Want To Curb Food Waste In Your Restaurant? Start Making More Cocktails
Imagine yourself as the executive pastry chef of a huge hotel. Every day is a flurry of activity. When you’re not ordering ingredients, you’re cooking with them. You get up at five in the morning every day. Your coworkers are the only people you ever see. If you have to throw out some mint before you can use it or waste some perfectly good orange peels, you’re probably not going to notice.
You might not even notice that those same ingredients could be used at, say, the bar.
But as food waste becomes a more and more pressing issue, simple communication problems like this are being paid attention to like never before. TripleSeat, a web-based event management software, helps track who’s using what where in a restaurant, replacing reams of spreadsheets. Latha Youngren, TripleSeat’s VP of Marketing, works closely with the event planners and sales managers who use their platform. Sustainability and food waste have unsurprisingly come up over and over in her recent conversations with them, and Latha thinks 2019 will only see an uptick in recycled materials, seasonal menus, and major brands like the B&B Hospitality Group growing their own herbs. But there are also tiny changes that can have a big impact on food waste, and ultimately the restaurant’s bottom line.
She thinks there’s a great opportunity here, especially for large restaurants: “The common thread [I’ve seen] is that there’s a little more open communication with all areas of the restaurant when everyone’s on the same page about being sustainably-minded…you can be more efficient in your ordering and produce less waste. One theme we’ve seen is mint. Mint is used in all three areas of a restaurant pretty predominantly. So why would the manager of each area be ordering mint separately? Waste could get produced if nobody’s ordering mojitos on Tuesday. Why don’t you just have one source for that?”
This increased dialogue has also led to some pretty creative ideas. One of Latha’s customers is repurposing leftover marinara sauce in his Bloody Marys. Others are using bruised fruit for purees or pineapple tops for garnishes. At the Chicago restaurant brand Lettuce Entertain You, they’ve been using zested lemons that are too “unsightly” to be put on a plate or in a drink to make fresh citrus juice. Latha’s particularly excited that Weber Grill restaurants have been making cocktails using bourbon they infuse with, “the ends of oranges they cut for garnishes. They add a bunch of other items and dehydrate them to make a tea, and then the bourbon goes through that three to five times and it ends up becoming a house specialty Manhattan – which sounds super good, right?”