No one wants to think about food waste, but it’s there.

Food waste can quickly become any restaurant’s forgotten cost. According to the National Restaurant Association, four to 10% of food purchased in the U.S. is tossed before even reaching a guest. Here are five of the most-common sources of food waste and practical steps for preventing it at your restaurant.

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1. Over-ordering

Over-ordering product happens for a number of different reasons. The most common reason? An inefficient or improperly managed inventory system, which can easily lead to chefs ordering more product than actually necessary. Performing and tracking inventory regularly will keep food waste down and save you money on ordering food that you just don’t actually need.

2. Spoilage

Even if you aren’t over-ordering product, you run the risk of spoilage. If you don’t carefully inspect the food coming in, you might accept product that is already turning bad. Make sure to clearly label all incoming product with best-by dates. Labeling enables you to install the first-in, first-out (FIFO) storage method to reduce the amount of spoiled food you keep on hand.

3. Overproduction

Another common source of food waste is overestimating sales for a dish. Chefs often will prep and cook too much food to avoid 86’s. But, this leads directly to higher food waste. Tracking sales gives you a chance to periodically review your menu, create more efficient batching levels, and even eliminate dishes that aren’t moving fast enough. Try planning your staff meal around your extra ingredients to save the sunk costs of prep work.

4. Assorted misfires

A server forgets to add the allergy note for a dish including nuts. A line cook misread a ticket and prepared the wrong dish. Misfires can kill your bottom line. Proper training and active management can prevent these types of mishaps from happening during a shift.

5. Poor portion control

Do you throw away bags of untouched food every night? This could be a sign that your portions are off. Effective portion control means you can stretch your food budget further without sacrificing quality. Standardizing your measurements for each dish can prevent too much food reaching the trash when a guest doesn’t feel like packing leftovers.

It’s impossible to control food waste completely. That doesn’t mean you can’t drastically reduce the amount of waste you produce by taking a few simple precautions. This keeps money in your pocket, food out of the trash, and makes your kitchen better, too.

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