The Real Cost$ Of Food Waste

How much is food waste really costing your business? According to a Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA) survey, restaurants throw away 33 pounds of food waste for every $1000 in revenue.  Some, if not most, do so without compunction.  It is for them simply a cost of doing business.  Of the 120 million pounds of food lost and/or wasted in America every year, restaurants account for 33% or approximately 40 billion pounds, with an estimated value of $53 billion.  As unfathomable as this may sound, the truth of the matter is it only represents the tip of the iceberg lettuce. (I couldn’t resist.)  Much of the real cost of food waste flies under the radar.

Feel the Burn

Before that tender, juicy, perfectly cooked City Boy steak was delivered, fresh off the grill, to your diner’s table, it had to be sourced, received, stored, cooked, and served.  These are among the so-called internal costs of doing business.  They are accounted for in the normal way.  What happens, however, when that tenderloin never makes it to the table because it was, let us say, over cooked?   How is it accounted for?  Typically the cost of the item is added back to the cost of inventory.   In other words, the

original cost of the food is accounted for.   But what about the labor involved in getting it from the delivery truck to the table, or at least to the grill?  What did it cost you to store it?   What about the lost sales?  And last, but certainly not least, what about the most distasteful cost of all -the cost of disposing of it?  Are these costs, as real as they are when the process ends with a satisfied customer, part of your equation?  Are they an internal, insidious inferno, slowly burning through your profits?  

Two Streams and an Ocean

There are two streams out of which food waste flows.  The pre-consumer waste tributary’s springhead is in the back of the house, the burnt steak, the over-produced garlic mash, the forgotten box of catfish fillets that stunk up the walk-in cooler.  This is the rupture, in the pipeline, our soon-to-be released food waste management software, DeTECT and PanOPTIC are designed to help identify, monitor and plug.  It represents, on average, between 4% and 10% of the aforementioned 33 pounds of food you put in the dumpster with every $1000 you put in your register.


The other branch of the food waste river flows from the back of the house, to the front of the house, and bends back, in boomerang-like fashion, to the back of the house.  The costs associated with post-consumer waste, the remaining 90%-96% of the total, are, in fact, the same as those that attend to the pre-consumer variety, except in one important way.  The food waste making the return trip, back upstream to the galley, arrives with an implied note attached, conveying one of two messages; (1). “I really enjoyed it, but it was too much for me to eat in one sitting.” (2) “Thanks for all the food, but it really wasn’t what I expected.”  Guest number 2 might be an aberration, after all, you can’t please all the people all the time.  However, too many such instances is an indication that your recipe might, at the very least, need, to be tweaked.   Diner number 1 might have asked for a to-go container; but research shows Americans do so, regularly, only about 32% of the time; even if she had you’re on the hook for the container.  Moreover, she was, apparently, perfectly willing to pay the full menu price for what she consumed.  Perhaps, if you reduced the size of the portions, put them on a smaller plate, the difference could then be sold with the next order.  Instead, the burnt City Boy and the leftovers from the two diners, are pooled into your estuarial garbage bins and dumpsters, waiting to be emptied into an already overflowing, teeming ocean of food waste that constitutes fully 21% of the solid material found in landfills, a problem the LFC solves completely.

Finally, make no mistake.  It is not only food waste in those garbage bags your kitchen staff is lugging out to your dumpsters; it is also water, soil, energy and money as well.  WasteNEGATIVE is committed to helping our clients to reduce their carbon footprint while, simultaneously, improving their bottom line.  After all, the free market is not free.

To the front, to the back to the...