Food Matters Restaurant Challenge

man preparing food in a restaurant kitchen

Certifiably Green Denver, in partnership with DDPHE, developed a restaurant food waste reduction program. Program pilots were conducted over the course of 2019 and early 2020 in three neighborhoods. Each pilot was centered around a four-fold approach including: 

  1. Prevention: Each restaurant was asked to adopt one food waste prevention strategy to try for the duration of the pilot. They were also encouraged to add a menu item from food that would have otherwise gone to waste.
  2. Donation:  We Don’t Waste, a community partner organization, was on call to pick up donatable food and redistribute it to organizations that provide meals to those in need.
  3. Compost: Each restaurant was provided with free compost service for the duration of the pilot, along with staff training, signage, interior bins and compostable liners.
  4. Measure: Certifiably Green Denver conducted waste audits for each restaurant at the beginning and end of the pilot to measure the impact that the above-mentioned measures had on their food waste diversion.

Some of the pilots’ outcomes included:

  • Measure: Restaurants reduced their waste following the pilot. The restaurants started the pilot with an average diversion rate around 18%. By the end, they were diverting approximately 70% of their waste from the landfill. The waste studies showed potential to divert up to 90% of their waste.
  • Compost: Several of the restaurants continued composting after the pilot was complete. Those that did not continue composting attributed barriers to cost and lack of an internal champion to spearhead the effort.
  • Prevention: Food waste prevention strategies were developed once chefs saw the food waste that was diverted to compost. Some strategies included making stock from leftover vegetables, baking dog treats from leftover bacon, cheese and oats, ordering more frequently to reduce waste, and running more specials to use excess food. One restaurant started saving between $300 - $400 per month thanks to their prevention strategies.
  • Donation: There were few food donations over the course of the pilot. This was likely because most of the participating restaurants cook to order.