Reduce waste with proper ordering, storage

peppers jars

While it only serves 200 students and staff daily, the Muse School in Calabasas, Calif., has a need for fresh produce that’s much larger than the typical K-12 school. The private institution serves entirely vegan fare, menuing 1,000 pounds of fruit and vegetables per week.

“Despite the large amount of produce we use, the great majority is consumed, and there’s little spoilage,” says Kayla Webb, executive chef. “We barely throw away any produce.”

The Muse School has strict policies in place—outside food is banned, for example, to cut down on waste. But even if an operation can’t maintain such a level of control, proper planning and storage can make a big difference in the amount of produce that ends up in the trash.

On-site gardens have become standard at many facilities, and their harvests usually complement the operation’s produce needs. At the Muse School, the kitchen regularly prepares its vegan menu with produce from its campus garden, replacing around 30 percent of the greens needed. However, like many similar gardens, it runs into the problem of large harvests while school is out. “We’re going to try canning or blanching some of the summer produce and come up with ways to use it in the fall,” says Webb. 

Thinking small has been the key for Terry Nahavandi, resident district manager for Compass, who helped open a new dining facility at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte last year that shifted the university away from the large centralized kitchen model. “The core of what we do is in small stations, where the items are cooked in small batches or made to order,” he says. “Doing that reduces the need for massive ordering far in advance of perishables, which helps us cut down on waste.”

Keeping ordering to just a few days out from usage has been a successful model at UNCC. “Our menu planning works best when we’re keeping our orders smaller, and not receiving large amounts of perishables,” Nahavandi says. His department orders about 15,000 pounds of produce weekly, with a focus on seasonal goods to ensure quality.

At the University of California, Irvine, chefs start the day with their menu management system, planning well in advance to gauge the quantities of perishables, including produce, to order. “We’re able to adjust fairly well how much to get based on traffic and tastes of our students,” says Tyson Monagle, Aramark marketing coordinator of dining for the school.

The UCI kitchens also plan menus to make use of produce in multiple dishes. “If there’s a part of the produce that’s for one menu item, we’ll see if another part can be used for something else,” says Monagle. “That way our waste is cut to the absolute minimum.” 

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion
Richard cousins

Compass Group confirmed this morning that CEO Richard Cousins was killed on New Year’s Eve in a small-plane crash off the coast of Australia. He was 58.

Cousins was scheduled to step down as CEO in March, after leading the world’s largest foodservice management company for 11 years. His planned successor, Compass COO Dominic Blakemore, has agreed to assume Cousins’ duties immediately.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by this terrible news,” Compass Chairman Paul Walsh said in a statement. “It has been a great privilege to know Richard personally and to work with him for...

Menu Development
to-go meals

Drew Allen didn’t hesitate when asked what he expects of noncommercial dining in the future. “Change,” he says. “We have to change with the times and what our guests are looking for.”

Allen, the director of culinary services at Otterbein Senior Lifestyle Choices in Lebanon, Ohio, says the more the residents and guests at Otterbein change, the more diverse eating habits his team has the chance to explore. One of those changing habits, he says, is diners’ growing desire for portable, made-to-order items . That’s a theme borne out by data, too—and is true across dayparts. Roughly 67%...

Ideas and Innovation
trail mix

We’ve added fueling stations in our units for our workers who didn’t have time to eat or just need a snack. We have areas set up with trail mix, crackers, cookies and water. It helps us avoid people feeling or getting ill, especially when we get closer to exam periods and student workers are studying and not taking the time to eat.

Ideas and Innovation
email

Communication is key, and [managers] are busy too. One tip I picked up from another director was to label my subject line with the header “action,” “information” or “response” followed by a brief description of the email contents. That way they can filter through their inboxes during their busy days to know which emails need their attention immediately and which they can save to read later.

FSD Resources