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How to Reduce Food Waste in Restaurants

According to WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), around 10 million tonnes of food and drink is wasted in the UK each year. This has a value of over £20 billion and creates around 22 million tonnes of greenhouse gases in the process.

Over two million tonnes is wasted in the hospitality and food sectors alone, of which 75% could have been avoided. On average, 21% of this preventable food waste is spoilage, 45% is food preparation and 34% is from consumer plates.

Food waste graph for hospitality sectors

(Statistics from WRAP)

So what can businesses do to reduce their food waste?

Measure your food waste

Primarily, businesses should be focusing on cutting their carbohydrate waste down (potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, etc.), as they contribute to the largest amount of avoidable waste out of any food group.

Food waste is more than just what you don’t sell. It’s also what your customers leave on their plates, untouched leftovers from buffets, mistake orders, offcuts from prep, etc. There are many ways you can track your business’s food wastage; from regular audits and logging systems to using a food waste reduction roadmap to effectively measure and report any change. WRAP provide useful support for reducing food waste in the Hospitality and Food Service sector.

You should begin your reduction journey by first measuring how much food you currently waste. By implementing separate bins for various waste types, you can measure the weight of your food waste and create an effective system to track your progress. This can help you locate where your business is losing money, discover problem areas, and figure out where to place your focus. From there, you can set a target to bring your waste food down and create a plan to make it a reality.

Employee Engagement

Let your team know how much food is being wasted and look together at ways to reduce it, such as:

  • Ask your chefs, or incentivise them, to produce minimal waste during food preparation and provide training to reduce costly mistakes from wrongly cooked food.
  • Challenge your chefs to see what daily specials they can create with leftovers, keeping them creatively engaged. Can any of your food be reused? Could a soup or stock be created from old peelings and animal bones?
  • Implement multiple bins to separate waste food from storage, preparation, and plate waste. this makes it easier to manage, track, and recycle your wastage.
  • Many customers feel too embarrassed to ask for takeaway bags for their leftovers, so get your front of house staff to ask if they’d like one wherever possible.
  • Give staff leftover food at the end of the night – why bin it if someone will eat it? This raises morale and lowers the amount of perfectly good food chucked away.

Effective planning and preparation

WRAP found that poor food preparation contributes to 45% of wasted food. Make sure your chefs are fully trained on food preparation, and are using the FIFO (First In First Out) method. Perform regular stock rotation, clear-outs and cleaning.

Spoilage constitutes 21% of food waste. Try to plan effectively when ordering stock; it can be tempting to buy in bulk during deals, but this can just add to your waste if not used. When the delivery arrives, you should check for any signs of spoilage before accepting the items.

Check your fridge and freezer temperatures are in the correct zones. Of course, correct food labelling and food group storage also helps to ensure items are less likely to be thrown out or go off.

Properly planning your menu can also prevent food waste:

Menu changes

A further study by WRAP discovered that 59% of customers leave food at the end of a meal because the portion size was too big. Making changes to your menu – even small, subtle changes, can make all the difference.

Not everyone wants chips with their burgers and steaks, so why not offer alternative sides? Where possible, avoid charging extra to change sides, as this may put people off swapping, and they’ll leave some of their food anyway.

Is a specific menu item regularly coming back untouched? Perhaps it’s time to revamp it or remove it from the menu completely.

Smaller portion sizes also reduce the risk of plates coming back unfinished. A 2012 trial by Norwegian company GreeNudge identified that a reduction in customer plate sizes reduced buffet food waste by 19.5%. This was accompanied by a sign informing customers that they could return as many times as they wanted.


Consider donating your surplus food to charities. Organisations such as FareShare, PlanZheroes or The Trussell Trust send good quality food to food banks, charities, and community groups across the UK. Before donating, make sure you check what types of food they accept, and that the company liability issues are covered by the appropriate disclaimers.

Charity providing food to those who need it


They say there’s an app for everything, and the same is true of business food waste:

  • OLIO will pick up your unsold food and redistribute it.
  • Too Good To Go enables you to sell off any leftover food for cheaper at the end of the night. This reduces your waste and means your profits take less of a hit. Karma is an alternative app for businesses in London.
  • NoWaste is technically a domestic use app, but could be utilised in a commercial setting to keep track of your use-by dates and easy-view inventory of your stock.
  • Winnow and Unilever’s Wise up on Waste can help you to track, record and analyse your food waste.

Anaerobic Digestion Plant

For everything else that can’t be reused or recycled such as fats, oils, and food scraps, Willshee’s provide a bespoke collection service. This food waste is taken to our local anaerobic digestion plant to be turned into biofuel. We can also arrange a glass recycling pickup at the same time. Call us today on 01283 702 340, or email us at sales@wilshees.co.uk to see how we can help your business.


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