Have you ever tried to add up the cost of the uneaten sandwiches being thrown out after one of your quarterly recruiting events? What about the expense of the untouched, browning crudité from yesterday’s lunch and learn? Or the total spent on the leftover drinks and pizza slices trashed at the last medical office your reps visited?
If you haven’t started doing this as a means to minimizing food waste, perhaps you should. According to The National Resources Defense Counsel, about 40 percent of U.S.-produced food goes uneaten, resulting in $165 billion wasted. Not only does your company hold a slice of that trashed-money pie, but you also have something worse: lost potential return on investment you’d get if you used that money elsewhere.
There are ways you can help employees reduce waste from uneaten food in the workplace and—even better—they aren’t all that hard to do.
- Don’t just audit expenses, audit waste: You already push employees to strive for efficiency when spending money and you likely audit them intermittently to ensure they’re doing so. Now it’s time to add a waste audit to the process. Ask employees to submit pictures of the food that goes uneaten at various events and to estimate the cost of that food. Review these results and learn from employees who reduce these costs over time.
- Tie follow-up events together with leftovers: Okay, so not every leftover food is good for next-day consumption—sushi comes to mind here—but some foods are edible and even tasty after reaching day-old status. When you have an event featuring freshly delivered, catered food, schedule any follow-up events for the next day and plan on serving the leftovers. For example, you can schedule meetings to discuss job candidates the day after recruiting events. Or arrange Q&As for the day after lunch and learns.
- Teach employees to order food that keeps: In conjunction with the tip above, why not train employees to adjust food in the workplace ordering habits to incorporate more foods that keep? An example might be to order whole, uncut fruits rather than fruit salad. Or cookies instead of pastries. This is especially helpful for events that leave some question about the number of attendees you’ll have.
- Monitor what’s popular and what isn’t: The definition of crazy is to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. In office food ordering, the definition of wasteful is to keep ordering unpopular foods and anticipating them getting eaten. When minimizing food waste, have employees make a note of what food in the workplace gets wasted most often and track that data to inform future orders.
- Be exacting about portion sizes/attendees: It’s normal to order pad catering orders so that everyone has enough food, but over-padding leads to waste which makes it an ideal area to focus on when minimizing food waste. Have employees check the number of attendees before placing a catering order for any event or sales call. Make sure they find out if any expected attendee has been ill or has recently requested the day of the event off.
Reducing wasted food in the workplace is the goal for most businesses. When that’s not possible, they can shift gears and focus instead on methods of recycling the food that goes uneaten. Either process will help curb the negative impact of inefficient food production on our planet while giving your company yet another way to streamline spending and increase returns all by simply minimizing food waste.