5 Tips for Reducing Food Waste over the Holidays

Prepare your business for the holiday rush while minimizing costs with these tips to help reduce food waste.
December 9, 2021

With the holidays coming up, many people are looking forward to treating themselves to some tasty festive meals. Whether people plan on indulging at a restaurant, getting some takeout to enjoy at home or coordinating catered meals, as a food business, you’re probably gearing up for the holiday rush.

One important aspect of holiday preparation for food businesses is strategizing ways to minimize food waste. It’s estimated that one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted every year. In addition to directly affecting food inequality and climate change, this waste also influences a food business’s bottom line. By implementing practical steps to reduce food waste in your organization, you’ll ultimately help your business minimize costs.

This holiday season, be prepared for customer demand while putting processes in place to limit waste with our 5 tips for reducing food waste over the holidays.

1. Monitor the food waste at your business

This is good practice that food businesses should be doing every day, at all times of the year. Keeping an inventory of the restaurant’s food waste can help determine where and how much food is being wasted. This helps to identify opportunities for process changes, menu adjustments or substitutions while still providing the dishes that are in demand.

2. Create a special holiday menu

If you’re thinking of providing a special holiday menu, plan out the menu items well ahead of time and decide the serving size of each dish. This allows you to determine what ingredients you may already have on hand and which items you’ll still need to source or order in larger amounts. Creating a set menu and specific list of items to order will help deter you from making impulse ingredient purchases that may not end up being used.

3. Predict or limit food orders

Once you have your menu finalized, promote it! Let people know about holiday specials on-site, online and on social media. This will encourage interest in your business for the holidays and can also help predict how much ingredients you’ll actually need to buy to meet demand.

Using predictive ordering technology or even a manual system to help accurately predict food orders can provide you with a better understanding of food order patterns for your business. This ultimately leads to better purchasing decisions, less waste and minimized costs.

Another way to reduce food waste is to put a cap on orders for your holiday menu. This way you can determine exactly how much of each ingredient you’ll need. Actively promoting a limited number of specials can also generate demand and convince customers to make an order or visit your restaurant so that they won’t miss out on your amazing food!

4. Plan for excess ingredients

While it’s good to have a system in place to predict customer demand, you may not always get it right. Even after following the tips above, food businesses may still end up with extra ingredients. Don’t let them go to waste! Create a plan ahead of time for what other menu items you can create with the ingredients you’re purchasing.

Using leftover items that are not spoiled or past their “use by” date is a great opportunity to get creative with your menu offerings and promote some fun restaurant specials even after the big holiday rush.

5. Include instructions for leftovers

An important yet often forgotten part of reducing food waste is educating customers about leftovers. Encourage your customers to enjoy leftovers from their holiday meal while keeping in mind the potential food safety risks that come with consuming leftover food.

Educate customers on food safety by providing proper storage and reheating instructions. Also include information on when the leftover food should be consumed by.

People can be encouraged to finish leftovers and reduce food waste if they have some inspiration or options to make the meal a little different. Try creating a leftovers idea sheet that they can take home with them, or include it in their delivery or catering order.

Make food safety and waste reduction a top priority for your food business this holiday season with even more food safety tips for the holidays from the Canadian Institute of Food Safety!