Blog Post

While appealing to customers, salad bars and other buffets can generate sizeable quantities of food waste. Colleges and universities, restaurants, hospitality venues, and other businesses with this food service model often face challenges when balancing the appearance of abundance with food waste reduction and the potential for overproduction. LeanPath recently reported on a number of source reduction strategies that food service providers and kitchen staff can follow to reduce waste at the salad bar, while maintaining an aesthetically pleasing display.

  • Shrink based on demand. Reduce the size of pans or number of lines with the slowing pace of service, so that the design of the bar does not contribute to additional food waste. This practice may be combined with adjustments in cost or offerings to ensure that customers purchase what is already available.
  • Avoid baskets and deeper pans. Offer bread and other foods in shallow pans or on flat services to maintain variety while offering less product that may go uneaten. With smaller pans, there might be a need to refill more frequently. Recognize potential impacts on staff and look for strategies that make it easier for them to restock items.
  • Craft an intentional menu. Keep items in your salad bar separate so that they can be more easily incorporated into other meals and foods. Repurpose and cross-utilize foods between your salad bar and main menu, which can reduce the need to purchase excessive specialty ingredients and provide chefs an opportunity to be creative with their offerings!
  • Use data to inform future production. Source reduction platforms, such as LeanPath and Phood, can be used to keep track of commonly used and uneaten foods to help advise purchasing practices and batch quantities.

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks) can help your business evaluate and identify opportunities to reduce waste and maximize food recovery opportunities. Our source reduction guidance provides information on procurement steps, front- and back-of house strategies for food waste reduction, and more. To learn more about our no-cost assistance or to speak with a food waste expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at