For every $1 spent cutting food waste, restaurants get back $7

According to a coalition of businesses, policy makers and campaigners, restaurants that invest in food waste reduction are—over a three year timeframe—seeing $7 in savings for every $1 spent.

CC BY 2.0 Nick Saltmarsh

CC BY 2.0 Nick Saltmarsh

Whichever way you look at it, these numbers make cutting food waste a pretty compelling return on investment (600% ROI to be precise). So much so, that a full 76% of businesses participating in the study recouped their investment in the first year alone, with the figure rising to 89% in year two. What's even more impressive, is that many of the practices and policies implemented ought to cost very little moving forward—so once the initial investment is made, it's a gift that keeps on giving almost in perpetuity, as long as teams can remain disciplined and consistent in waste reduction practices.

Specifically, the report suggests restaurants and cafeterias focus on the following strategies to cut down on excess waste:

1) Measure where food is being wasted and how.

2) Engage staff, and motivate them to take the problem seriously.

3) Reduce overproduction, particularly by avoiding waste-heavy techniques or serving styles like batch cooking, casserole trays, and buffets in favor of cook-to-order preparation.

4) Rethink inventory and purchasing practices to avoid over buying.

5) Repurpose excess food, including formulating a safe Plan B for ingredients if a specific dish doesn't sell as well as expected.

It was a little surprised to not see portion control explicitly included on the list.

Either way, this is a powerful reminder that doing the right thing is often good for business too.

Paul Hawken's Drawdown project actually identifies food waste reduction as the #3 priority for tackling climate change, in terms of potential emissions savings.