Food Waste in restaurants

The hidden cost of restaurant food waste

Por: Isabel Coderch Vergés

Food waste is a world-scale scandal that cannot be hidden anymore. 1,3 tons of food are wasted per year in our planet (since it is produced until the plate gets to the person). In the food industry, this goes in total contradiction to the business logic: We reduce the benefit margin when throwing food, we belittle our product and our image gets corrupted.

According to the study “Aprovechemos la comida: Una guía para la reducción del despilfarro alimentario en el sector de la hostelería, la restauración y el catering” from UAB and Fundacion Alicia, between 4% and 10% of food bought in restaurants ends up in the garbage.

The economic cost of raw materials is the main concept the comes up to our minds when we are thinking about measuring the magnitude of waste in our businesses, but if we make double-check costs, we find other hidden elements to be taken into account:


Food waste restaurants


  1. Economic costs: A regular Spanish restaurant the produces 120 meals per day, wastes 3 000 kg. of food per year. Assuming that an average of this raw material’s cost is 3.06 €/kg, 9 200 euros go to the bin per year. To this average cost, we should also add other expenses such as payroll, electricity, rent and the bin taxes.


What could we do with 9 200 euros extra per year?

 Food waste restaurant


  1. Environmental costs: Deforestation, biodiversity losses, natural resources consumption and greenhouse gases are the main effects of our food production and distribution system. When we waste food, besides from losing money, we contribute to contaminate the planet. Our Spanish restaurant that wastes 3 000 kg of food annually, also provokes 6 tons of CO2 gas. The equivalent of travelling from Barcelona to Copenhagen 6 times… roundtrip!
  1. Social costs: On a social context of great food shortage for many parts of this world, wasting tons of edible products everyday would be ethically objectionable. Wouldn’t you agree?


 And once we’ve assumed the need for reducing waste in our restaurant, where do we start?

  • Waste auditing: We can only control what has been measured. In order to reduce waste volume we must know first how much we are wasting, where this waste is produced and the reasons. Is it because it expires? Do customers eat everything served on the plates? Is there any overproduction? An auditing process will answer to all previous questions. If you cannot do it by yourself, you can always take advice from an expert ;).
  • Teamwork: Waste generation can be produced in any part of the chain (reception, storage, preparation, consumption) and it is why all employees must participate developing new strategies to avoid food waste.
  • Action plan: Define (as a team) a strategy to minimize waste production. Set annual clear and reviewable goals.
  • Social action: There is a part of this waste production that is intrinsic to the food industry business. If you have taken all the aforementioned measures, you can also establish a partnership with charity associations to benefit others with edible products that you are not to use. This exercise requires several hygiene measures but there are already a few cases in Spain, e.g. “BCN comparte comida” from Nutricion sin fronteras.
  • Communicate your initiative: Being environmentally supportive and respectful brings social benefits that your customers might appreciate. Spread out the word of your actions.

In the end, it is nothing but finding out the waste produced by your business, designing an action plan to minimize so and adding a different value to those which are inevitably produced.



Article translated by Álvaro Arrieta

Fundadora de Te lo sirvo verde, especialista en hostelería sostenible y ecologista optimista.