It’s no secret that food waste in the United States is a huge problem: for both businesses and people. According to NPR, “as much as 10 percent of the food a restaurant buys ends up in landfills.” From a business perspective, 10% of food thrown away drives up operating costs for the restaurant and translates directly to the bottom line. From a people perspective, this food is thrown away despite the millions of individuals in the US facing hunger and food insecurity.
While a lot of the food waste that happens in restaurants is inevitable (like when a customer is unhappy with their order and sends it back), restaurants can minimize it by ensuring all food products are properly stored. Dry good storage is a huge part of proper maintenance of restaurant stock. Besides obvious practices, like storing everything in sealed containers, maintaining dry storage areas, keeping storage free of insects and vermin, and ditching damaged cans and containers, there are several things you can do to ensure your products remain fresh until they’re on your customers’ plates.
- Monitor humidity and temperature levels
According to Food Safety Magazine, “the storage lives of most foods are cut in half by every increase of 18° F (10° C).” In other words, make sure your dry foods storage area stays cool at all times, somewhere between 50°F and 70°F. Ventilation and air flows are key factors for keeping storage areas at the right temperature. Humidity also puts foods at risk for spoilage. Ideally, humidity levels are kept below 15% at all times. If your restaurant is located in a particularly humid area, some type of dehumidification system may be helpful for maintaining safe levels.
- Seal windows and doors for protection against pests
Not only are issues with pest control a huge safety hazard and health code violation, they can be hard to get a handle on if not taken care of immediately. Prevent these problems by ensuring all openings to the storage area are sealed, ensuring that all surfaces and floors are cleaned regularly, and maintaining regular pest maintenance in the restaurant.
- Label and date everything
The moment a package is opened, oxidation begins, threatening its content’s freshness. For this reason, dating every item on the package is a smart way to keep track of a product’s age, especially the ingredients that are used less often in the kitchen. Labels ensure employees always pull the correct ingredient and keep the organizational system clear. Label printers like the 9417+ from Avery Dennison are a great way to ensure that labels are legible and have consistent information.
- Always rotate goods
Last but not least, rotating goods is perhaps the most important rule on this list. By following the “first in, first out” rule, you’ll ensure you use older ingredients first and throwing out inventory. To do this, stock new supplies behind what’s already being stored so the older products are always pulled first.
These tips will help ensure that your food stays stressed and your operating costs don’t include unnecessary expenditures. We hope you’ve enjoyed our series on food storage—if you missed out parts 1, 2, and 3 you can check them out here.