Food waste is one of the biggest issues faced by modern culinary businesses. Usually associated with perishable food items such as meat, vegetables, and fruit, food waste also occurs when shelf-stable ingredients are a part of the picture. For instance, many commercial bakeries experience food waste on a regular basis but fail to really notice it as it’s occurring, especially when it involves dry nonperishable ingredients. Because it happens a little at a time — some spilled flour here, a stray bit of sugar there — food waste chips away nearly undetected on the profit margins of many commercial baked good enterprises. The other type of food waste with the potential to significantly affect this industry is overestimating the amount of finished product needed to meet daily market demands. Freshly baked goods bring a premium price, but bakeries may be lucky to break even on unsold products that are offered for a discount the next day. Fortunately, strategies exist designed to minimize waste without sacrificing quality. Following are just five of the many ways in which your baked goods business can keep your bottom line healthy by waging a successful war on waste.
As mentioned above, surplus goods often end up on the bargain rack the next day and sometimes languish unsold until the business has no choice but to dispose of them. Although it’s better to prepare a little more than you think you’ll need for the purpose of avoiding disappointing customers, generating too many leftovers on a regular basis can result in serious cash-flow deficits. Carefully monitoring leftovers provides an actionable way to fine-tune production outputs so that losses are marginal. It’s also recommended that you keep an itemized record of any profits or losses involved in second-day sales of your baked goods so you’ll know which products to give your primary focus to when it comes to tweaking production schedules.
Donating your leftover items to a local charity develops community goodwill and may even result in a tax write off for your business. However, recipients of food items donated by commercial establishments must be registered nonprofits in order for you to be able to claim donations as a tax write off. It’s also essential to obtain a receipt for each donation and keep it for your tax records. Local homeless shelters and food banks are good places to start when seeking outlets for donations, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box — perhaps your local veterans’ organization can use a few loaves of bread on a regular basis.
Train Your Staff
Untrained and unengaged bakery staff is one of the primary drivers when it comes to waste in commercial establishments. Baking requires the precise measuring of raw ingredients, so not only does careful attention help keep spillage of flour, sugar, milk, baking powder, and other components to a minimum, it also guards against finished products having to be discarded because they didn’t turn out right. The losses incurred by using slightly too much of any given ingredient are negligible compared to having to toss the entire finished product in the trash because it was not produced properly.
Your bakery supply house can recommend spoons, cups, and other measuring tools designed to provide optimal precision for commercial environments. You can also ensure the most precise measurements possible by using a scale calibrated for bakery use for dry ingredients.
Maintain Your Equipment
Improperly maintained equipment is another culprit when it comes to food waste in a commercial environment. Because baked goods require a uniformly even oven environment, even a slight hot spot or minor draft can render baked goods unsalable, and using a malfunctioning commercial mixer can have disastrous results. You should also regularly inspect your baking sheets, loaf pans, and proofing ovens and cabinets to ensure that they’re all functioning at 100%.
Take Digital Orders and Payments
Few things are more frustrating for any business than when customers fail to arrive to pick up their purchases, but this is particularly troublesome for culinary businesses because items are often past the point of being salable by the time it becomes obvious that the customer who reserved them is going to be a no-show. You can cut down on this by taking digital orders that require upfront payment or at least a sizable deposit.
Successful waste prevention depends on careful customization of relevant strategies, so don’t be afraid to tweak the above suggestions to find the particular sweet spot that works best for your business. Keeping close records of waste-related loss provides an excellent way to determine your business’s particular weak and strong areas and fine-tune your waste-control plan accordingly.