How to design a low-waste menu
Offer a choice of sides
According to WRAP, the ‘extras’ served with meals - like chips or salads - are the foods most likely to go to waste. This is down to customers seeing these foods as plate-fillers, as opposed to the food they ‘actually ordered’.
Work around this by offering a choice of sides with certain menu items. For instance, if you usually serve your burger with no-questions-asked chips, consider offering customers the option of chips, a salad, or roast potatoes. Not only will this give customers a greater sense of ownership over the side, but it means you’re more likely to serve them food they’re willing to eat.
Does your sauteed broccoli side dish mean you consistently throw away broccoli stalks? Does your pan-fried salmon call for bones to be discarded? Assess dishes that create frequently wasted scraps, and think of ways you can reuse those ingredients in different menu items.
Whizz those broccoli stalks into a creamy broccoli and stilton soup, and set those fish bones aside for a seafood paella’s stock. You never know - your waste-fighting menu items could become your best sellers.
Ditch rarely used ingredients
Scan your menu: are there dishes with obscure ingredients that often spoil before they can be used?
The less flexible an ingredient is, the more likely it is to go to waste. Hold these ingredients up to the light and consider whether they’re really bringing enough to the table. Ask the question: are there more commonly used ingredients that could be used in their place?
If yes, make the swap - your bottom line will thank you for it.
Offer half portions
There can be all sorts of reasons customers have small appetites. Perhaps they’re less hungry at breakfast time, or maybe they had a late lunch.
Whatever the reason, the outcome for you is the same: plate waste.
It can be hard to create portion sizes that satisfy everyone. On one hand, you don’t want big eaters to feel short-changed. On the other hand, it’s wasteful to serve up food that won’t be eaten.
By offering the option of smaller portions for a shrunk price, you can create a great customer experience for both parties. Those with big appetites will get their fill, and lighter diners don’t have to pay for food they won’t eat.
Scale down the menu
The more dishes customers have to choose from, the harder it is to predict what they’ll select. By offering fewer dishes, it’s much easier to forecast which ingredients you’ll need. Strike off your worst sellers, or those that create the most waste, and allow your kitchen staff to better master a reduced menu.
Consider what can be redistributed
It’s hard to perfectly forecast demand every time. Some level of surplus is inevitable, so consider ways you can design menu items that can be redistributed efficiently. Dishes that can be safely sold at the end of each shift through an app like Too Good To Go could work double-duty, recovering your costs and reducing waste at the same time.