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Reducing food waste during temporary closures

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Many of you are either making the transition to delivery or the heart-wrenching decision to temporarily or permanently close, and you may have questions about what to do with the food you have on hand that you no longer need.

First, take a final inventory of all of your food and beverages, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Cancel or temporarily halt all deliveries from your distributor, produce companies or beverage distributors. If you would like, you can offer to your employees food that you can’t freeze or save.

Also, make sure you close your restaurant safely including unplugging empty refrigerators, freezers and walk-ins throughout the building. Leave the doors open. Lock alcohol in offices or cages and remove all trash from the building, including office trash cans. Be sure to line the empty cans with fresh liners to reduce fruit fly activity, according to the National Restaurant Association.

The National Restaurant Association has a complete closing checklist here.

You can donate perishable items to your local food bank, so the food doesn’t go to waste.

To prepare to send any remaining perishable food items to food banks:

  • Ensure you and your staff has handled the food correctly, was kept at proper temperatures and that it was not previously served. 
  • Prepare a list of quantity and type of food you have for donation for the food bank and check to see its needs.

For a full checklist of safety guidelines to follow, the Washington State Department of Health has a thorough list. The state has a plan to launch its Restaurant Rescue Mobilization program either late March 18 or March 19. This program will set up a hotline that connects restaurants with food banks and schools that could use the leftover food. The Washington Hospitality Association will give you more information about this program as it becomes available.