How Restaurants Can Combat Food Waste With Time-Sensitive Offers

Food waste

It’s a global problem with an impact that makes waves far beyond your bottom line: food waste.

And today, where consumers want to align themselves with socially-conscious businesses across the board that embrace their own values, along with the access to insights and information about the impact of industry waste, simply turning a blind eye to past-due produce or pre-made meals that make their way into the trash won’t cut it…for them or for you and your bottom line.

While the paths to minimizing food waste created by restaurants are plenty, there’s one solution in particular that offers agility and responsiveness to a surplus of product that needs to move, while simultaneously elevating your customer experience and engagement.

And it’s all about optimizing the greatest non-renewable resource: time.

The Case of Food Waste

Between pre-consumer food waste that occurs throughout the supply chain and in kitchens prior to consumers getting their hands on any product, to what happens with leftovers that go unconsumed, the statistics around waste are staggering:

  • ⅓ of food produced for human consumption ends up in a landfill (Source)
  • Americans waste 150,000 tons of food each day – equal to one pound per person (Source)
  • Industry waste amounts to $25 Billion (USD) each year. (Source)

By reducing that waste we’ll not only have a positive impact on gasses in our atmosphere but create a more balanced market demand on local and global food systems.

And, save serious cash: instead of watching your dollars rot on your shelves, get dropped in garbage bags at the end of the night or walk out the door—literally—as a free give away at the end of the day, the money you can save (up to $7 for every $1 invested in food waste mitigation) can be a significant contribution to your business.

But, in the case of a surplus, and with time running out to keep it out of the bins and in the hands (and stomachs) of your customer base, how do you respond quickly when the potential of surplus product presents itself?

Move It, or Lose It

Some restaurants create feature menus that highlight a specific ingredient as a means of moving through surplus stock. Other establishments have systems in place to use over-stocked products to create other goods; like pulp from vegetables to turn into crackers, and beyond.

Yet when time is, in fact, sensitive and there’s no time to design a whole new menu item out of a pre-prepared meal or product, creating a time-sensitive offer that’s high value for you and your customer base means giving your loyal fans a reason to stay loyal, and reduces pre-consumer waste within the walls of your business.

Maybe you have a favorite cafe whose staff is reliable in offering you a discounted pastry at the end of the day while they’re closing up shop.


Or perhaps you know the place to hang out right up until they’re closing their doors for the day simply because of the off chance you’ll be one of the lucky few who get a free *something* because of your patience and dedication to being a ‘fixture’ in their space.

And now – consider what it would be like for you, or for any consumer, to get to play the waiting game from home; to get to be notified if, or when, a restaurant is winding down their operations and has some goods they’re keen to move before locking up for the night.

And, how special it would feel to be one of the lucky few who get the intel that there’s a deal to be captured.

This is the beauty of a time-sensitive offer done right.

Leveraging Time Scarcity In Service Of Your Bottom Line

Time-sensitive offers benefit your business, your customers, and the environment; they’re a strategic alternative to end-of-day freebies that handle the movement of product and creating happy guests…but don’t do a lot for your revenue game.

By creating a limited time offer that expires at closing time—or before—on products your customers know and love, you’re adding value by offering menu items at a reduced price, without creating the expectation or anticipation of freebies.

What keeps these deals special is exclusivity; the knowing that the recipients of the offer are of the exclusive few who are on the ‘inner circle’ of a business’s community. What makes them powerful is the opportunity to activate them whenever an unexpected moment of ‘we made too much!’ happens and you need a little extra help in sticking to your commitments around minimizing food waste.

Here are a few ways to get the word out and turn a food waste problem into a customer engagement win:

  • On the not-so-personal side, turn to social media. Promote your offer to the masses and see who comes through the door. Again, while it’s less exclusive, if it’s about getting bodies through the door and moving product, giving your network of social followers access to
  • Head to your email list and get right into the inboxes of your subscribers. You can segment the recipients based on those interested in or close to the specific location you’ve got the offer at so you can send as targeted a message as possible.
  • Create custom, targeted messages that go straight to your current (and loyal!) customer base through email or SMS/texts to reach the right customer exactly where they are.

Wrap up

Here’s to each one of us doing our part to mitigate food waste – and we hope this creative approach to leaving a little less in the landfill was equal parts thought-provoking and inspiring to see what’s possible in giving your customers the benefit of the ‘whoops!’ that comes along with the unpredictable nature of the restaurant industry.