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National Restaurant Association - Food donations offer financial, community benefits

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Food donations offer financial, community benefits

Donating surplus food does more than divert waste from landfills. It helps disadvantage members of your community, provides tax savings to your business and helps restaurants better manage their businesses.

Restaurant operators who attended the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show learned financial and community-relations benefits of donating surplus supplies to location charities.

In the education session, “Turning Surplus Food into Tax Savings,” Carl VanNostrand, chief operating officer of Central Florida Pizza, said the Pizza Hut franchise had earned more than $250,000 in tax credits by donating unsold pies instead of trashing them.

“I’d be kidding if I said that wasn’t important to us,” VanNostrand said. “But it also allows us to touch the community.”

Additional savings come from producing less garbage and lowering hauling fees, noted Jim Larson of Food Donation Connection, a service that matches restaurants with surplus food to charities that feed the disadvantaged.

“You’re not going to make a profit donating surplus food, but you’re not going to lose as much,” he said.

Darden Restaurants’ Ingrid Hebel noted that the process highlights ways operations can expand margins by cutting food costs.
“If you’re donating walleye pike all the time, you start asking yourself, ‘What’s up?’ So there are business benefits to it, too,” said Hebel, who serves the Red Lobster and Olive Garden parent company as senior director of operations excellence.
Also on the panel were representatives of several charities, who stressed how important the donations are to their feeding operations. They noted how they show their appreciation by scheduling pick-ups when the restaurants aren’t busy and getting in and out quickly so operations aren’t disrupted.

Patrick Doolan of Pacific Garden Mission, a Chicago charity, said his drivers can pick up a big order as in as little as three minutes and typically never go beyond seven minutes.

On top of everything, said Larson, there are the green benefits. “Since you’re sending less food to the landfills, there’s less greenhouse gas production,” he noted.

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