By Paul Rifkin
Club Catering Consultant
There is a movement on global environmental change. Yes, it’s been going on for years and now gaining real traction and action. Customers now demand it! So, what is waste and how can you control it better in a club situation?
An awful lot starts and finishes in the catering department.
Deliveries are a large source of waste, especially the fruit and vegetables; challenge your suppliers to remove cardboard and foam boxes and use recyclables for your products … don’t be afraid, many are already doing it for key accounts.
Another source in many kitchens is over-ordering and the wastage associated with spoiled and out-of-date stock. Correct ordering management systems will give you better control in this area.
Further to this is how you store fresh produce. Are steaks and chicken decanted into containers in large quantities? Consider the advantages of a cryovac machine to assist in controlling shelf life.
Food waste from the plate and production waste are the largest sources of kitchen waste, and over-portioning doesn’t help control food cost either.
So, what are the various solutions to manage and reduce this?
I have found that the simplest is spending time at the dishwasher section, watching what actually comes back on the plate. A look at each plate will reveal over-portioning of chips. Most clubs I visit as a mentoring consultant are wasting up to 40 per cent of all fries cooked, all going in the bin, both in profits and food waste. It might look good by filling up the plate, but the customer can’t eat it all.
It’s no wonder they won’t buy an entrée or dessert!
Another find might be that your steaks are too large, your chicken portion is too big, or the seafood component is oversized. Record this data and see if a pattern emerges. This can then be used to reduce portions and increase profits through strong training and implementation systems in your kitchen.
At the rubbish bin, many items will end up in landfill, unless you have a food waste collection system. More on this next. Club bins are hungry and regularly eat up cutlery, sauce pots and many other small kitchen items, all costing $$$.
There are a variety of food separation waste products in the marketplace and the environmental footprint will vary amongst them, depending on the process. The most important thing is that they all remove food waste from landfill. There are also some unexpected positives that come from the process of sorting the food scraps.
When I was Executive Chef of Campbelltown Catholic Club, we had food separation bins in all production and dishwashing areas. All off-cuts in production and plate food waste were put into these. This process enabled waitstaff and chefs to see what they are putting into the containers. It also allowed me to do regular walk-throughs to see what waste there was.
Habits such as cutting too much off tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums and many other items are easily visible and corrective action could be taken. Education was the key to changing behaviours … and also the knowledge that I was always lurking around.
Cutlery and sauce pots were very visible and hence losses in these areas reduced dramatically.
I believe the question comes down to how the process used affects the environment. What does this mean? It is all down to garbage miles. Just like food miles affect the environment, so do garbage miles.
Review your collection processes. Does a truck need to pick up the waste and then still process it further offsite, or can it be finished on-site, resulting in minimal garbage miles?
Collectively clubs can have a large impact on unnecessary landfill. I trust I have given you some “food for thought”.
Club Catering Consultant Paul Rifkin has more than 40 years’ experience in large-venue kitchens as a chef and mentor, including 17 years at Campbelltown Catholic Club as Executive Chef.