7 Fast Food Chains That Prevent Food Waste Through Donation

According to studies, a single restaurant can waste around 25,000 to 75,000 pounds of food in a year.  To visualize this, a semi-truck can carry 80,000 pounds of waste, so in a year, it’s not impossible for a restaurant to fill up one with just their food waste. This leads to up to $2 billion lost profits for the restaurant industry, an astounding and alarming amount at the same time.

This is why lots of experts are pushing for waste management and prevention efforts in the industry. Food waste is not impossible to prevent and some chains are able to do it. To better demonstrate the different ways how food waste can be stopped, here are what five fast food chains are doing:

Panera Bread

This homey chain is known for its conscious efforts to help out and give back to its communities. This is why it’s not surprising that they’re also taking steps to prevent food waste.

For years, they have been working with local non-profit organizations in their stores’ communities by donating the bread and pastries that they weren’t able to sell within the day. The food then goes to local shelters and other feeding programs that benefit the needy. Although food can be pricey at Panera Bread, it is not that bad considering all the good they do.

Pizza Hut

An important thing to know about Pizza Hut is that they’re one of the first chains to take steps against food waste with their Harvest Program. Since 1992, they have already been working with the Food Donation Connection (FDC) to find alternatives to tossing food out. They were actually the first client of the foundation since the founder of the organization was a former executive of theirs.

The notable thing about this project is that Pizza Hut did all of these even before there were incentives included in the deal. It’s a good testament of their commitment in doing something good as a corporation.

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After nearly three decades of working together, Pizza Hut and the FDC have already donated 94 million pounds of food together, providing 5 million pounds per year to their 2500 domestic charities all over the world.

The Cheesecake Factory

Like Pizza Hut, the Cheesecake Factory also works with the FDC to cut down their food waste and donate their surplus food that is still consumable to those who need it. Since the chain prepares food fresh in their restaurants daily, they regularly evaluate their items if they still meet their gold standards before giving them to customers. If they don’t and they’re still consumable, they get donated to food banks and agencies.

Every year, the chain estimates that they are able to donate about 500,000 pounds of food.

Pret a Manger

Pret a Manger established their own non-profit foundation that takes care of their food donations to those in need. They donate unsold untouched salads and sandwiches prepared in store every day to the shelters near their establishments. Every day, representatives of their partner organizations go to their locations to collect food so they reach their destination while the food is still in great shape.

The chain also lists the organizations they work with on their website, offering a good deal of transparency to their cause.


In 2016, Starbucks partnered with Feeding America to establish the Starbucks FoodShare Program. They have since donated 20 million meals from their unsold food to individuals, families, and veterans all over the US.

About 60% of the chain’s total number of stores participate in the FoodShare Program and it is Starbucks’ goal to reach 100% by the end of 2020. This can help grow their donations exponentially.

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This fried chicken giant is also a part of the Harvest Program of FDC. They’ve been working together for over 20 years to combat food wastage and help those in need.

If you’re worried about what they donate, don’t be. They guarantee that their food donations are still completely in good condition as they are composed of chicken that are not sold within 60 to 90 minutes after cooking. They’re not day-old chicken which can already be spoiled or frozen. By giving these to those who are in need, they get to cut down their food waste to just 1.7%.


Aside from its good food, Chipotle’s efforts in minimizing all kinds of waste is very laudable. They have been taking several different steps to avoid wasting food since they started the initiative a few years ago.

For starters, they have adjusted their portion sizes so it would be just right for most consumers. They also trained their staff to mindfully prepare meals to further prevent wastage. They also employ composting techniques in stores. As for their food donations, they work with the Harvest Program to effectively handle their store’s leftover food that was prepared for the day. Their goal for 2020 is to have up to 80% of its stores to participate in the program.

Why Restaurants Should Donate Food?

Aside from preventing food waste, donating unsold food can also be beneficial for businesses. It can grant them tax incentives and give them an easy social responsibility project that can help boost their image. It’s also a simple way to help others.

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