August 18, 2021

86 Food Waste: Work with suppliers to reduce excess

There are businesses out there seeking what you can’t use, and suppliers can connect you with them. It’s a lucrative, billion-dollar market dubbed “upcycling.”

The National Restaurant Association’s 86 Food Waste initiative outlines actionable steps to help restaurant operators reduce food waste. The report incorporates research from sustainability specialists, including partnerships with the World Wildlife Fund and the support of Essity/Tork. This week, we highlight Procurement Best Practices, which shares ways suppliers can help your restaurant reduce food waste, and best storage practices.

Step 1. How suppliers can help reduce food waste

Suppliers can be excellent resources in devising logistic strategies that redirect or prevent perfectly good food from going to waste. Negotiate with your supplier to:

  1. Optimize supply quantities to align the size of cases to fit your restaurant’s demand. If suppliers’ quantities provide more food than necessary, you end up paying for wasted food.
  2. Offer pre-prepped produce/food, rather than buying whole and trimming. Although pre-prepped can cost more up front, 100% usability pays dividends. Pilot studies show that BOH processes account for a staggering 73% of a restaurant’s food waste. Of that BOH figure, trim and inedible parts account for merely a third, meaning the rest is perfectly good food. What does that look like per employee? Anywhere from 7.3 lbs. – 8.9 lbs. of food waste per day. Tack on the financial costs of prep work, and buying pre-prepped looks pretty attractive, and saves labor. It’s worth a trial run.
  3. Find markets for unused waste. Businesses are out there seeking what you can’t use, and suppliers can connect you with them. It’s currently a lucrative billion-dollar market dubbed “upcycling.” Balder Foods captures 100,000 lbs. of leftover food per week and redirects it for consumption (by both people and animals) through their SparCs (scraps spelled backwards) program. 

Step 2. Delivery checks and storage best practices

Working with suppliers involves measures on the operator’s part as well, from quality checks to storage best practices. Restaurants should:

  1. Ensure deliveries meet quality standards at the time supplies are delivered. Verify that all products are fresh, undamaged, and stored at the right temperature.
  2. Buy frozen products for their longer shelf life. Current flash-freezing technology locks in flavor at its best.
  3. Implement best practices in storage. Clean and organize walk-ins, use clear storage containers, and label all containers with the following:
    1. Item name
    2. Date it was stored and use-by date

According to Nielsen, almost half of U.S. consumers (48%) are likely to change what they buy to meet environmental standards. If sustainability isn’t part of your supplier’s business strategy, encourage it, or search out those who do place a premium on reducing food waste.

Learn about all 7 food-waste reduction strategies by downloading the free series of information at