How much food do restaurants waste?

Chef throwing away food

What does McDonalds do with its leftovers and how much food gets wasted at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant? Charlie Cottrell finds what's really going into the bins at our favourite eateries

In a bid to save leftovers from landfill, we have been watching our food waste and trying to cut down the amount of food we bin, but are restaurants as bothered about the food they throw away? From fast food chains to sandwich giants, celebrity restaurants to high-class dining, 4Food asked what happens to commercial food waste and why can't it all just be given to the homeless?


Tommi Miers hit our screens in Wild Gourmets and A Cook's Tour of Spain and owns Wahaca Mexican restaurant in London serving 5,000 covers per week.

What sort of food waste does Wahaca produce?

Tommi: A lot is off-cuts, so, if you're using a cauliflower, you've got all the stems and that; some is what people don't finish on their plates, but we use small plates so it's easy for people to order the amount they want, from a snack to a whole meal. I'd say our food waste is about 2 per cent of cost.

What procedures do you have in place to deal with food waste?

Tommi: We've been recycling our food waste since the day we opened. We use a company called Aardvark and they make compost from our food waste. Occasionally they send us back soil and we give that away. We give away chilli seeds at the restaurant and when kids come in we make plant pots out of our old menus and put a bit of soil in and the chilli seeds and give them to the children. It's quite a fun circle!

How easy is it to implement the system?

Tommi: We just separate everything straight away in the kitchen. It's like anything - if you train your staff to do something from the very start, it becomes second nature. If you say, 'This is a serious issue for your children', if you make it personal to them, that's when they take is seriously.

What changes could the industry make to deal with food waste?

Tommi: Catering and events need to tackled. The amount that gets wasted is outrageous. Ooh and use doggy bags! My husband hates it but I'm all for saying, 'Can I take that home?' if I haven't finished what I ordered. I love cooking with leftovers.

Boxwood Café

Stuart Gillies is executive chef at Gordon Ramsay's Boxwood Café serving 1,300 covers per week.

What sort of waste does Boxwood Café produce?

Stuart: Our waste is very low, about 10 per cent. You can use almost 100 per cent of every ingredient. Most of the time customers clear their plates. If a dish is sent back, we taste it. If they say it's too salty and it is too salty, that's a mistake and that becomes waste.

How concerned are you about food waste?

Stuart: For me, it's the most frustrating thing. If I buy an amazing turbot that costs £20 per kilo, I will use all of it down to making a stock from the bones and skin. But if you've got a fillet left at the end of service and you don't think it's acceptable to keep it overnight, you have to throw it. I hate that.

How much waste does a high-end restaurant create compared to a chain restaurant?

Stuart: Chefs at the top restaurants should have the knowledge to turn waste into other products but there are high-end restaurants that are quite bad for waste. If a dish is not completely perfect they will throw it in the bin and start again.

What procedures do you have in place to deal with food waste?

Stuart: We check our bins daily to check what is getting thrown in - we put on rubber gloves, get the bags and see what our cooks throw away. We don't take anything out! It's a management technique. My staff know they have to indicate what's waste and justify that.

Are these initiatives implemented across the all the Ramsay kitchens?

Stuart: I'd be surprised if they weren't. Any decent chef checks waste.

Do you ever donate or give away food that would otherwise go to waste?

Stuart: Kitchen waste is not really edible and I don't think we incur enough waste to be able to make it work. We don't produce in bulk and when an ingredient comes to the point where we won't serve it, we can't give that to someone.

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