniques led to its kitchens saving 2 lbs. of bell peppers per case.

In Tapping the Teen Market, Mike Miller, director of Talent Acquisition for Chipotle, reports that Gen Z’s are “looking for meaning” in their work. The company highlights its efforts in sustainability and its emphasis on “real purpose,” which resonate with adolescents. Reducing food waste is a compelling cause.

Step 3. Incentive and reward

  • Having a shared goal to work toward is motivating on its own, but celebrating successes is key to encouraging consistency. Motivate employees to earn the buy-in necessary to complete extra steps required of food waste-reduction efforts.
  • Set obtainable goals and celebrate when the team succeeds. Remind staff that participation in food waste reduction is a huge contribution to an important global crisis.
  • Incentivize innovation by encouraging ideas and comments from the kitchen staff. Their insights can offer valuable ways to reduce food waste.

Motiving change in employees requires practical tools, including training materials, videos, staff surveys, and more. The National Restaurant Association offers these tools, free, for any restaurant looking to reduce food waste. Find them in the 86 Food Waste report, along with the six other strategies making big changes to cut down on food waste.