If you run any manner of catering business and haven’t yet looked into how you can cut back on food waste, a new report released this week might provide a bit of motivation. “The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Catering” comes courtesy of food waste coalition Champions 12.3 and is aimed at restaurants, schools, hospitals, and other places that normally receive onsite catering (via Fast Casual). The report looked at 86 sites across six countries, finding that businesses saved $6 for every $1 invested in food waste.

“Taking action across the food industry is vital if we are to halve global food waste by 2030,” Dave Lewis, Group Chief Executive of Tesco and Chair of Champions 12.3 said in a press release.

Among the approaches to food waste were purchasing smart scales to measure food waste, redesigning menus, and working with staff to engage them in food waste efforts. And 79 percent of sites interviewed said they kept their total investment in waste reduction tools and approaches under $10,000.

Participating businesses cited benefits like lower food costs through fewer purchases, lower waste-management costs, and increased revenue from “new” items created from unsold food. Meanwhile, the report offered a few recommendations for catering managers when it comes to cutting back the amount of food wasted in their businesses:

1. Measure food waste to identify how much and where food is being wasted. Though the report didn’t mention any specific digital tools, LeanPath has been around since 2004 and provides a connected scale and camera kitchens can use to track food items thrown away.

2. Help the staff to engage in curbing food waste. The report notes that staff “often want to help prevent food waste at work but need more definition and guidance from leadership.”

3. Test pilot programs for food waste reduction on a small scale, then build up. This is kind of a no-brainer for most new business initiatives, and those interviewed for the report found more success with programs that started small.

4. Cut down on overproduction. Inevitably, some items are more popular than others when it comes to the food service business. Businesses are encouraged to note which dishes are less popular and order fewer ingredients to cut back on making too much food then throwing it out.

5. Repurpose excess food. This is the area that gets a lot of press these days, from shipping it to food deserts to selling it at a discount to making pants.

Of course, the biggest factor in helping businesses cut down on food waste may come from behavioral change. One-third of all food produced worldwide goes to waste, which amounts to roughly $940 billion in economic losses. Only part of that comes from the food service industry, which means the onus is as much on us consumers as it is on the kitchens preparing the buffet table at your next startup mixer.

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Jenn is a writer and editor for The Spoon who covers restaurant tech and food delivery, developments in agriculture and indoor farming, and startup accelerators and incubators. On the side, she moonlights as a ghostwriter for tech industry executives and spends a lot of time on the road exploring food developments in more remote parts of the country. Previously, she was managing editor of Gigaom’s market research department and was once a competitive pinball player. Jenn splits her time between NYC and Nashville, TN.


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