Foodservice operators must have clear and manageable strategies to prevent the loss of perishable products on an ongoing basis.
To that end, the culture of a company can be as important as the practices and procedures observed by the staff. Rigorous adherence to first-in-first-out practices and an intolerance of waste by all levels of management are imperative so that everyone will do their part—even when the managers are not around.
Good produce practices begin in the purchasing department. Foodservice purchasing agents need the skills of both the mathematician and the fortuneteller. If an operation is using mostly convenience or highly processed foods, perishables should last longer, meaning less pressure on agents to order only what is required. But if an operation prepares most menu items from scratch, the variety of fresh products needed makes purchasing much more difficult.
Knowing what happens to products before they reach an opera-tion’s back door is also important.
We have all seen nonrefrigerated trucks pull up to loading docks filled with produce and even eggs, cheese and other food products that appear to look fine. But some of these trucks may have been loaded at 3 a.m., and if it is 10:30 a.m. by the time they get to your kitchen, you may have just unknowingly lost days of shelf life.
While the national broadliners all have refrigerated trucks, sales-people generally do not.What happens when those salespeople have to run around bringing product to customers that forgot to include them in their orders or were shorted by the warehouse? Quite possibly, they have made five or six stops around town before arriving at your operation at 4 p.m. with the 16 pounds of sea scallops you did not receive that morning.
The use of vacuum sealing machines is becoming more commonplace. Such machines can be great tools both for breaking down case quantities into more standard amounts for use as well as for sealing prepped quantities of vegetables, fruits, meat, poultry and fish.
Ary Inc. offers a variety of sizes—eight in all—of its VacMaster units to help meet any operation’s requirements. They can be found online at
Another notable system is the Green Vac. The Green Vac allows operators to use standard hotel pans that are fitted with plastic lids to which the vacuum machine is attached. There are no bags to deal with or throw away and pressure-sensitive foods, such as berries, cheese, cakes, pastries, pâtés and foie gras, will not be damaged or altered in any way. Green Vac offers mobile units so operators can bring the vacuum to where they are working. For more information, visit
Refrigeration and cooling methods for cooked foods also play a role in helping to reduce perishable food waste. Blast chillers have been used effectively to extend the shelf life of solid and semisolid cooked products. For liquids, conduction chillers—which look like large cold pans and are either chilled mechanically or via ice and frozen wands that are placed in the liquid—work well.
Different methods of preserving perishable foods also can save them from loss, allowing operators to take advantage of seasonally low prices. Perfectly ripened fruits and vegetables can be made into coulis, chutneys and sambals and then frozen for later use. Tomatoes harvested at the end of summer can be air dried on racks in combi-ovens and then stored in bags or in oil for use throughout the year. And various types of mushrooms can be easily dried overnight, needing little labor and yielding great results.
At a time when the conservation of products and resources is becoming increasingly important, restaurateurs can look to their operations as a great starting point.