We spoke with food businesses across Washington County to find out how they minimize wasted food in their operations. Want to learn more? Contact a Green Business Advisor and we'll connect you with these pros who can share even more tips and advice.
Amelia's Mexican Food, Hillsboro
"I come from a poor town in Guanajuato, Mexico, and my mom used everything we had to feed us – like the skins of potatoes, which she'd wash and cook with onions to make quesadillas. Today, knowing that some people do not have a lot to eat even though there's so much available here makes me want to save the most we can, and not waste it."
- Amelia Ramirez, Executive Chef and Founder
- We utilize as much of every ingredient as we can, like the ends of tomatoes to make sauce for Spanish rice and onion ends to flavor our chicken.
- We only use specific recipes and exact measurements when cooking.
- We cook smaller batches more often, like with our mole sauce.
- We order pre-portioned meat, which reduces trim waste. Any fat that does come on the meat we cook with onions, tomatoes and cheese to make gorditas and pupusas in our food cart.
- We track our storage of inventory with dates and tags, and always use older items first.
- We offer any leftover food to employees before composting it.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Washington Square, Tigard
"At Embassy Suites, we're always up for a challenge. When we began to understand the opportunities surrounding food waste, we had to dive in. Our whole team is engaged in this ongoing process of making improvements together. We think creatively and love to try new things – which has led to many waste reduction successes, especially in our breakfast buffet."
- Scott Hensley, Executive Chef
- We reduced the size of our buffet plates and serving utensils, which led to a 50% decrease in plate waste.
- We avoid using large serving dishes and instead frequently replenish the items in our popular breakfast buffet.
- An employee is posted at our protein station in the buffet and serves guests bacon and sausage. This has greatly reduced the amount of proteins left on plates.
- We offer a low-waste catering menu to clients, which include selections such as a roasted beet and arugula salad that utilizes all parts of the vegetables.
- We measure and track pre- and post-service waste to identify where we can do better.
- Educational signs about preventing food waste and encouraging guests to take only what they will eat are posted in the buffet area.
Bethany Public House, Portland
"Bethany Public House was designed to do two things: Be a great neighborhood gathering spot, and a place to work where people could make a living, have fun, and have the flexibility to be with their families. We need to run an efficient business to take care of our families, and a big part of that is reducing waste."
- Andre Jehan, Owner
- We prep small amounts of food daily, just what we need for a day or two.
- We notice what food is being wasted on plates and reduce portion sizes. We recently reduced sauce and fries waste. We reduced the amount of sauce in ramekins after noticing customers were leaving extra in the dishes. We also found that simply changing the shape of a bowl makes a smaller amount of fries look appetizing, but not overwhelming.
- We make our own vodka infusions in the bar using fresh fruit. Once the infusions are finished, we reuse the fruit to make fruit ice cubes for our mimosa flight.
- We create our fresh sheet using seasonal foods which helps reduce waste related to lower quality with out-of-season items.
- We reduce waste in our catering operations by offering clients several platter size options and encouraging them to not order too much food since we can always make more during the event as needed.
Grand Central Bakery, Portland Metro
"Grand Central sources locally and sustainably, so we understand what goes into those ingredients and we value that. We have standards of practice in place to minimize the wasting of food, which employees learn from their initial training and throughout their time here. The culture in our kitchen is to constantly analyze ways to improve our sustainability and control our waste."
- Robb Hengerer, Commissary Kitchen Manager
- We utilize a central kitchen model and pre-portion food for our cafés.
- Our tailored and flexible soup schedule allows us to use any existing excess ingredients.
- We have an employee food shelf to consume any overages.
- Cafés give feedback to the kitchen on products that are expiring before they can use them.
- Café leads calculate food waste percentages, set goals and report on progress each month. When goals aren't met, they analyze their PARs, track wasted food for a month, and re-train employees at that location on portion sizes.
- We monitor the compost and give feedback to the kitchen if we see something consistently not being finished by customers.
- We created a "Waste Stream" committee to analyze the areas of waste throughout all of the departments of the company and to make improvements and create standards of practice that improve our waste streams.
Village Inn Restaurant, Tualatin
"There's a lot of byproduct in a restaurant, a lot of moving parts – so there's room for waste or errors. So we try to minimize as much as possible. If we can save some money and it's good for the environment, then we're meeting our goals."
- Ryan Sweeney, Franchise Owner
- We focus a lot on portioning, like how we use compotes and scoopers. We say you can always bring the customer more, but if you've already served it and they don't want it, then there's no getting it back!
- We get frequent deliveries and don't keep a lot of inventory on hand, especially for things like produce and dairy that can spoil more easily.
- We utilize items in multiple dishes, especially proteins. For example, we have chicken fried steak in a breakfast entrée with hash browns and in a dinner entrée with mashed potatoes. Doing it this way is good for business, and the kitchen runs more smoothly with fewer items back there, too.
- Village Inn has daily features and we use any remaining product in other dishes the next day, or continue the special another day until it's gone.
- We are consistently monitoring the compost bin and the dish pit to see what ends up there. There are often training opportunities that come out of that.