How to save food in public catering

In factory canteens and fast food, 27,000 tons of food are thrown away every year. What are the causes and how to keep waste to a minimum and save money? The two-year research project Reducing Food Waste in Public Catering, in which we participated, deals with this.
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What we were working on

Measurement of waste in establishments
1. Field research

Within 90 days, we carried out field surveys in 12 establishments of 3 different public catering providers throughout the Czech Republic. Our field researchers measured a total of 3 tons of food waste or losses. We have identified critical areas of establishment where waste occurs. Take a look at the brief measurement results.

Sharing practical experience
2. Identification of causes of waste

In the autumn of 2019, we used the results of research in workshops. These were attended by key research actors and other experts on the issue of food waste in public catering. We have identified the main reasons why waste occurs in this sector. We also worked on how to reduce waste.

Creating a manual
3. Recommendations for operations

The main output of the project is a handbook in which we propose specific practical steps to reduce food waste in public catering in the Czech Republic. It is intended for both state administration and private companies.


Why is it worth dealing with waste in fast food restaurants?

Fast food restaurants produce 27,000 tons of food waste and losses a year. A total of 56% is thrown away in the kitchen, 30% remains on plates after customers and 14% are cooked, non-served meals. We see great potential for savings in reduction of these numbers, and this can be achieved by following a few basic rules.


How to save food in operation?

Stock control

Have an employee who has an overview of the stocks of ingredients, their durability and quality. You will always know what will go bad soon. According to that you can either adjust the daily menu or donate food. Or buy pre-processed ingredients with a longer shelf life.

Dissolution of standards

Serving standards tend to be above standard and very strict – for example, the time for which it is possible to serve a pre-prepared meal to the customer. Consider whether a few added minutes will really hurt the food so much, or will be of the same quality. If standards are set centrally, open a debate about change across the company.

Motivated staff

Let more experienced workers supervise newcomers. This minimizes negligent errors, unnecessarily large scraps or burnt and otherwise spoiled food. Organize training and educate the team. People will appreciate their professional shift and will not look for other job opportunities.


Informed customers

Show diners what the consequences of wasting food are and how they can prevent it. Also, try to conduct a satisfaction survey more often to detect changes in their behavior or requirements.


Sell ​​ready-made meals at a discount. You can use, for example, one of the mobile applications where the customer reserves a meal and picks it up at your place – for example, Nesnězeno or Jídlov work in the Czech Republic.


If the prescribed storage conditions are complied, you can donate, for example, chilled food and drinks, fresh and frozen meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and bakery products. Non-served cooked meals can also be donated, but the hygienic conditions are very strict.


Practical materials


Research details

The project focuses on public catering operations, which can be called fast food restaurants. These are canteens, university canteens, cafeterias and fast food establishments, which focus on the need for customers to eat in a relatively short time and at a low price.

Establishments discard an average of 11 kg of food per 100 kg of prepared meals.
It is 45 kg of food waste and losses per day.

Food waste

Food waste

Any food and inedible part of food that is not consumed and does not serve as food for further human consumption. Examples are bones, citrus peels or food surplus from diners.

Food loss

Food loss

Foods that have been discarded from further processing but are not necessarily degraded to waste. They can be further used for human consumption. These are unsold dishes that can be donated to a food bank.


Differences between establishments

According to research, the biggest problem in canteens is especially in the kitchen – more often we work with unprocessed ingredients and a large amount of waste is generated in the form of scraps, skins and stalks. Strict corporate standards for the quality of food to be delivered to the consumer play a major role in fast food. For example, french fries are served to customers no longer than 7 minutes, the older ones end up in trash.

But problems also occur on the customer’s side  – such as fluctuations in demand, when it is difficult to predict how many people will be served and when, or portion sizes that are often too large.

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