Anyone serving food has some amount of spoilage.
But how much is too much?
“Typically, we look for 8-12% in a program where hot grab-and-go offers make up 50% or more of the program,” said Sherryn Diamond, director of food service for High’s Stores in Baltimore, Md. “If you are providing a predominantly made-to-order (MTO) program, the percentage we look for is 5-8%. Spoilage/waste is a necessary part of any foodservice program to maintain the freshest high-quality food we can offer to our guests.”
How long should food be held in warmers before being discarded?
“Most food will maintain its quality for an average of two hours in a warmer, provided it is held at the proper temperature,” Diamond explained. “The holding temperature we are looking for is between 141 degrees and 150 degrees. The exception to the two-hour rule is pizza, which can be held for only an hour before the food begins to lose its quality. Another factor to consider when hot holding food items is the container in which the food is being held.”
Danny Carrell, the principal of Global Food Safety Consultants in Los Angeles, Calif., said the “right amount” of spoilage in a c-store’s proprietary foodservice program depends on inventory management and sourcing materials from approved sources.
As for how long food should be held before being discarded, Carrell recommended following the recommendations in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Food Code.
“Seven days is pretty standard for prepared foods that require cold hold or reheating. For hot-hold foods, it is four hours,” he said.
Figuring an acceptable percentage of food cost lost to spoilage depends on inventory management strategies like FIFO (first-in, first-out) and JIT (just in time), he added.
Dating stored food is very helpful in keeping a record of what you are doing, said Jeff Nelken, a food safety expert in Los Angeles, Calif.
“Safe and proper holding of products should minimize waste,” he said. “Follow holding temperatures that manufacturers will give you. Sell items at discounts once we have reached the point of less freshness.”