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National Restaurant Association - Donating excess food can save dollars

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Donating excess food can save dollars

An education session at next month’s National Restaurant Association Show in Chicago will show operators where they’re triple-pumping money into the trash.

It’s common for operators to buy more food than they sell, notes Jim Larson, program development director for the Food Donation Connection. If they’d sold it, they could write off the cost on their taxes. But when it’s not served, they often throw out the surplus.

When that happens, they’re paying for the food, they’re losing the chance to expense the cost, and they’re paying a hauler to cart away the excess.

Larson’s organization offers the alternative of finding a charity that would take the surplus food for its feeding program. By donating the food, participating restaurants can qualify for an “incremental deduction” on their taxes for what they give the charity.

“Instead of the $10 you’d lose, your loss is only 85 cents,” Larson says.

They also keep the excess material out of trash bins and landfills, reducing their hauling fees. To the delight of employees, says Larson, they find that the greenest option is also the most economical. “That is very impactful today on a staff,” he says.

The benefits don’t end there, he says.

Typically a participating restaurant chills or freezes the surplus food in hotel pans provided as part of the program. “Seeing it all together is a reminder—‘I notice a lot of lasagna being wasted. I wonder if we should adjust our purchasing,’” Larson explains.  “They see where they’re wasting money by buying too much food.”

A typical donation, says Larson, is anywhere from one to 10 pans.

Liability concerns have been allayed by so-called Good Samaritan laws. The measures largely limit restaurants’ exposure to instances of gross negligence or purposeful malfeasance, according to Larson.

He will be walking restaurateurs through the program at a session entitled “Turn Surplus Food Into Tax Savings,” Monday, May 23 at 10 a.m. in McCormick Place, Chicago.

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