Like most restaurants, you’re probably throwing out between 4 and 10 percent of the food you buy. If you can find ways to reduce food waste, that savings can go right to your bottom line.
Adopting best practices for storing refrigerated foods and properly caring for commercial refrigeration equipment can help you take back your inventory and save money.
8 tips to reduce food waste and prevent spoilage
1. First in, first out
It can be challenging to find the time to get organized, but the money you save when you reduce food waste is well worth the effort. Rotate inventory using a first in, first out system for all your food storage areas, especially inside your refrigerators and freezers, so that the older items are in the front and used first. That way you don’t have perishable items getting wasted because they’re stuck in the back.
Make sure all employees who unpack and store items, as well as those who take them out and use them, fully understand and comply with the system.
2. Properly label refrigerated foods
All perishable items in your refrigerators and freezers should be properly labeled with use-by dates. Even produce, which usually doesn’t come with a label. That makes it easy for your staff to know which items to use before they spoil. And it makes your food safer for customers to consume.
3. Organize for fast access
When the doors of your refrigeration boxes and freezers are left open too much, that can increase the temps inside to unsafe levels and make food spoil faster. When your staff have trouble finding or getting at the items they need, chances are they are leaving the doors open too long.
Arrange the contents of your refrigerators and freezers so that the most frequently used items are easiest to grab. For very large walk-in freezers, you can create a “map” showing where everything is and post it on the outside, so staff can figure out where items are before they open the door.
4. Placement is important
Where you place perishable items in a refrigerator or freezer can also impact how long they last.
Keep delicate items that can be damaged by cold drafts, like greens, away from the fans inside the boxes. Also, it’s smart to avoid placing meat where juices can drip onto other foods and cause spoilage, or worse, spread illness.
5. Don’t store on the floor
The floor of walk-in refrigerators and freezers is not the place to store food. It gets walked on, dripped on, and can be loaded with bacteria.
6. Don’t block air vents
Your refrigerators and freezers need ventilation and airflow to work properly. So don’t block the air vents. Make sure your staff doesn’t pile boxes of inventory too close to refrigeration units. Keep the recommended amount of space clear around each unit.
7. Don’t ignore the signs
No matter how organized you are, food is going to spoil if your refrigeration units aren’t keeping food at the correct temperature.
To reduce food waste, always be vigilant about looking for any signs that repairs are needed. Call your refrigeration maintenance service if you notice condensation, ice or unusual noises from your commercial refrigerators. Also call if doors are not closing securely.
8. Don’t neglect refrigeration maintenance
When was the last time you had your refrigeration thermostats calibrated? They can lose accuracy over time. Even with accurate thermometers, your boxes could be too warm if faulty gaskets are letting in warm air.
That’s just one reason that you need regular inspections and maintenance for your refrigeration equipment. Your technician will clean fans and coils, check motors and compressors, inspect the condition of gaskets and replace if needed, and make sure all your units are working properly to keep food fresh as long as possible and reduce food waste.
BONUS: Getting regular refrigeration maintenance also makes your equipment last longer, which saves you money, too.
Learn more: Refrigeration Maintenance FAQ
NYC restaurants: reduce food waste with refrigeration maintenance
Regular maintenance is the easy way to keep your refrigeration equipment in peak operating condition. For priority service at the best price, get a service contract customized for your needs, equipment and budget.
If you’re in the NYC metro area, contact Arista to take care of your refrigeration, HVAC and kitchen equipment. We’ll schedule your service at a convenient time for you.