How to Use a Waste Sheet to Increase Profit Margins

By David Scott Peters

When food costs rise, profit margins sink and restaurant owners must take action. Last week, I outlined one of two simple tools you can use to lower your food costs, the key item reportThis week, I’m covering the waste sheet.

The waste sheet tracks waste in the kitchen.

When an ingredient or item is double ordered, over cooked, spoils or just can’t be used any longer for any reason, it MUST be recorded on the waste sheet. Use a new form each day.

To set up your form, create the following columns:

  1. Time
  2. Item/Description
  3. Amt/Qty/Wt
  4. Reason for Waste
  5. Employee Initials

Referring to the waste sheet, write in the time the product was wasted in the Time column. Write a description of the item wasted in the Item/Description column, such as an order of chicken wings or milk. Write in the amount, quantity or weight of what was wasted in the Amt/Qty/Wt column, such as 12, 1 pound or 3 gallons.

The next step, which is probably the most important, is to write in the reason for the waste. This will be huge to help identify operational problems that can be corrected with tracking. For example, if the list shows a three gallon loss of milk and the reach-in cooler is out of temp., it’s a worthy investment to fix the cooler. Or maybe it’s Sally the new server that double orders product, and needs more training. The waste sheet provides actionable solutions.

To finish the form, the employee writing in the waste will mark their initials.

This form needs to be used right away. As soon as it is wasted, write it in. I know what you are saying to yourself, “Right! On a Friday night when we are kicking out 300 covers, I’m going to stop everything so we can write that down.”

While I wish the answer to that question was yes, I know the reality of running a restaurant is never an ideal world. So here’s what you do… just place each of the items in a clear Lexan tray when the waste happens and then at the end of the rush, go through and record each item wasted.

To make sure the waste sheet is effective, your kitchen manager or chef will value out each item wasted and initial that they did so. This figure will be very important when comparing actual and ideal food cost at the end of the period.

It’s that easy, and can be put into place in the next five minutes. And next week, I will show you one last trick – how to use the key item report and the waste sheet together. See you then!

David Scott Peters TheRestaurantExpert (1)David Scott Peters is a restaurant expert, speaker, coach and trainer for independent restaurant owners. He is the developer of SMART Systems Pro, an online restaurant management software program helping the independent restaurant owner remain competitive and profitable in an industry boxed in by the big chain restaurants. He is best known as the SMART Systems guy who can walk into any restaurant and find $10,000 in undiscovered cash before he hits the back door… Guaranteed! Learn more at

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