tomatoes, pasta, basil, oil, seasonings on a cutting board

Winning on Food Waste

Cutting food waste is a cost-savings measure as well as a way to achieve sustainability goals.

Reducing food waste is often a cited cost-savings measure, and recent research backs it up with numbers. Champions 12.3, a global coalition working toward United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, reports that caterers saved $6 for every $1 invested in waste reduction. 

The research found both financial and non-financial data as the result of studying food waste-reduction efforts from 86 foodservice sites in six countries. The sites included corporate facilities, restaurants, hospitality, schools and universities and government facilities.

food waste chart

The financial benefits were only part of the picture. It cites a long list of indirect savings and strategic motivators:

  • Attention to waste regulations 
  • Improved environmental sustainability
  • More food security 
  • Better stakeholder relationships 
  • Stronger brand recognition 
  • A sense of ethical responsibility 

To achieve food-waste reduction, participants employed simple methods any operator could try:

  • Measure food waste
  • Engage staff 
  • Reduce food overproduction 
  • Repurpose excess food  

Your results may vary, but reducing food waste is an opportunity any organization can try, with the goal of achieving sustainable cost control.

Take the First Step

Use our free tracker to start reducing waste in your healthcare operation. Visit and search “Waste Watchers” to print it.

Tackling Rising Labor Costs

labor costs charts a, b, cDespite a slowdown in the first half of 2018, job growth in healthcare and senior living continues to outpace the overall private sector (see chart A). Average hourly pay is also growing at a faster clip (see chart A). The combination of more jobs and higher wages underscores the need for managers to run the tightest ship possible to keep labor costs down.  

Controlling costs is a top concern of health systems across the U.S. In a recent survey by the healthcare consulting firm Advisory Board, rankings by 146 healthcare executives validates their priorities. Long term, sustainable cost control was the most urgent concern among survey respondents (see charts B&C).

Benchmarking is a smart way to understand and control costs. Productivity measures such as labor hours per meal are a good labor cost monitor. If your labor hours per meal are higher than other organizations similar to yours, it’s worth investigating the cause and working to improve it. Maybe streamlining work processes or enhancing workflow can provide help maximizing your employees’ time and reducing labor costs. The outcome is sustainable cost savings for your organization.

In skilled nursing settings, the 50th percentile is 0.27 labor hours per meal. This figure comes from the Association of Nutrition & Foodservice Professionals (ANFP) Skilled Nursing Facility Benchmarking Survey. How do you compare? Find out by participating in this free survey. Get details at benchmark-program.

In acute care, the 50th percentile of hospitals with 151-300 beds participating in the Association of Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) Benchmarking EXPRESS program is 0.15 labor hours per meal. Compare hospitals similar to yours and gain deeper insight on these and other important KPIs by participating in AHF’s Benchmarking Express program. It’s free to members.

Want to learn more about fighting food waste? Listen to our podcast on food waste, Eliminate the Elephant in the Kitchen.