lots of people at a table

Imagine a world where if your guests didn’t finish their meal, on the bill there would be a charge for not joining the “clean plate club”.

Charging for Leftovers in Europe

Turns out you don’t need to imagine a whole new world, you just need to open a restaurant in Switzerland or England. With eyes often bigger than the stomachs, buffets across the world have run into problems with guests over-serving themselves, and then wasting food. Overseas, these restaurants are changing that by having their flat cost for a buffet meal, but then if you don’t finish the food you served yourself, another flat cost for that.

But it’s not just the Swiss and English taking action against food waste, the French passed a law where it is now illegal for supermarkets to throw away unsold food. Instead they must donate it. Each year the French throw out 7.1 million tons of food, with 15% of that by restaurants, and only 11% of that by grocery stores. It’s gotten so bad that now, even though it has been looked down upon for years, if requested by the guest the French must provide “doggy bags” to take home leftovers, as of 2016.

With portions 2 to 8 times larger than serving sizes regulate, 17% of the guests meal is usually uneaten.

Chefs discussing optimized menu on clipboard in commercial restaurant kitchen

How Food Costs Hurt Restaurants’ Bottom Line

But that doesn’t mean it becomes lunch the next day. 55% of leftovers are left at the restaurant to be tossed. That’s a lot of food costs just to give hearty portions.

Your bottom line margins are thin enough without your guests tossing a chunk of the meal away on the regular. But how is it possible to instigate saving food that is ultimately wasted when large portions are so ingrained in our culture?

It’s a difficult concept, because you don’t want to give your guests a reason to pick another restaurant over your own, and the idea of charging for leaving food is not going to settle well with everyone. Yet with such large food wastes what can be done?

Extra large portions can be the first to go, or at least give the option for small portions. Sometimes your guests like the idea of leftovers, getting two meals out of one, but other things don’t reheat as well. Don’t pile on the fries with an already huge dish if you notice they are just going from plate to trash. Cheesecake Factory has taken a stab at this, by offering different sized portions, you put the option in your guests hands so that both sides can be happy.

restaurant inventory spreadsheet template

Food cost is one of the largest expenses for the restaurant, and one of the most overlooked areas for improvement and control.

Get The Guide

With 40% of food being wasted, that’s not just meals wasted for the hungry, that’s money out of everyone’s pocket. The fact of the matter is, when your food ends up in the trash each of those scraps, or half a dish, has a monetary value. You try and save money anywhere you can already- take a stab at how to keep bellys, and wallets, full for everyone around by reducing food waste.

3 Ways Restaurants can Cut Food Waste & Boost Profits


Spend a week tracking how much food is left before and after the meal is served.

Use  a restaurant inventory management tool to easily record the amount, food type, location, loss reason, and other information about the food being discarded. Your kitchen staff can actually record the information, immediately prior to disposal, with just the click of a button. Through the app, you can follow your reporting dashboard to analyze exactly what’s being wasted so you can take the steps necessary to reduce your restaurant food waste.

Store your inventory the right way

Take a good look at the fridge, freezer and pantry. Find out what you have and what’s not being used in the majority of your dishes. In addition, note down from your food waste tracking, which ingredients you often use that are wasted because of their expiry dates. This will help you time what you’re purchasing so you can avoid running out or throwing away waste before your next grocery run.

Tech Bonus! Check out the app Love Food Hate Waste, which was launched in 2007 by a nonprofit organization in the UK. They educate consumers about storing and organizing their food in a more efficient way.

Test portion sizes

Now that you have an idea of what food is wasted/how many diners on average ask for a takeout container, you can take a look at your restaurant’s portion sizes. If they are significantly large portions and you’re constantly handing out leftover containers, consider reducing the size of your popular, larger main dishes. This is an easy way to cut your food waste in half.

Tech Bonus! Use your Upserve portal to understand which meals are your most popular and which dishes are actually keeping your customers coming back for more. Use this data to explore new ways you can actively keep your guests happy while also reducing waste and saving money.

Learn How Upserve Inventory Can Save you 50 Hours per Week

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Megan is always adventuring. Whether it is simply wandering around Newport, RI or venturing off across the world, she is constantly looking for a new travel destination. While she may not be able to tell you the exact cities she has visited, you can expect a play by play of everything she ate.