Wasting Away: Reducing Food (and Energy) Waste for Restaurants

Richard Young, Director of Education


The Food Service Tecnology Center (FSTC) held two educational seminars in June covering the relationship between food and energy waste. The seminar at the PG&E facility in San Ramon featured presentations from the FSTC’s Richard Young and Claudia Pingatore who were joined by guest speakers Samantha Sommers (ReThink Disposable), Mike Goldblatt (Copia), Kerry Flickner (Foodservice Sustainability Solutions), and Anne Baker & Kimberly Lam (Republic Waste Services). At the San Diego presentation, Richard Young was joined by Ana Carvalho from the City of San Diego and Island Restaurants’ Mike Schuster.

A variety of food and energy waste-related subjects were presented during the two sessions including composting, recycling, hardware technologies for reducing pre- and post-consumer food waste streams, software solutions for food rescue, and reducing the use of disposables. The discussion was lively and the speakers covered all aspects of “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”. The big take-away: “Reduce” is by far the most cost effective and sustainable approach to cutting food waste. That said, it was agreed among all participants that there is still work to be done to improve consumer behavior/expectations, kitchen inventory management, and worker training before significant food waste reduction becomes a reality.

Republic Waste

Anne Baker (left) & Kimberly Lam with Republic Waste Services present at the FSTC food waste seminar on June 14th, 2017 in San Ramon, CA.

One interesting question that the FSTC asked concerned the relationship between pre-consumer food waste and energy use in the kitchen. Specifically, if you cook less food, does that lower the energy bill? Using the FSTC online cost calculators, we ran a series of simulations on different appliances in which the amount of food cooked was reduced by 10%. The results varied for different types of appliances, but a 10% reduction in food cooked resulted in an average 4% reduction in energy use – demonstrating that food waste reduction does have an impact on the energy bill. This also reinforced the fact that, from a sustainability standpoint, everything in the commercial kitchen relates to everything else and nothing can be taken for granted.

While 4% is not a huge number, it’s not trivial and certainly helps the bottom line. If you combine pre-consumer food waste reduction with a tight appliance ON/OFF schedule, it’s not hard to cut energy use by 5% to 10% across the cookline. Food waste reduction is THE hot topic in the foodservice sustainability world and for good reason: it’s something everyone can agree on and it’s a challenge for which there are numerous good solutions.

Foodservice Sustainability Solutions

Kerry Flickner with Foodservice Sustainability Solutions explains how their equipment technologies can be used to reduce the waste stream created by commercial foodservice.

Here’s a list of resources to help get you started on your own food waste reduction journey: