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Food waste prevention means more efficient labor - Labor cost

By Robb White, CEC CCA AAC; Executive Chef & Food Waste Prevention Catalyst  ///  March 15, 2019


When food is delivered to a kitchen’s backdoor, it has one cost: the food cost. Once it enters the kitchen, it starts getting saddled with labor costs. Unloading, storing, prepping, cooking, plating, serving, disposing. It’s a basic model that every chef and manager understands, but it’s important to keep it in mind when we talk about the impact food waste prevention has on labor.

When you understand what food you’re wasting and why you are wasting it, you are able to be more efficient in your food purchasing and prep. You are literally able to stop making so much food. When you to stop purchasing and preparing so much food, you take back some of that labor that’s piled on your food cost.

I coach chefs on preventing food waste, and I see and hear every week how food waste prevention makes a kitchen’s labor more efficient. Yes, sometimes that equates to labor costs, mainly through shaving overtime. But more often what I see is the redistribution of labor into improving the overall kitchen performance. Actually having additional labor hours to do those things you wish you had time for. Here are some real world examples.

A stronger focus on quality

This is where I see chefs most often directing additional labor realized through food waste prevention. Chefs use the extra time to focus on food quality, plating, and garnitures. The little finishing touches sometimes are hurried. If each line cook had a few extra minutes each day to just make sure it looks as good at it tastes, just think what that could do for the final product.  How many times has a kitchen just wanted a couple of extra minutes to get things just right?

A renewed focus on cleanliness and sanitation

I worked with a Leanpath client recently that realized extra time in the week to further develop a deep-clean schedule for those big items that take time: scrubbing behind equipment that never gets moved, serious kitchen deep clean, hoods, floors, storage, walk in cooler and freezer. He focused time on things that can always benefit from a little extra TLC.

Overall organization.

Some chefs grab those extra minutes each day to really keep the kitchen organized. From dry storage, coolers, freezers, low boys, dish rack, spice rack, pots and pans, anything and everything has a place. Extra minutes in the day can mean a more organized kitchen.


Chefs are natural teachers, they always want to pass on knowledge to the staff.  I know chefs that now have a little extra time each week to focus on making the team better. Maybe the kitchen staff needs a refresher on knife skills or service standards? Maybe there is a great training video you wanted them to see. Use the time to make your team stronger, cohesive and well-oiled.

Avoid Overtime

A chef told me the other day he is staying more in line with his budget because he isn't wasting time on food production that will be wasted. Chefs now have a few extra minutes each day to get the basics done and that can mean a crew can avoid the O.T. that seems to creep into every pay period.

Less stressful work environment

A kitchen is organized chaos, but if a team could just ease off the gas pedal, just a little, and not waste time prepping food that is wasted, they can slow down just bit and enjoy the kitchen.


There is so much to be done on a daily basis in each and every kitchen that finding those seconds, minutes, and hours each week really do make a difference.  Although you might not be cutting FTE’s because you are preventing food waste, you can take that time gained each day and align it where it is most needed in your operation.  There are plenty of hidden seconds and minutes in a day. Enough to do the things that matter.


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Topics: Food Waste Musings