Waste-Making Pressures (and Tips to Avoid Them), Part 1: Merchandising
Most foodservice operators throw away 4-10% of the food they purchase before it even reaches a plate. What are the drivers behind all of this waste? When we took a closer look, we uncovered some of the common pressures. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at one of them: merchandising.
More is better when it comes to merchandising. An appealing self-serve buffet is an overflowing buffet. A bigger portion size makes for a happier customer. These are common perceptions that unfortunately result in a lot of pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste. Everyone wants their café stations, salad bars, grab-n-go display cases or plated entrées to look full, appetizing, bountiful and beautiful. But that doesn’t mean you have to produce more than you need and endure excessive food waste (along with unnecessarily high food costs).
Here are 5 quick merchandising tips for buffets and self-serve operations that won’t put pressure on overproduction.
- Downsize your display containers. Use smaller pans so a lesser amount of food still looks like a full offering, or try special display pans with angles. (Bon Chef has useful display products and Hubert Company offers innovative merchandising advice and products.)
- Use merchandising props. An empty steam well doesn’t have to look like a glaring oversight to your customer. Use quality hot well covers to conceal empty areas. Top them with decorative props and flowers to make your display beautiful and elegant.
- Create a theme. Use different textures and fabrics with a common theme or color palette to make your display look cohesive and attractive.
- Use glass to trick the eye. Glass shelves give the appearance of more products while allowing light to filter through.
- Display food on risers and tiered display stands. Draw more attention to certain foods by elevating them with risers and multiple tiers. Raised platters keep displays looking full and fresh. So does grouping similar items together in the center of a shelf rather than spreading them out.
For restaurants cooking-to-order, take a close look at your portion sizes. While some diners equate portion size with value, many customers will find value in smaller portions at lower price points. These menu items can become some of your highest-margin offerings if you reduce your price less than you reduce the portion. Many diners also find value in smaller, healthy offerings offering fewer calories.
Food waste doesn’t have to be “just a part of doing business.” At LeanPath, we’ve found that if you track your food waste, you’ll find ways to do something about it, including changing the way you merchandise and portion food. Learn more about automated Food Waste Tracking Systems at www.leanpath.com. And watch for part 2 of “Food Waste Making Pressures” next month when we’ll look at tips to safely re-use food and reduce waste.