320 Questions to Ask a Restaurant About Food Waste

Have you ever wondered how much food gets tossed out at your favorite restaurants? Food waste is the term for any edible items that get discarded or uneaten rather than consumed. 

It’s a big deal, not just for restaurants but for the whole planet. Want to know how the restaurants you visit are doing their part? Here’s a list of questions you can ask them to dig deeper!

About Portion Sizes

  1. How do you decide the size of each portion?
  2. Do you offer half-portions or smaller sizes?
  3. Is it possible to customize portion sizes?
  4. Are your portion sizes influenced by a desire to reduce waste?
  5. Do you think your portion sizes contribute to food waste?
  6. Are there dishes with portion sizes more prone to becoming leftovers?
  7. Do you offer shared platters to reduce waste?
  8. Can customers choose side dishes to minimize waste?
  9. Do you offer kids’ portions for adults?
  10. How do you train your chefs to make the correct portion sizes?
  11. Are you open to customer feedback about portion sizes?
  12. Do you ever revise your menu to offer smaller portions?
  13. Do you use data to adjust portion sizes?
  14. What do you do with the food that’s left when preparing portions?
  15. Are your portion sizes based on nutritional guidelines?
  16. Do you have “doggy bags” available for larger portions?
  17. Do you offer “tapas-style” or smaller, shareable dishes?
  18. Do you offer multiple sizes for drinks and sides?
  19. How often do you review portion sizes?
  20. Do you have a team that focuses on reducing waste through portion control?
  21. Do you offer portion options based on customer demographics?
  22. Do you do customer surveys to know if they’re happy with portion sizes?
  23. What’s the most common dish that customers can’t finish?
  24. Are customers allowed to order half-and-half dishes to reduce waste?
  25. Is there an option for customers to sample dishes before choosing portions?
  26. How are portion sizes listed on the menu?
  27. Do you use specific kitchen tools or scales to ensure consistent portion sizes?
  28. Do you have pictures on the menu to indicate portion sizes?
  29. Do you think the industry standard for portion sizes is too big?
  30. Do you have plans to introduce more flexible portion options?
  31. Do you highlight the option to take leftovers home on the menu?

About Leftovers

  1. What do you do with uneaten food from the tables?
  2. Do you encourage customers to take leftovers home?
  3. Do you have an option for customers to bring their own containers for leftovers?
  4. How do you manage food that is left on plates?
  5. Do you offer smaller portions if a customer asks to reduce waste?
  6. Do you use biodegradable or reusable containers for leftovers?
  7. What’s the longest time you keep leftovers before throwing them away?
  8. Are leftovers mixed with other types of waste?
  9. Do you have any ways to recycle leftover food?
  10. Do you separate organic waste from other trash?
  11. Do you compost leftovers?
  12. What percentage of leftovers do you think end up as waste?
  13. Do you have a separate bin just for food waste?
  14. Do you have plans to reduce the amount of leftover food?
  15. Do you offer a discount for customers who bring their own containers?
  16. Do you have any partnerships to handle leftover food?
  17. Do you have a system to track how much food gets wasted?
  18. Do you have any special events to use leftovers, like a buffet?
  19. Do you ever reuse safe leftovers in other dishes?
  20. What do you do with leftover bread or rolls?
  21. Do you use a food waste disposal unit?
  22. Do you have any eco-friendly practices to handle leftovers?
  23. Are you a part of any food waste reduction programs?
  24. How do you decide when to throw out leftovers?
  25. Are there any foods that you can’t donate or recycle?
  26. How do you keep track of the shelf life of leftovers?
  27. Do you think customers are aware of your efforts to reduce food waste?
  28. Do you have signs or info to educate customers about food waste?

About Donating Extra/Unused Food

  1. Do you donate extra food to local charities?
  2. How do you make sure the food you donate is safe to eat?
  3. How often do you donate food?
  4. Are there any legal issues you face when donating food?
  5. What kinds of food are you most likely to donate?
  6. Do you have a regular schedule for food donations?
  7. How do you package food for donation?
  8. Do you work with food banks?
  9. Do you ever donate to schools or community centers?
  10. Are you part of any national programs that focus on food donations?
  11. Do you collaborate with other restaurants to donate food?
  12. How do you decide what food is okay to donate?
  13. Do you involve employees in the donation process?
  14. Do you receive any benefits or incentives for donating food?
  15. Is there a minimum amount of food you have to collect before donating?
  16. What steps are taken to make sure donated food remains fresh?
  17. How do you handle the logistics of transporting food for donation?
  18. Are you transparent with customers about your food donation practices?
  19. How do you feel about food donation impacting your bottom line?
  20. Do you share food donation milestones with your community?
  21. Do you have any stories or experiences to share about food donations?
  22. How can customers contribute to your food donation efforts?
  23. Do you work with any organizations that focus solely on food rescue?
  24. Do you have plans to expand your food donation program?
  25. Do you track the amount of food you donate?
  26. Have you faced any challenges in trying to donate food?
  27. Is your food donation activity mentioned in your corporate social responsibility report?
  28. Do you need volunteers to help with the food donation process?
  29. Do you have any advice for other restaurants that want to start donating food?

About Sustainable Menu Planning

  1. How do you pick the items on your menu with sustainability in mind?
  2. Do you source locally-grown produce?
  3. Do you offer any seasonal menu items to reduce food waste?
  4. Are there plant-based options on the menu?
  5. How do you use ingredients in multiple dishes to minimize waste?
  6. Do you work directly with farmers for a more sustainable menu?
  7. How do you handle excess ingredients?
  8. Are any of your dishes made from rescued or reclaimed food?
  9. Is sustainability a key factor when choosing suppliers?
  10. Do you have a rotating menu based on available, sustainable ingredients?
  11. How often do you update the menu for sustainability?
  12. Do you use any endangered or overfished species in your dishes?
  13. How do you aim to balance taste and sustainability?
  14. Do you have any plans for a zero-waste menu?
  15. How do you incorporate feedback on menu sustainability?
  16. Are there any traditional dishes you’ve made more sustainable?
  17. What’s the most sustainable dish on your menu?
  18. Do you collaborate with environmental organizations for menu planning?
  19. Are you considering any innovative techniques like vertical farming?
  20. What percentage of your menu would you consider sustainable?
  21. How does pricing affect your ability to plan a sustainable menu?
  22. Do you have any food certifications, like organic or Fair Trade?
  23. How do you encourage customers to make sustainable choices?
  24. Do you offer smaller, sustainable tasting menus?
  25. How do you handle trendy but unsustainable ingredients?
  26. What are your goals for making your menu more sustainable?
  27. How do you tackle food waste when planning your menu?
  28. Do you evaluate the environmental impact of each dish?
  29. Do you use technology to help in sustainable menu planning?
  30. Have you won any awards for your sustainable menu?
  31. Do you offer any dishes that use the whole animal or plant to reduce waste?
  32. Are you exploring innovative food alternatives, like lab-grown meat or plant-based proteins?
  33. Do you have any partnerships with sustainable food producers?
  34. How do you select wines or beverages that align with your sustainability goals?
  35. Are any of your dishes designed to introduce customers to more sustainable food options they might not have tried before?
  36. How do you manage food waste during menu transitions?
  37. Do you use energy-efficient cooking methods or appliances?
  38. Do you have a policy on using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in your dishes?
  39. How do you make traditional or popular dishes more eco-friendly?
  40. Are you working towards achieving any sustainability certifications for your restaurant?
  41. Do you have any plans to collaborate with chefs who are known for their sustainable practices?

About Food Sourcing

  1. How do you select your food suppliers with sustainability in mind?
  2. Do you prioritize local or regional suppliers?
  3. Are your seafood choices guided by sustainable fishing practices?
  4. Do you have any direct relationships with farmers?
  5. How do you ensure the ethical treatment of animals from your meat suppliers?
  6. Do you source any organic or pesticide-free produce?
  7. What criteria do you use to vet a new food supplier?
  8. How do you handle supplier-related issues that might lead to waste?
  9. Do you source from suppliers who also have waste reduction programs?
  10. Are there any seasonal foods you avoid due to high waste?
  11. How do you deal with the variability in quality from different suppliers?
  12. Do you have any criteria for sustainable packaging from suppliers?
  13. How do you ensure food safety during the sourcing process?
  14. Do you ask suppliers for their food waste data?
  15. Are there any foods you won’t source due to environmental concerns?
  16. How do you manage surplus food from suppliers?
  17. How flexible is your menu to cope with supplier changes?
  18. Do you consider the carbon footprint in your sourcing decisions?
  19. How do you plan for contingencies like crop failures or shortages?
  20. Do you prioritize suppliers who use eco-friendly transportation?
  21. Have you ever dropped a supplier due to unsustainable practices?
  22. Do you encourage suppliers to visit your restaurant to understand waste reduction goals?
  23. Do you have a long-term strategy for sustainable sourcing?
  24. How do you deal with supply chain disruptions to minimize waste?
  25. Do you engage in any community-based food sourcing?
  26. Are you exploring any tech solutions to improve your food sourcing?
  27. How do you verify the claims made by your suppliers about their products being organic or sustainable?
  28. Do you participate in any food co-ops or sourcing collectives to minimize waste?
  29. Do you inquire about water usage and water sustainability from your suppliers?
  30. Are your suppliers certified by any sustainability-focused organizations?
  31. Do you source any foods that are considered low-impact or regenerative?
  32. How do you validate the quality of imported foods?
  33. Do you factor in animal welfare when sourcing dairy and eggs?
  34. How do you ensure that your sourcing practices are socially responsible?
  35. Do you have contingency plans for sourcing during natural disasters or emergencies?

About Food Storage And Handling Practices

  1. How do you store food to make sure it lasts longer?
  2. Do you have specific temperature zones for different types of food?
  3. How do you handle food recalls?
  4. How do you prevent cross-contamination in storage?
  5. What methods do you use to keep track of food expiration dates?
  6. Are your storage containers eco-friendly?
  7. Do you use any specialized storage technology to reduce waste?
  8. What’s your protocol for handling raw meat safely?
  9. How often do you check the temperatures of refrigerators and freezers?
  10. How do you handle power outages affecting food storage?
  11. Do you vacuum-seal any food to extend its life?
  12. Do you freeze any ingredients for later use?
  13. How do you ensure that your suppliers follow good storage practices?
  14. How do you store spices and dry goods?
  15. Are your storage and handling practices compliant with food safety laws?
  16. Do you do regular inspections of your food storage areas?
  17. How do you handle foods that are sensitive to light or air?
  18. Do you have any backup storage facilities?
  19. What are the biggest challenges you face in food storage?
  20. How do you deal with pests in storage areas?
  21. What measures are in place for food security?
  22. How often do you clean food storage areas?
  23. Do you have a first-in, first-out policy for using stored food?
  24. How do you manage the storage of seasonal ingredients?
  25. How do you rotate stock to minimize waste?
  26. How do you handle food that is close to its expiry date?
  27. Are all food handlers certified in safe food handling practices?
  28. How do you keep track of food inventory to prevent waste?
  29. Do you use a digital system to monitor food storage conditions?
  30. Are there any foods you avoid storing together to prevent spoilage?
  31. Do you conduct surprise food safety audits?
  32. How do you handle produce to ensure it remains fresh?
  33. What precautions do you take for storing allergen-free food?
  34. Do you have a crisis plan for any foodborne illness outbreaks?
  35. How do you deal with food delivery delays affecting storage?
  36. Do you use color-coded bins or areas for different types of food?
  37. Are there specific storage areas for different types of cuisine?
  38. What backup plans do you have in case of equipment failure in storage units?
  39. How do you handle food that has been returned by customers?
  40. Is there a protocol for discarding food that’s beyond its use-by date?
  41. How often do you calibrate food storage thermometers?
  42. Do you use moisture control methods in storage areas?
  43. How do you ensure that packaged foods are stored properly?

About Employee Training On Food Waste

  1. Do you offer any specific training to your staff on reducing food waste?
  2. Is food waste training part of the onboarding process for new employees?
  3. How often do you update your training material related to food waste?
  4. Do your employees take any food safety courses that also cover food waste?
  5. Are kitchen staff trained to use as much of an ingredient as possible?
  6. How do you encourage employees to participate in waste-reducing efforts?
  7. Do you have any incentives for employees who come up with waste-reducing ideas?
  8. Is food waste management part of the performance review for staff?
  9. Do you have a designated person responsible for food waste training?
  10. Do employees receive training on proper food storage to reduce waste?
  11. Are wait staff trained to inform customers about portion sizes to help them order wisely?
  12. How do you communicate new food waste initiatives to your team?
  13. Do you have regular meetings to discuss food waste?
  14. What resources do you provide to employees for understanding food waste?
  15. Are employees trained on how to handle food that can be donated?
  16. Do you bring in external experts for food waste training?
  17. How do you train staff to use kitchen gadgets that help reduce waste?
  18. Are employees encouraged to take home food that would otherwise be wasted?
  19. Are employees taught about the environmental impact of food waste?
  20. How does training differ between front-of-house and back-of-house staff?
  21. Do you have a training module on composting?
  22. Are there training quizzes or assessments related to food waste?
  23. How quickly are employees expected to implement food waste training into their roles?
  24. Are there any food waste guidelines posted in the kitchen?
  25. Do you provide training updates when food waste laws or regulations change?
  26. Do you use any e-learning platforms for food waste training?
  27. Do you have role-specific food waste training?
  28. Are employees aware of the costs related to food waste?
  29. Do you involve employees in setting food waste reduction goals?
  30. Are your employees familiar with local food waste initiatives and partnerships?
  31. How do you educate your kitchen staff about sustainable cooking practices?

About Composting Programs

  1. Do you have a composting program in place?
  2. What types of food waste do you compost?
  3. How did you start your composting program?
  4. How do you separate compostable waste in the kitchen?
  5. Do you work with any local composting services?
  6. Is your composting program a part of a bigger eco-friendly initiative?
  7. What challenges did you face when starting the composting program?
  8. How do you ensure that only compostable items go into the compost bin?
  9. Are customers aware of your composting efforts?
  10. Do you also compost things like napkins and cardboard?
  11. Do you compost on-site or off-site?
  12. Have you seen a decrease in overall waste since starting to compost?
  13. Is your compost used locally?
  14. Do you use compost in your restaurant’s gardening or farming?
  15. What advice do you have for restaurants wanting to start a composting program?
  16. How often is the compost collected?
  17. How do you handle compostable waste that has been contaminated?
  18. Do you have any partnerships to help with composting?
  19. Is your composting program seasonal or year-round?
  20. How do you deal with odors from the compost?
  21. Are there any financial benefits to composting?
  22. Do you educate customers about composting?
  23. How long have you had a composting program?
  24. Are there specific menu items that are more compost-friendly?
  25. Do you take customer suggestions on how to improve your composting program?
  26. What have you learned from composting?
  27. How has composting changed your view on food waste?
  28. Do you think composting is practical for all restaurants?
  29. What are your future goals for your composting program?

About Tracking And Measuring Food Waste

  1. Do you keep a record of how much food gets thrown away?
  2. What tools or software do you use to track food waste?
  3. How often do you audit your food waste?
  4. Do you categorize the types of food that get wasted most?
  5. How do you measure the success of your food waste reduction efforts?
  6. Do you have specific food waste reduction targets?
  7. Do you monitor food waste daily, weekly, or monthly?
  8. How do you identify the root causes of food waste?
  9. Are there any consequences for excessive food waste?
  10. Do you track customer plate waste?
  11. How do you share food waste data with your team?
  12. Do you make any public reports about your food waste?
  13. Have you noticed any seasonal trends in food waste?
  14. What actions do you take based on the food waste data?
  15. Do you compare food waste metrics across different periods?
  16. How do you ensure the accuracy of your food waste tracking?
  17. Are there incentives for meeting food waste reduction goals?
  18. Do you analyze food waste data for menu planning?
  19. Is your tracking system manual or automated?
  20. Do you consult with experts to analyze your food waste data?
  21. Does tracking food waste also help you save money?
  22. How do you track the success of your composting efforts?
  23. Are there any legal requirements for tracking food waste that you follow?
  24. Do you track food waste during special events differently?
  25. Do you benchmark your food waste data against industry standards?
  26. Is your food waste data audited by a third party?
  27. Do you have a system for employee suggestions on reducing food waste?
  28. Do you measure the environmental impact of your food waste?
  29. Are you considering any new technologies for food waste tracking?

About Future Plans

  1. Do you have a long-term strategy for reducing food waste?
  2. Are there any new food waste initiatives you plan to launch in the next year?
  3. Do you plan on achieving any sustainability certifications in the future?
  4. Do you have plans to upgrade your kitchen equipment for better efficiency and less waste?
  5. Are you exploring any technologies, like apps or devices, to help track and reduce food waste?
  6. Do you plan to set specific food waste reduction targets for the coming years?
  7. Are you considering revising your menu to include more sustainable food options?
  8. Will you be participating in any upcoming events or campaigns focused on food waste?
  9. Are there any plans to involve your customers more actively in your food waste reduction efforts?
  10. Do you plan on hosting educational events or workshops on food sustainability?
  11. Will you be seeking any grants or funding opportunities for your food waste initiatives?
  12. Are there plans to conduct customer surveys to understand their views on food waste and sustainability?
  13. Do you plan to expand your sourcing to include more local or regional suppliers?
  14. Do you plan to publish an annual sustainability or food waste report?
  15. Is there any intention to develop a reward system for customers who participate in waste reduction?
  16. Are you considering changing your food storage practices to be more sustainable?
  17. Do you plan on reducing single-use plastics or other disposable items in the restaurant?
  18. Do you have any plans for energy-saving measures that also reduce food waste?
  19. Are you considering creating special promotions or discounts to move food that’s close to expiring?
  20. Do you plan to engage with schools or communities for educational purposes related to food waste?
  21. Are you planning to hire or consult with experts in food waste and sustainability?
  22. Do you have any future plans to improve your food storage practices?
  23. Do you plan to introduce more plant-based or vegetarian options to reduce food waste?
  24. Are you looking into alternative, sustainable materials for packaging and takeaway?

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is it important to reduce food waste in restaurants?

Reducing food waste in restaurants is crucial for several reasons that span environmental, economic, and social concerns.

Environmental Impact

  • Resource conservation: Many resources go into producing food, from water and land to energy. When food is wasted, those resources are wasted, too.
  • Reducing greenhouse gasses: Food that ends up in landfills decomposes and produces methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

Economic Reasons

  • Cost savings: Less food waste means less money thrown away. Restaurants can save significantly by reducing waste through better inventory management, portion control, and staff training.
  • Competitive advantage: Restaurants that take steps to reduce food waste can attract environmentally-conscious customers, giving them an edge over competitors who don’t.

Social Responsibility

  • Hunger alleviation: People go hungry in many parts of the world, including wealthy countries. The food wasted in restaurants could be used to feed those in need.
  • Raising awareness: When restaurants take steps to cut down on food waste, they also educate their customers and staff, creating a ripple effect of understanding and action.

What role do suppliers play in food waste?

Suppliers are also a part of the food waste problem and solution. Restaurants can work with suppliers to order just what they need and even to take back items that aren’t used. This helps cut down waste before it even reaches the restaurant.

Can I do anything with my own leftovers to reduce waste?

Yes. You can:

  • Take it home: Ask for a to-go box and enjoy it later.
  • Share: Consider sharing the dish with someone if the portion is large.
  • Plan ahead: If you know a restaurant serves large portions, maybe eat a smaller meal earlier in the day so you’re hungrier.

How do apps and technology help restaurants manage food waste?

Some apps help restaurants track how much food is wasted so they can make smarter orders in the future. Other apps let customers buy surplus food at a discount. Technology can be a great tool for restaurants and customers to tackle food waste.


The next time you’re out enjoying a meal, don’t hesitate to ask the restaurant some of these questions. Being curious could help restaurants think more about cutting down food waste, and it’s a win-win for everyone. After all, the more we know, the better we can all do our part in making the world a better place, one meal at a time!

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Robby Salveron

Robby is a multimedia editor at UpJourney with a journalism and communications background.

When she's not working, Robby transforms into an introverted art lover who indulges in her love for sports, learning new things, and sipping her favorite soda. She also enjoys unwinding with feel-good movies, books, and video games. She's also a proud pet parent to her beloved dog, Dustin.