How Your Kitchen Can Throw Away Nothing

Finding a way to use everything in a kitchen is a huge challenge for chefs and kitchen managers. If food costs are high, or if they could be lower, the first step might be to be more judicious about saving your product and using it wisely. A little organization and resourcefulness can maximize the earning potential of any kitchen, and make that food cost number look a little shinier.

There are many methods geared toward making sure your kitchen never throws anything away. But thereís only one proven answer and thatís vigilance. Watch over your food and your staff, make sure theyíre following instructions, and have a plan for everything you bring into your building. And if those things donít work, have a clearly placed waste sheet available to log everything you have to toss.

Use it, Then Use it Again

Having a plan for the food you order means having a back-up plan and another back-up plan. There are many standard ways to get rid of your product, and itís important to be familiar with all of them.

∑ Reuse it in a soup: Itís amazing how many chicken soups are out there. Seafood can go in any chowder and any red meat combines well with vegetables. Donít hesitate to trot a soup out for a few days and treat it kindly overnight.
∑ Reuse it in a stock: Foodies know the difference between a homemade stock and an instant powder. Non-foodies might also know the difference without being able to articulate it. Sure, you can make a beef or chicken stock, but a shellfish or seafood stock is a great sauce starter for entrees.
∑ Serve a buffet: There are many reasons to have a weekly buffet, and finding a home for your extras is one of them. Sure, buffets leave you with prepared food leftovers, but thatís what family meal is for. Just make sure itís the end of the line for your buffet leftovers.
∑ Have specials: Every restaurant should have features as a way of trying something different or seasonal. Specials also let you buy a new protein and run it until itís sold out. Be sure to vary your specials or challenge your staff to come up with new ways to serve the same protein.
∑ Sales contests: When youíre really trying to move a product, challenge your servers to sell it for you. You might be surprised to find out who is motivated on a given day.

Be Organized

An organized walk-in refrigerator and well-rotated reach-in boxes are the keys to throwing out nothing. That means you or a well-appointed employee has to manage the walk-in, and line cooks have to manage their work area. All of your storage areas should be cleaned every night, and all of your product should be rotated so that the newest is in the back and the oldest is up front.

Even well-organized and efficiently run kitchens have trouble with waste and spoiled food. This is especially true with produce that moves sporadically or which must be ordered in bulk. Ordering must coincide with a careful eye on revenue projections. In the end, organization and cleanliness really are a kitchenís best friend.

These tips can also help you stay on top of waste.

∑ Use your freezer: You have it for more than just ice cream. If you sense protein you need to get rid of, donít hesitate to toss it in the freezer until youíre able to use it.
∑ Put lids on trash cans: It may be an over-simplification, but lids tend to make people think for a moment about what theyíre throwing away.
∑ Throw-away bins: Use a lexan container or other box to let employees place questionable food so that you can throw it away for them. A no-throwaway policy helps you decide when and why product is being thrown away, and how to discourage it in the future.

Follow these tools and you should be able to severely limit the food your have to toss. You might even be able to handle the holiday rush, turning that Thanksgiving turkey into five different soups, specials, casseroles and sandwiches before it becomes everyoneís favorite employee family meal.