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Our industry produces a lot of waste. It is estimated that on average, restaurants in the united states waste over 30 billion pounds of food each year. That's just the waste produced by food. Add to that the number of napkins, straws, coasters, glass bottles, paper, etc., and the waste gets overwhelming. Not only does waste negatively affect the environment, but it can also subtract from your bottom line. While you can't eliminate waste in our industry, many professionals across the country have turned to clever tactics to reduce their waste through upcycling inventory, reducing the amount of single-use items, and working with local composting and recycling organizations. Today, let's talk about how you can deploy these tactics by utilizing your bar program.

*"My Bar Program Isn't That "Fancy"*

You don't need an over-the-top craft cocktail bar program to start utilizing it as a means to reduce waste. The simple techniques we will discuss can elevate classic, simple, or craft cocktails and provide a unique and lasting experience for your guests. The goal is to reduce waste, save you money, and maybe even bring in some new customers while we're at it.

Upcycling Ingredients

There are many clever ways to get more out of your inventory: Leftover coffee and spent coffee grounds can be used to create a Coffee Liqueur. Lemon, Lime, and Grapefruit peel leftover from juicing can be used for elaborate garnishes or to create a Trash Tiki Citrus Stock. The lemon peels can be used to make a homemade Limoncello. The leafy parts of vegetables such as carrot tops and fennel fronds can be saved back for memorable garnishes. All of these ingredients can be used to elevate your everyday drinks. For the coffee liqueur, add your special twist to the recipe and run a house special on Lebowski's favorite drink, the White Russian. 1 oz of vodka, 2 oz of your house coffee liqueur, and one ounce of cream or milk. Replace the citrus in a long island iced tea or a cosmopolitan with your Trash Tiki Citrus stock for a unique twist on a commonly ordered drink. Limoncello can be consumed by itself and it is delicious, but it can also add to dessert dishes in your kitchen.

Using Produce Before It Spoils

Every bar should have this cocktail available to make. Every bar can make one that is unique and yet is always familiar. This cocktail also makes for a great way to utilize your produce before it spoils while adding to the uniqueness of your offering. Of course, I am talking about the Bloody Mary. You can create your own bloody mary mix with tomatoes, celery, peppers, etc., and make it your signature version. Change up the recipe to incorporate produce before it's lost to the bin. Pickle almost any vegetable that is nearing its expiration date and add it as a garnish for your bloody mary. If you have some beef you need to use, turn it into jerky and upcharge a dollar or two for a stick of homemade jerky in the bloody mary.

Over-ripe berries and other fruits can be used to make shrubs. Shrubs are a versatile weapon that should be implemented into your bar program whether as a means to reduce waste or not. All you need is fruit, sugar, water, and vinegar to make this delicious ingredient. While you can come up with plenty of uses for these delicious nectars, the simplest way that any bar program can use it is to use it as a flavor additive for a vodka and soda. Just add 2oz of vodka, .5-1oz of shrub, and top with soda.

Reducing Single Use Items

Straws have been slowly added to the chopping block for years in the F&B scene. While some patrons still insist upon using them, there are plenty of patrons who do not need them and will set them aside. The quickest way to reduce your waste when it comes to straws is to only give them to your customers upon request. This will immediately cut down your spending on straws and allow you to help reduce the nearly 500 million plastic straws that are thrown away each day.

Paper cocktail napkins are very wasteful. Switch to branded coasters that can be reused to cut down on the number of beverage napkins being used and thrown away. Branded reusable coasters can be used to align with your aesthetic while reducing your waste footprint.

Your glass liquor bottles can be reused to hold your juices, shrubs, syrups, etc., and in your kitchen to hold vinegar, wine, or other liquids needed for cooking. One of my favorite bottles to reuse is any of the products sold by The 86 Co (@the86co on Instagram). Their bottle was designed for the bar environment and can be used in the kitchen as well featuring a measurement guide on the side of the bottle measuring in ounces and by the liter.

Stop Printing Paper Menus

During the pandemic, disposable paper menus have been used as a way to reduce touchpoints. This is obviously resulting in a lot of waste as well as increasing bar and restaurant printing budgets. Laminated menus can be cleaned, but they will start to look worn, bent, and even start to curl. Beyond the pandemic, there is still a lot of paper being printed monthly to produce menus whether it is to replace a soiled menu or for a seasonal change. Using Touchless Menu in your bar, restaurant, or even hotel room can dramatically reduce or eliminate your expense and waste produced by paper menus. Touchless Menu also provides you with the flexibility to be able to change your menu items on the fly. If you are going to use the bloody mary to help reduce waste in your restaurant by changing the recipe daily, you can reflect that change on your Touchless Menu and have it immediately updated on all of your menus. You can list out your daily shrub add-ons for your vodka sodas. All of these changes can be made from the comfort of your office. With Touchless Menu's waterproof, durable design, you don't have to replace it if a guest spills on it. Just simply wipe it off, and clean it right along with the table. Go to to learn more about the benefits of Touchless Menu.