Why Do Restaurants Throw Away Food? (Smartness & Stupidity)

When restaurants throw away food it really shocks people who don’t know why that is, and to be fair it also shocks people who know exactly why. However, there isn’t only one answer to this and we need to go deeper if we want to understand why do restaurants really throw away food.

There are many factors that will determine why the restaurant is throwing away food and this results in massive wastage which is growing rapidly each year faster than the population growth should indicate.

There are two main reasons why restaurants throw away food. Either the food has been spoiled and it isn’t edible anymore or because of the government’s health and safety standards which need to be carefully monitored.

Either way, the results aren’t promising and the problem hasn’t sent signals that it is going anywhere at least for a while. There are also other reasons why restaurants might throw away food so let’s talk about that for a while.

For example, there are restaurants’ that rather throw away food than give it to the employees because it doesn’t profit and it should be bought. I have personally worked in many restaurants where this was a thing and it really made me mad, and I wasn’t the only one. Luckily most of the restaurants will sell the food with a big discount to the customers and employees rather than throw them away for ”principle reasons”.

There are also other reasons that will make more sense, for example, let’s take fast-food restaurants under the scope. They will prepare the foods usually quickly straight from the order and if the customer doesn’t show up or it stands there more than it should, it will be thrown straight to garbage. This isn’t great but you can’t serve hamburgers to customers that have been standing under the heat lamp for two hours. You wouldn’t probably be satisfied yourself?

Well, why don’t the restaurants just give them away for the homeless or the misfortunate? There is a reason for that and it’s a tricky one. I sure hope that there will be a solution to this someday.

Why Do Restaurants Not Give Homeless Leftovers

There are a couple of reasons for this as well, unfortunately. The first and the most unbelievable reason is that in some states and cities in the US, it is illegal to feed the homeless and you will be fined hundreds of dollars of face jail if done so. There is a viral case when a 90-years old US veteran fed a homeless person and got a $500 fine or 60-days of jail if you can believe that…

The second reason which makes at least more sense than the above is legal reasons and the safety of the restaurant. If someone eats ”out of date” food and gets sick, they have the opportunity to sue the restaurant for getting sick. Therefore many restaurants would gladly give food to the homeless, however, they just can’t because of the legal reasons and risks that come with it.

Why Is Food Waste An Issue

There are so many reasons why food waste is an issue but let’s start with the environment.

When food waste is dumped into landfill areas, it will start to produce methane as the food rots and methane is 84 times potent than carbon dioxide in a 20-year period. Therefore reducing food waste is critical to climate change prevention, even more than carbon dioxide reductions in the short term. However, methane lingers in the atmosphere way shorter time than carbon dioxide.

Another huge reason why food waste is an issue is hunger. When millions of tons of food get wasted each year, you heard me right, it will have a major impact on those that are hungry now, but also on the future endeavors when the world would like to end hunger. In fact, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, A Study shows that the food that is thrown away would be twice as much as it would be needed to cure world hunger.

Environment and hunger isn’t certainly the only aspect that gets a hit when food is thrown away. Also water, space, animal lives, and energy will be wasted when food is thrown away so virtually everything will get wasted when food is thrown away.

However, this opens a positive possibility to the world as well! If we could learn how to effectively reduce food waste, we would save everything in the process including space, water, energy, and all the other factors!

Which Country Wastes The Most Food

The answer to this question is clear as day and it is the United States of America. In the United States, 30-40% of all food goes to waste which totals to 80billion pounds(36 billion kgs) that cost $160 billion(€134 billion). These numbers are alarming, to say the least, and even unbelievable. Food waste in the US has tripled in the last 50-years.

How To Reduce Food Waste In Restaurants

There are many ways how to reduce food waste and have better food management in a restaurant, I have listed the most important ones below, however, you should see our Restaurant’s Food Management Guide for a more in-depth answer.

  1. Don’t Over Buy
  2. Store & Label Food Correctly
  3. Double Check Orders
  4. Re-Use Everything That Is Allowed
  5. Keep Track Of Waste
  6. Simplify Your Menu
  7. Recycle & Compost
  8. Have A Serious Staff Meeting About It
  9. Sell/Give Excess Food

When the 9 steps above are in control you are way ahead of most restaurants in food management and the world thanks you!

Read also: How to Reduce Food Waste In Restaurants: Our Top 30 Ideas


There are many reasons why restaurants throw away food and some are more understandable where some are just pure madness. I’ll certainly hope that in the future our food wasting will be reduced and the numbers would go down.

193 Countries have signed an agreement where they commit to ending world hunger by 2030 by reducing food waste and using other methods. Time will show us will this endeavor be a success or not.

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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