Whether you realize it or not, you've probably been eating out less and eating at home more recently. The cost of eating at home has decreased, while the cost of eating out has increased. In response, restaurant visits have declined and sales growth has slowed over the last few months (except for at pizza restaurants, because you can ever eat enough pizza).

The restaurant industry hasn’t had sales this bad since the 2008 recession. Except this time, we aren’t in a recession. We just don’t want to eat out as much. While this shift may dishearten restaurant owners, I think we could benefit from this temporary decline of the industry.

Slowed growth could motivate restaurants to act to reduce food waste. In order to amp up sales, restaurants either have to cut costs to lower prices, or give people a reason to eat out despite higher prices. Cutting food waste could help them to accomplish one of these goals.

Restaurants often choose not to recycle because they view it as too costly. For this reason, restaurants waste the most of any sector of the food industry

Lexi Nickens

However, LeanPath, a food tracking company, estimates that weighing and tracking food waste could help restaurants cut costs by ten percent. Tracking food waste helps restaurants see what they should buy less of. Doing so has already helped a number of LeanPath’s clients cut food waste and costs. For example, by tracking food waste Sodexo has cut food waste in dining halls across America.

“Sodexo Inc., in a pilot project at eight [college] campuses in 2010, reduced food waste by 30 percent,” says Jean Schwab of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “The whole concept of tracking the waste you are generating can make a huge difference. It’s the No. 1 thing that goes into landfills.”

As more restaurants realize the economic benefit of fighting food waste, they may begin to invest in this issue to help decrease costs.

coffee, beer, tea, pizza
Judy Holtz

If restaurants can't cut costs and prices continue to rise, they will need to find ways to motivate customers to pay more. One way they could do so is by reducing food waste. The majority of people are willing to pay more for products sold by environmentally friendly companies. 

If the entire restaurant industry is faced with high prices, restaurants could distinguish themselves from their competitors by fighting food waste. Doing so will make them appear more environmentally friendly, so customers will be more likely to buy their more expensive product.

For the sake of our planetary health, maybe we should be happy that it’s now cheaper to eat at home. Let’s keep up the trend until we see these changes happen.