As restaurants across the United States slowly reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, waste and recycling management is an important, often overlooked, part of the reopening strategy.
Whether you’re offering takeout, drive-thru or limited capacity in person, you have a great deal of responsibility to keep your kitchen running smoothly and customers happy and safe.
With an increased focus on frequent and thorough workspace cleaning procedures and requirements, in addition to your normal food waste, your disposal needs will likely be very different than they were prior to the pandemic. Now is the time to ensure your waste and recycling programs are at the capacity needed to handle the amount of waste you’ll be generating. Here are some tips to help you get a better handle on your waste management program so you can reopen your business without skipping a beat.
Assess Waste Volume
As you begin to open your doors to the public post-pandemic, the amount of waste volume your restaurant produces may look vastly different from pre-COVID-19. Assessing how your restaurant will operate during this time is vital to preparing for the waste volume changes your establishment may experience.
Take the following questions into consideration:
- Are you opening your doors at a reduced capacity?
- Are you providing a takeout option?
- Are you using a drive-thru or some combination of the above options?
Addressing these operational questions and keeping in mind how staffing levels factor into the equation will help you better understand if your waste management program is prepared to handle any influxes or reductions in waste volume.
Right-Size Your Services
After getting a firm understanding of your restaurant’s waste volume, you’ll also want to revisit your waste frequency of pickups to ensure it’s reflective of your daily operations post-pandemic.
For example, pre-COVID-19, you may have had trash and recycling pickups three times per week. Based on any operational changes, you may have a need to adjust the frequency of pickups to better match your current operational needs with the impacts of COVID—perhaps you only need two versus three pickups per week.
If a comprehensive right-sizing analysis has never been performed, now might be a good time. Adjusting your waste management services to match the type of waste your restaurant is producing will keep you on track as you maneuver not only through the pandemic, but also into the future, by paying for only the services you need. Every little dollar of savings adds up.
Use Technology and Reporting
A waste tracking system allows you to keep an eye on your waste management program and current service levels in real time. Better yet, the reporting and analytics provided by the tracking system take the hassle out of your waste management program by making it smarter and more efficient. This type of cloud-based tracking system will enable you to measure any waste changes and, in turn, make necessary adjustments to handle your needs—whether that be decreasing the number of pickups to accommodate fewer customers dining in, or monitoring your fullness and service verification.
With a customized solution in place, you ensure your waste management program is the most efficient and cost-effective.
Consolidate Your Waste Efforts
With so many new rules and regulations to follow in this “new normal,” managing a variety of waste management vendor services can become cumbersome and time-consuming. If you own multiple locations, you may have to coordinate with several vendors at the same time, leading to increased labor and paperwork.
Working with a managed waste services provider can consolidate your services at all locations so you can have one single point of contact for your waste program. Consolidating your services means one vendor, one monthly invoice and one point of contact. The provider manages all key aspects of your waste program, taking the stress off your shoulders so you can spend more time getting your business back up and running.
By assessing your waste production, right-sizing your services, using innovative technology and consolidating your services, you’ll have a sound strategy in place so you can welcome your patrons back with confidence.
Michael Hess is founder and chief executive officer of Waste Harmonics, a Rochester, NY-based company that provides customized waste and recycling management solutions for businesses across North America. Michael leads Waste Harmonics’ team of waste/recycling, technology, logistics and customer service experts who manage waste and recycling services, which deliver significant costs savings for single- and multi-location businesses in a wide range of categories, including the restaurant industry. Prior to founding Waste Harmonics, he served as vice president of U.S. operations for Capital Environmental Resource Inc., a $120 million in revenue solid waste collection and disposal company with operations in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada. Michael acquired Waste Harmonics from Capital Environment in 2001 and has since grown the business from a solely Northeastern U.S. focus to serving customers throughout the U.S. and Canada.
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