What Causes Food (Food) Loss? Explanation of 7 measures that restaurants can take


“Food loss”, the waste of food, is a major problem throughout the world. In fact, if you run a restaurant, you are probably faced with situations where you have no choice but to throw away food.

If food loss conditions are left as unavoidable, the restaurant itself may be in jeopardy. This is because discarding food means incurring unnecessary costs.

This article explains the current situation and causes related to food loss, while introducing measures that restaurants can take.

We hope you will deepen your understanding of food loss and improve your awareness of social contribution. And at the same time, let’s realize an increase in the store’s profit and update the store to provide better quality services.

What is food loss?

food loss

Food loss refers to food that is discarded even though it is ready to eat. It is a problem that needs to be solved as a national issue, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has even established a “Food Loss and Recycling Office”.

It is necessary to analyze the current situation and breakdown of food loss in Japan in order to raise awareness of food loss and put countermeasures into practice.

Current status of food loss

Statistics from the Ministry of the Environment for the year 2021 show that 5.23 million tons of food loss is occurring annually. Specifically, each person throws away one bowl of food every day.

The amount of food loss in fiscal 2012 amounted to 6.42 million tons, so it can be said to be on a downward trend, but it will be necessary for each and every one of us to become even more aware of our actions and strive for further reduction.

Breakdown of food loss

Food loss is divided into “household food loss,” which comes from households, and “business food loss,” which comes from manufacturing, retailing, and other business-related activities.

Of the 5.23 million tons of food loss in 2021, “household food loss” accounted for 2.44 million tons. On the other hand, “business food loss” will be 2.79 million tons.

A more detailed look at “business food loss” reveals that the food service industry is responsible for 800,000 tons of food loss. After understanding the current situation, the entire food service industry must move toward reduction.

Solving food loss is necessary to achieve the SDGs

food loss

The SDGs are 17 goals that the world has set in common to help people continue to lead comfortable lives. Examples include improving issues such as poverty, hunger, and education.

Resolving food loss is essential to achieving the SDGs. This is because one of the goals is “Responsibility to Create and Responsibility to Produce”. Specifically, one of the goals is to reduce food waste by half worldwide.

In Japan, too, an SDG task force has been established to analyze the status of efforts and enact measures to promote the SDGs every year. It also holds the “Japan SDGs Award” to honor companies and organizations that are active in the SDGs and encourages the public to take action.

Problems Caused by Food Loss

food loss

Left unchecked, food loss will lead to environmental destruction, food shortages, and other problems that are not confined to Japan alone.

It is necessary to understand the problems that food loss can cause, as it can increase the cost of doing business.

environmental destruction

Foods disposed of as garbage are disposed of as combustible garbage at processing plants. Carbon dioxide is emitted during transportation and incineration, placing a burden on the environment.

We must not forget that the process of food production and processing also produces greenhouse gases and contributes to global warming.

The current situation of producing and even processing food that is not eaten is causing unnecessary environmental destruction.

Cost increases in distribution and production

Many people are involved in the process before food reaches the consumer. In the restaurant industry, we can envision a variety of situations, including not only production and distribution, but also cooking and sales.

Even if no one actually eats the food, the costs incurred by those involved will not disappear. If food loss is not reduced, the needless cost increases will only continue.

Food shortages due to global population growth

As the world’s population grows, the problem of food insecurity grows as well. According to statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), 2.3 billion people will be food insecure by 2022.

This is despite the fact that grain production is increasing in line with population growth. In order to solve food shortages, it can be said that a reduction of food loss is needed in front of our eyes.

Causes of food loss in restaurants

food loss

Food loss is a problem that must always be addressed in restaurants. This is because it not only contributes to society, but also hinders management due to unnecessary costs.

In order to continue to operate efficiently while contributing to society, we will sort out the causes of food loss in restaurants.

leftover food (esp. on one’s plate)

According to statistics from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, about 80% of food loss in restaurants is caused by leftovers. This may be due to a larger-than-expected amount of food or leaving behind food that the customer does not like.

Leftover food cannot be reused and disposal is the only option. As restaurants, they should actively promote eating out and take-out.

Stocking and preparation errors

In some cases, when purchasing and preparing food, excessive quantities are secured. If there are not enough ingredients, the restaurant may not be able to provide the food, and the operation may not be viable.

There will also be cases where more food arrives than expected due to erroneous orders and cannot be fully cooked. Excess ingredients will be discarded starting with those that cannot be kept fresh.

Mistakes in cooking

If the menu is wrong or a mistake is made in ordering, the cooked food may be wasted. It is also subject to disposal if the food is not at a level that allows it to be served, such as if it is overcooked or improperly seasoned.

Especially in the process of training newcomers, accidents during the cooking process are possible. It will be necessary to constantly examine ways to improve techniques and efficiency of the cooking process.

Examples of Food Loss Countermeasures Taken by Companies

food loss

In recent years, as consumer awareness of food loss issues has increased, various companies have implemented food loss prevention measures. Increasingly, efforts are being publicized, especially by major companies. We will introduce several case studies as a reference for restaurants to contribute to society and continue their operations.

Creating a system from ordering to provisioning

The restaurant chain company that operates the family restaurant chain, ” SKYLARK Group”, has introduced an automatic ordering system to prevent unnecessary ordering of food ingredients. The system mechanically replenishes the amount of food ingredients used at each restaurant and controls the appropriate quantity.

In addition, detailed manuals on cooking methods were developed using videos and images, and thorough training was provided to all part-time workers. In some cases, the company has succeeded in creating rules that reduce cooking errors while providing high quality food.

Other efforts are also being implemented to eliminate as much leftover food as possible by allowing customers to choose the amount of rice they would like to eat.

Identical taste in all stores

YOSHINOYA CO.,LTD. a major beef bowl chain, has standardized its cooking process so that the seasoning does not vary from store to store. The goal is to provide the same flavor at all stores, thereby contributing to the reduction of leftovers.

Another feature of the company is its proactive approach to food recycling. Beef fat generated from cooking beef bowls is 100% recycled and used as fertilizer and fuel for power generation. The company recycles within its operations as a way to contribute to society.

Recycle food loss itself

Aleph-inc. which operates the BIKKURI DONKEY hamburger steak restaurant, has established its own recycling system. Cooking scraps and leftover food are turned into raw materials for use on farms through a crushing and drying machine developed jointly with a manufacturer.

In addition, the company produces hand soap at its own factory in Japan using cooking oil generated during the cooking process, and has introduced it to washrooms in its stores nationwide. The company is actively working to reduce food loss through such initiatives as the “Mogu Chare” event for children of elementary school age and younger to encourage them to finish their meals.

Seven measures you can take to prevent food (food) loss in your restaurant

food loss

The following measures can be taken to prevent food loss in restaurants.

  1. Eliminate the gap between actual volume and
  2. Incorporate local production for local consumption
  3. Convert store visit forecast into data
  4. Narrow down the types of menu items
  5. Provide a container to take leftovers home
  6. Lower prices based on time and volume
  7. Promote food loss reduction


Please refer to the following article for details on items 4-7 with examples.
[Related Article] 8 Ideas for Reducing Food Loss in the World that Restaurants Should Practice

This article will address and explain the three items 1-3 above.

1. Eliminate the gap between the actual amount

One possible cause of leftovers is that customers were served more food than they expected. As a countermeasure, it would be a good idea to put pictures on the menu so that customers can imagine the volume of their meals.

Also, the situation where the amount of food varies among the cooking staff should be avoided. It is necessary to establish a detailed manual and a system that allows anyone to serve the right amount of food.

In addition, analyzing the trend of leftovers for each menu item would help eliminate the gap. For example, if there are many cases where only rice is left, it may be necessary to change to a system where customers are asked to choose a large or small portion.

2. Incorporate local production for local consumption

One way is to incorporate local production for local consumption. In addition to reducing the cost of transportation, it is possible to purchase ingredients that are produced nearby and delivered immediately and remain fresh. Quality control and delivery schedules can be easily coordinated, leading to ease of operation.

In addition, by communicating directly with producers and purchasing out-of-spec vegetables that would otherwise be discarded in the distribution process due to appearance issues even though they are fine as food ingredients, the company can contribute to food loss reduction.

In addition, by promoting the use of local ingredients, the restaurant will be able to differentiate itself from other restaurants. Not only will this reduce food loss, but it will also increase profits.

[Related Article] Is Local Production for Local Consumption Sustainable? Advantages and Disadvantages Restaurants Need to Know

3. Convert store visit forecast into data

It is important to keep detailed records of the day of the week, time of day, weather, etc., and to take data on the number of customers visiting the store. If data is accumulated and utilized, mistakes such as over-stocking and stocking will be reduced.

Relying solely on the senses may not improve the situation forever. Since factors such as location and visitor characteristics vary from store to store, it is recommended that data be collected and countermeasures be taken.

Editor’s Note

Leftovers account for most of the food loss in restaurants. Therefore, in order to create a sustainable restaurant, it is a good idea to start with measures against leftovers.

Taking measures against food loss will also lead to higher profits because it eliminates unnecessary costs. We would like to make maximum use of the SDGs concept, which is becoming increasingly popular, to create stores that will resonate with customers.

[Related Article]


[Reference Site] Ministry of the Environment : Estimation results of food loss
[Reference Site] Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries : Food Loss (FY2021 estimate)
[Reference Site] Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries : Food Loss Trends (FY 2012 – FY 2021)
[Reference Site] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) : State of the World’s Food Security and Nutrition (2022 Report )
[Reference Site] Survey of the amount of edible and inedible portions of food waste, etc. at food-related businesses
[Reference site] SKYLARK Group : Food Loss Reduction Policy and Approach
[Reference site] YOSHINOYA CO.,LTD. : Devices to prevent food waste
[Reference site] BIKKURI DONKEY

table source 編集部
table source 編集部
table source 編集部では、サステナビリティやサーキュラーエコノミー(循環経済)に取り組みたいレストランやホテル、食にまつわるお仕事をされている皆様に向けて、国内外の最新ニュース、コラム、インタビュー取材記事などを発信しています。