Controlling Food Waste in Kitchens

Joined Aug 25, 2016
Hi all, it's been awhile. Im the head chef and want to know how other chefs track down food waste or theft of food in a kitchen?
For the food waste Ive started a booklet, which I've asked my chef to write in if he's made mistakes on recipes or is throwing out food, that could possibly frozen down, or used the next day. He's taken it on himself to throw things out without telling me.

Joined Dec 19, 2015
I use a couple methods. Each station has its own prep list/prep books so at the end of the night part of the closing procedure is each cook logs his waste items. Usually for portioned items (grill guy writes down -2 NY, saute writes down -1 Octopus) so the closing manager can log those items to review for Exec/prep guys in the morning. I usually keep a notebook by expo side to note same things for dishes that go up in the pass but dont go to the guests, I.e. -1 steak frites: server misring. This method is not foolproof but it helps everyone keep each other in checks and balances as well and gives more conclusive ideas to where some items may be going. example: next morning we are short 5 portions of NY why? Oh log says line cook X misfired/cooked 4 portions himself, well maybe we need to address that situation and such forth.
Joined May 5, 2010
Great idea as stated above, but not all kitchens are as organized and coordinated to create such a thing. In lieu of this I, as Chef, take it upon myself to check garbage bins, ask the cooks to save certain peelings, bones,or other items for stock. Food waste chart on a clipboard by the walk-in, is charted as soon as possible.
Stealing can be charted with daily inventory (what a pain) or video surveillance.
Joined Aug 21, 2004
If your not spending much time in the kitchen, do lots of walk troughs during the day. Make sure you look in trash cans and that the staff sees you doing so. Ask why this or that is in trash. Ask who put in trash and reason for doing so. If valid reason, thank. If not valid reason, educate.

Basically let staff know that you are there and paying attention. Make them cognizant of the fact that their habits impact the style with which you manage. It can be micromanage (even in your face if need be) or it can be giving them breathing room to do their jobs (if they do so responsibly). The light should turn on that ultimately the choice of management style comes down to them.
Joined Oct 10, 2005
All good suggestions—especially the clear garbage bags.

One chef I worked for would randomly grab a garbage can, dump it on a tarp on the floor, and call everyone to examine its contents. It became very clear of how much of what was wasted.

Every kitchen is different, where do you suspect your food wastage is coming from? Hot side? Misfired steaks? Yes a log will tell you that—assuming that it has been recorded. You will have to check up on that daily, or multiple times a day.

Is it prep? Is someone chopping off 2” from the end of a carrot before peeling? Are they using un ripe melons and peeling off haof of the fruit because it isn’t “ripe”? Are they deboning chicken and throwing out the bones?

Theft is a biggie. Are they cooking themselves meals with whatever they want, whenever? Is there romance between the cook and server, with the cook giving out larger portions or subbing higher quality ingredients for that one server?

Are they stealing canned goods or dry stuff like coffee? Or is it proteins like cheese or meat?

Each scenario has its fix, but each fix MUST be monitored, if they know you’re not monitoring they’ll find a way around it.

Whatchyaneed is a kitchen meeting explaining your rising food cost. Explain the measures you will implement. DO NOT call anyone a thief or even use the word theft. The video cams and the clear garbage bags should do that for you.
Joined Aug 13, 2019
No substitution for being there. I personally have had more trouble with silverware, stemware, and china, but you know, you have to be there, on a daily basis. Meat, Seafood, Poultry? Anything high end.....locked up. You make time to inventory all proteins....every every day. When the cats away, the mice will play.
Joined Jan 31, 2012
Funny, ive never worked in a restaurant that monitors waste.
Oh theyre usually aware of LOSS, some of which could well be going into the gunk cans, but to actually inspect trash bags, see whats going to the dump.... nope, not yet anyway.
When I catered, especially formal plated events, I would personally watch the several placed trash cans to see what the help was dumping. What I found was a certain percentage of flat ware, plates even tumblers being dumped with the food and paper waste.
And sometimes these items were rentals. :-0
Joined May 5, 2010
One of the helpful things I did was to try to instill in the cooks that the food they were working with was dollar bills.
Everything they peel, scrape, or cut off has a price.
Throwing away too much onion skin was the same thing as taking a couple quarters from your stash and throwing it in the garbage.
I got the most response when I put it in terms people can identify with.
Joined Jul 27, 2018
Happy to actually have a suggestion instead of a question for once: clear trash bags are a winner idea, but theft/thinking it’s fine to decimate our inventory is hard for us since we are 24/7. So periodically (about every couple weeks), I will just review a few sales v key ingredient ordered, and that helps me determine if too much product is going on to any specific dish and/or if it’s getting tossed/eaten. I find for me it’s more often mis-portioning slide on a cooks part, that all of a sudden they’ve only made 5 salads instead of 8,and used all the fancy greens which should have made 8. But either way, I can have a chat w them and retrain on portion, and /or see if they’ve noticed their stuff going missing in which case we leave a little note by the stuff that’s going MIA and start asking managers to watch specific shifts closely. Granted, expensive items stay in proximity of my sous chef, which is a luxury. It’s easy once you figure out problematic items and have sales/ weights/ order records for everything.
Hope this helps!
Joined Jan 31, 2012
Management was recently concerned about table knives disappearing, and have installed magnetic trashcan covers, especially sanitation station as you would expect. Has a chute with a huge magnet underneath, catches flat ware and ferrous utinsels dead in their tracks. Kinda awkward depending on where you try to tuck your waste can, but for the most part they work. Trouble is I think the flat ware is walking out the door, not going in the trash.
Joined May 5, 2010
I worked at a place once that had a magnetic ring around the garbage disposal unit for that very same reason.

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