How can I reduce food waste while eating out?

So far in our lunchthemed week, we’ve mostly focused on packed lunches and take-out – what about eating at cafes/restaurants?

After a stressful start to the day yesterday, John & I had treated ourselves to lunch at one of our favourite cafes, the Love Apple in Bradford – I had locally sourced pork, leek and ginger sausages with mash and homemade onion gravy & relish – yum! My plate was practically licked clean so no food waste here on my end but I wondered about the waste higher up the chain. On the way out, I asked the chef about whether they compost their kitchen waste and they do – it’s not a council service but they have someone to pick it up regularly. I’m going to check with all my regular haunts to see whether they compost their waste.

Do you know if your favourite cafes/restaurants compost their food waste? Do they do anything else to minimise waste?

Has anyone had any success asking food businesses to change their practices to minimise waste?

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8 Responses to “How can I reduce food waste while eating out?”

  1. louisa says:

    Answering my own question but I couldn’t think how to get it into the post above – one food-waste minimisation recommendation I’ve read in the past is to pick a restaurant that’s not only independent but one that has a small menu. The more choice available, the more stuff the cafe/restaurant has to buy in “just in case”. In these days of cheap food, a lot of places seem to prefer to have stuff go to waste rather than risk telling a customer something is off the menu.

  2. Philip V. says:

    I am a retired Food Industry executive that has extensive knowledge in all facets including meat packing, food wholesale distribution, supermarket operatoins and spent over 40 sharpening my skills. I am putting the finishing touches on what I believe is the only consumer “study guide” of its kind. I have created a step-by-step guide that deals specifically with Consumer Meat Buying & Food Cost Savings. I zero in on how you can control food waste at home and take the confusion and bewilderment out of shopping for meat. My study guide will show the average consumer how to save big bucks on their food budget immediately and will certainly cover the cost of the study guide with just one trip to the supermarket. For details please email me at

  3. I don’t eat out much, but I will start asking these questions, thank you!

  4. Adrianne says:

    I work for a company called World Centric and we make compostable plates, deli containers, cups, and utensils, among many other items. If you run across a business that is trying to compost their wast, we can help. Check us out –

  5. anna says:

    Eat in places with limited menu, and/or pick a daily special. At least there’s more of that stuff usually in stock.
    If the portions are huge, take your remaining food home. I guess this is where one could make a difference: bring your own container instead of getting one more single use container from the restaurant.

  6. It’s usually easier to change one’s own habits than to try to get an entire industry to change their standard business practices. Bring your own containers in a bag when you’re eating out. Pack up whatever you don’t finish. Share a meal with a friend or with children. Do not let children order meals you know they are not able to finish. Try not to supersize things just to ‘get your money’s worth’ — chances are, you won’t finish it anyway. Take fewer or no straws and paper napkins. Go for restaurants that serve on permanent, washable tableware rather than disposable ones. Order local and fair trade whenever possible.

  7. mary lou says:

    My friends already know. When we go out to eat or for breakfast, I immediately split my food in half with “to eat” and “to take home”. Everyone gives me their leftover bread, tortillas, biscuits, fries, etc. I used to buy the big bags of bird seed and now with the economy, we all have to cinch our belts. But I cut up all the bread, etc., and toss it to the birds on top of a little patio that I have. Sooner or later that is going to have to come down also. The birds are very appreciative and I just occasionally watch out for the cats.

  8. nichole says:

    I actually work at a subway on cape cod, and it breaks my heart the amount of recyclable waste I throw away each and every day (more then half of the trash is recyclable) , I do occasionally take the plastic bottle home and clean them out to recycle ,but I cant do that every day, I’ve already sent a few comments in on the subway restaurant ,but I don’t think my comments will do it alone. I would really appreciate anyone’s help and time I could get , just one comment encouraging them to take the smaller steps and maybe make recycling these things mandatory on some level.

    I do commend subway for the environmentally friendly things they do take part in,but I know they can do better.

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