You’ve made it through the busy holiday season, and in a perfect world, you wouldn’t have any excess inventory left. This isn’t a perfect world, and you may have ordered more supplies and food to use during the holidays. And now, you want to find a way to use your restaurant’s post-holiday excess inventory before it goes to waste.
The last thing you want to do is throw it out. Not only does this hurt your bottom line, it’s also not the best choice for societal and environmental reasons. National Geographic estimated that one-third of the world’s food goes to waste, largest category of landfill material being food waste. I don’t blame you for not wanting your restaurant to contribute to those statistics.
Also, when your BOH and FOH storage shelves are full, you spend more time and money processing inventory. There is no room to add anything for the new season.
You have some options for unused ingredients and supplies following the holiday season to protect your profits and your conscience. Here are a few ways that you can make the most of the post-holiday excess inventory in your restaurant.
Repurpose Your Food Inventory
When you have excess ingredients following the holiday season, the most cost-effective way to make sure it doesn’t go to waste is to reuse it in new dishes.
I’m sure you’ve heard of the “zero waste” movement that’s been growing in popularity lately. Many restaurants are adopting “zero waste” ways of preparing their dishes. This can include things like using one ingredient in multiple ways or finding interesting methods of incorporating ingredients that usually get thrown away, like food prep trim.
When your restaurant has a surplus of post-holiday inventory that you would rather not see thrown in the trash, going “zero waste” can mean finding ways to repurpose ingredients that you have a lot of before you have no choice but to bin them.
This can look like creating unique dishes for a lunch special, or adding a new, post-holiday season cocktail that uses a leftover ingredient to Sunday’s bottomless boozy brunch. Adding a limited-edition item to your menu keeps it fresh and interesting for regulars. It also gives staff the opportunity to practice their skills making something new.
Dropping the price on special menu items created to get rid of holiday overstock may reduce your profit margins, but it will help it sell out before the key ingredient spoils or you can no longer store it. Remember, the alternative is making no profit on it, and throwing out a perfectly good ingredient. Our menu engineering service might help you to face this challenge.
Rather than feeling limited by being forced to use a specific set of excess ingredients, be creative! A constraint can spark unique ideas for menu specials that you may not have come up with otherwise.
Donate Excess Restaurant Excess Inventory
Donating is a great option for fresh, frozen, and dry storage food inventory that you won’t be able to use, as well as for inventory items like cleaning supplies and to-go disposables.
Get in touch with a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter, or other charitable organizations. Top items needed by organizations like these include dry and canned food, cleaning supplies, coffee, tea, salad dressing, and napkins. Make sure you check ahead to see what they are able to accept (especially when it comes to fresh inventory).
Additionally, in an effort to reduce food waste, a number of apps have been developed to connect restaurants with organizations that collect and distribute excess food inventory. GOODR is an app that recovers your excess food and delivers it to nonprofit organizations, all while tracking your donations, community impact, and real-time tax savings.
OLIO and Donations from Restaurants
OLIO is a food sharing app that anyone can donate to or pick up from, and unlike many apps that are available just in the US or Europe, it can be used anywhere in the world. In addition to food, OLIO facilitates the sharing of non-food items like cleaning supplies, kitchen equipment, and alcohol. With this app, the individual to picks up their food/item, so you will likely have to deal with multiple pickups.
Donating food isn’t just for restaurants that don’t cook-to-order. Michelin-starred restaurant Le Bernardin in New York City donates more than 40,000 pounds of food each year to food rescue organization.
Many restaurant owners worry about opening themselves up to liability by donating food. However, there are laws in both the US and Canada stating that restaurants can’t be sued over food donated in good faith. Not only is there nothing to worry about, helping the community is great PR for your restaurant, with tax incentives. Customers will feel good about supporting a business that gives back to the community.
Make Staff Meals with Restaurant Excess Inventory
Who better to make the most of post-holiday excess inventory in your restaurant than your hard-working staff? If you have a staff meal on their shift, make sure that they’re feasting on ingredients you don’t need. Make sure those ingredients are facing an expiration date or just taking up valuable space.
This also gives them the opportunity to become familiar with any limited-edition menu items you create to use up inventory.
Additionally, using excess inventory for staff meals means that you won’t resort to selling it at a discounted rate.
Restaurants like Italian bistro 312 Chicago, take it a step further by making their staff meal with ingredients leftover from the day’s meal. For example, they make pizza out of dough scraps leftover from baking bread. Combining this focus on ingredients in your post-holiday excess inventory will not only reduce waste from the holiday season, but also reduce food waste.
Improve Your Restaurant Excess Inventory Management
So, this year, you had some leftover holiday inventory. Whether you decide to repurpose your excess stock, make it into staff meals, or donate it to those less fortunate, the important part is that you’re not losing too much money or letting it sit in a landfill.
However, these are fixes, and we all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In preparation for next year’s holiday season, make sure that you’re using your historic sales reports and knowledge of current trends to improve your estimation of how much holiday inventory your restaurant will need. If you didn’t move inventory as expected, make sure that you take that into account as outlying data.
There are inventory management tools out there to help restaurant owners and managers order the right amount of inventory. For example, Orca and Upserve both offer inventory management software programs that streamline the inventory tracking and ordering processes. Putting these tools to good use will ensure that next year, you’re not stuck with post-holiday excess inventory.
Finally, learn from your past experience and provide coaching to your managers to better control your inventories.
Curious to learn how I can help you and your restaurant business? Let’s talk!
Book a free 30-minute consultation. To learn more, visit my restaurant consulting or restaurant coaching services pages. To acquire new skills, visit our Online Culinary School and start making change.