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What Do Restaurants Do With Leftover Food?

What Do Restaurants Do With Leftover Food?

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In the restaurant industry, plenty of food goes uneaten at the end of each day. But what happens to it? Does it all just get thrown in the trash? We did a little digging and found out what really happens to leftover food at restaurants.

First of all, there are several different types of leftovers: there are the raw ingredients that go uncooked (usually the result of purchasing an excess of ingredients); there are the individual components of dishes, like sauces, mise en place, etc., that are cooked but go unserved; and there are the uneaten leftovers or table scraps from a customer’s plate.

When it comes to raw ingredients that are still perfectly good to eat, these will usually be picked up by (or dropped off at) what are called food recovery programs, which make sure it goes to those in need. Sometimes it’s a local soup kitchen or food pantry, other times it’s organizations like City Harvest. Obviously if food is spoiled or rotten it will be thrown out, but items like bruised fruits and vegetables are fair game for food recovery programs.

Individual components of dishes are a bit trickier, because soup kitchens are generally reluctant to accept food that’s been cooked and sitting out for a while. Restaurants tend to just throw these foods away, unless they can be delivered directly to those in need (in the case of complete dishes), or delivered while still warm, like soup. Fish that’s been cooked and unserved, however, heads to the trash.

Some restaurants refrain from donating their uneaten food out of fear that they’ll be sued if someone who eats it gets sick, but in reality they have nothing to fear: thanks to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, donors are protected “from civil and criminal liability should the product donated in good faith later cause harm to the recipient,” except for cases of “gross negligence or intentional misconduct.”

In the case of leftover food on a customer’s plate, that’s always thrown away; nobody wants to eat someone else’s half-eaten sandwich! And in several cases restaurants will save unused food and repurpose it the next day; this is the origin of many restaurants’ “specials.”

Food waste is a huge problem in America; according to a 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Americans throw away nearly half their food, amounting to $165 billion wasted annually. But it’s good to know that at many restaurants, they’re making a real effort to make sure that nothing ends up in the trash unless it has to.

Are you also one of those people who usually order food for taking out and toss inside the fridge for future consumption?

Leftover food can either be totally abandoned inside the fridge or repurposed most especially when we are talking about rice.

Rice, in particular, is a very common site inside the fridge the next morning and so we often think about ways on how to still make use of them.

Usually, we only reheat rice in the microwave, rice cooker, and on the stovetop. Yet little did we know that we can enjoy every grain by making something tasty out the leftovers.

Among the different rice varieties, white rice is the most flexible so far. So what can you do with leftover white rice? Let’s begin our delicious journey!

Why Leftover Brisket Tacos

When it comes to crowd pleasing food, brisket is at the top of the list of universally liked BBQ beef. It’s the staple cut of meat for sale at BBQ joints across the country, and it’s also a rewarding meat to smoke at home when you do it right. Fire up your smoker, pick some wood to burn, and cook your brisket low and slow to a perfection of beefy flavor, tenderness, and signature BBQ bark.

Brisket is a tasty entree on its own, or between a bun for a sandwich too. When it comes to the best way to eat brisket though, brisket tacos probably fly a little bit under the radar.

So what makes leftover brisket tacos so great? To me, it comes down to two big reasons.

First and foremost, they’re super easy to make. I find that most times the day after a big BBQ, the last thing I want to do is spend a bunch of time preparing another huge meal. Leftover brisket tacos are great because you can whip up quite the delicious meal with minimal time and effort. All you need is your reheated brisket, tortillas, and a few other ingredients to go in your leftover brisket tacos.

The second thing that makes leftover brisket tacos a fantastic choice is that there is lots of versatility in what you’re able to do with them. No matter who you’re preparing them for, the options for toppings and ingredients are almost endless for making your tacos.

Super Easy Leftover Recipes!

Revamp your leftovers with these SUPER easy ideas!

Leftover ham? Cook up grilled cheese with the ham right inside. It&rsquos SO delicious!

Another quick fix? Throw your leftovers into macaroni and cheese! Try leftover ground beef, a can of diced tomatoes, and chili powder. (If the meat is taco seasoned, even better!) Leftover broccoli also goes great in mac n cheese. (Try it with leftover chicken, too!) Try leftover ham with a can of peas or sliced up leftover hot dogs.

As I&rsquom sure you know, pretty much any holiday or get-together will yield a ridiculous amount of leftovers. Try this awesome leftover turkey Alfredo that takes 15 minutes to throw together. You could also use leftover chicken in this recipe or go for leftover mushrooms or beef for more of a stroganoff feel&hellipwhatever you have lying around!

One of the biggest items we waste is leftover lettuce. It&rsquos cheap and it doesn&rsquot last long, so it seems like it never gets used up. With leftover rotisserie chicken, you can easily use it to make a yummy strawberry avocado chicken salad, or add lettuce to your wraps and chicken salad sandwiches.

I know, I know. I talk about rotisserie chicken meals a LOT. But they&rsquore SO GOOD.

So yea, we also buy rotisserie chicken often. It&rsquos usually on sale for around $5 (and sometimes it&rsquos even 2 for $5) and you can make so many meals from it and use it to stretch other meals.

Food Stretchers to Make the Most of Your Leftovers

There are certain &ldquofood stretchers&rdquo that you can always have on-hand to help you use up leftovers and incorporate it into your meals. Simply pick one of the stretchers and add your leftover meat, leftover potatoes, leftover veggies, or other items.

I keep most of these items on hand all the time, so when we have leftovers I can just give them a sauté, add some cheese or sauce, and turn them in to something else.

Items to help extend your recipes for leftover food:

  1. Bread (for sandwiches)
  2. Tortillas (for sandwiches, wraps, quesadillas, fajitas, etc)
  3. Pasta (add jarred sauce and toss in veggies, leftover rotisserie chicken, sliced up beef, pork)
  4. Rice (add bottled teriyaki sauce and leftover veggies, fish, chicken, beef or pork)
  5. Lettuce (put veggies and sliced leftover meat on top with dressing for an easy salad)
  6. Frozen bagged vegetables (add with leftover protein to soups, pasta, rice or other dishes to stretch a little bit of meat a long way).

I also keep some jarred sauces and dressings on hand to help stretch items a little further. Leftovers can get a little dry so adding sauces help keep things yummy, especially when microwaving them.

Getting creative can really help you reduce food waste and make the most of your leftover food. Don&rsquot throw it away (or hide it in the fridge)&mdashfind a way to use it up and enjoy it a second time! There are tons of great recipes for leftover food&mdashwhat are YOUR faves?

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We used to toss out so much food before we started doing freezer meals or meal plans like you have said. That helped save so much waste!

My family does not like leftovers at all. So I try to plan for whatever I cook that night to have two days later for lunch so we can have a break or use what I call multipurpose food a lot.

Meaning If I cooked Italian chicken and rice one evening I can use the chicken the next night for barbecue chicken sandwiches or these awesome enchilada type things with chicken and rice in them.

We made a “Compost box” at the factory to recycle leftover food. After the recycling we can get the fertilizer for the garden. I think this is also a good idea
evelyn recently posted…Top 30 Best Shoes For Standing All Day 2017 Reviewed

I’m glad to know that I’m not the only person who shoved food at the back of the fridge to “use later”. Meal planning and freezer cooking have saved me from wasting a ton of food and helped me stick to my food budget.
Maria @ Leisurely Does It recently posted…Top 5 Ways To Conquer Clutter Guaranteed

We love to use leftovers for lunch the next day. It is amazing what you can do with a little extra chicken or other meat! One of our favorites is to make leftover nachos. I used to waste so much money throwing away leftovers and eating out. Meal planning a week at a time (including meal planning lunches using leftovers) has made a huge difference in our monthly food budget!

I am definitely guilty of tucking the food back in and looking the other way. Great tips! We’ve been doing more batch cooking as we are losing weight- not only does it help with not wasting food, not having as many choices has helped us lose weight too.
Lamora recently posted…How to Never Have to Menu Plan Again (and Still Eat Well)

Hey, I was raised in poor, christian home and I have learned that food shouldn’t be wasted! I never toss any food unless its inedible anymore and I hate people that just waste it while so many people in the world are starving!
Brian recently posted…Bench Press Vs Dips: Which Is Better For Strength & Hypertrophy?

Hi. I’m a gardener, so I know that to grow veggie is not easy. if people grow anything by themselves, they will reduce food waste. Thanks for your article!
ann katelyn recently posted…What&rsquos a Gorilla Hair Mulch and Its Benefits

These are fabulous ideas for reducing the food waste at home. I also try to reduce the food waste at home and I am planning the meals for a week so I can use all the products there are in the fridge. I’ll definitely try this at my home. Thanks for these amazing ideas ?

Put it in the oven instead of the microwave

Instead of microwaving your leftover Chinese food, put it in the oven to prevent soggy fried food or dried-out meat. While it may take a few extra minutes than simply popping it in the microwave (since you'll have to preheat the oven), trust us, it'll be worth it. Marvelous Chef suggests setting your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and cooking your leftovers "low and slow" until they're fully reheated, which can take anywhere from two to 10 minutes.

As for how to reheat them? Simple. Recipe Maker recommends putting it in an oven-safe dish and then covering it with aluminum foil to prevent the leftovers from drying out. For things like egg rolls or chicken wings, wrap them loosely in the foil and then open up the foil packet for a few minutes at the end to let the food crisp up.

Fried rice: Leftover Chinese takeout makeover

Fried rice is the chinese grandma way of rescuing the old and making it new. In today’s modern version we’ll use tired leftover Chinese takeout and turn it into a fresh one-bowl meal.

Fried rice is made with cold rice (hot fresh rice is too moist), so by definition it’s a leftover meal. This is why the old-school Chinese people I know would never order fried rice at a restaurant. Eating out, they’ll always have steamed rice, which is almost certain to be freshly made.

Fried rice is a staple of Chinese home cooking. It’s also a chinese grandma way of stretching a dollar, as a small amount of meat and vegetables can make a generous amount of fried rice. There are infinite variations on fried rice, depending on what ingredients the cook happens to have on hand (meat, shrimp, tofu, egg, any variety of vegetables).

If you’re not Asian, your primary opportunity for making fried rice at home is after you’ve had takeout Chinese food (aka carry out or takeaway, depending on where you live) or eaten at a Chinese restaurant and brought home leftovers. This recipe may give you a good reason to get extra rice next time.

Today I have a scant half-container of chicken and veg and a packed full container of rice. It would make a mediocre meal reheated in the microwave, but turned into fried rice it will take on a new and delicious life.

Chop the chicken and veg (or whatever you have) into small pieces.

Next put cold rice (this happens to be a mix of white and brown) into a hot skillet with 2-3 tablespoons of cooking oil. You could add a small amount of chopped onions or scallions to the oil before adding the rice, but I find restaurant leftovers generally have such strong flavor that this step isn’t necessary.

Use a large spoon to break up the rice. Cook several minutes until rice is soft and heated through.

Add a small drizzle of soy sauce and stir well to distribute.

Add chopped leftovers. Stir to incorporate.

There you have it. Fried rice at home, just like your real Chinese grandma would have made if she’d had a refrigerator and restaurant takeout at home.

Humble leftovers made good.

Fried rice (using Chinese takeout leftovers)
Fried rice at home – giving new life to leftover Chinese takeout.

1. Salt

Hand adding salt using a salt shaker (iStock)

To paraphrase Alton Brown, “salt makes food taste more like itself,” and in restaurants the cooks aren’t afraid to have a heavy hand with the salt shaker. They season every component of every dish, at every step of the cooking process, and only the most sensitive customers are likely to complain about a dish being too salty. Especially when cooking whole pieces of meat (like steaks or pork chops), always add a little more salt than you think they might need.

So the next time you have leftover Chinese rice, why not make this rice pudding with the leftover rice! Not only is this rice pudding simple but you won&rsquot be wasting leftover rice!

  • Are you looking for more pudding recipes? Why not try SLOW COOKER BREAD PUDDING from Dessert For Two
  • Maybe cake is more what you want? So how about this Quick and Easy Chocolate Pudding Cake from The Life Jolie
  • Lemon is my weakness, how about you? Then LEMON SOUFFLE WITH SALTED WHIPPED CREAM from The Brooklyn Cook is calling your name!

7 Ways to Use up Leftover French Fries

Around here our whole family enjoys going out for an occasional juicy burger and some tasty fries to go with it.

We don’t always have leftovers, but there are occasions when the servings are enormous.

Photo Credit – Unsplash Jonathan Broba

Now, what do you do with the leftovers?

YES, we are THOSE people….people who take home leftovers!

We figure we paid for it and all, why throw it out?

No matter if you have leftovers at home or from a restaurant, leftover fries can be tricky. They are never quite as good the second go-around so what do you do?


Yes, you can. The two most popular methods seem to be reheating them in a skillet in a little oil or heating them under the broiler. If you choose the broiler, be sure to watch them carefully and stir them around.

Of course, some fries reheat better than others.

Thinner fries tend to dry out quicker.

Here are 7 ideas for you to use up leftover French fries:

Basically, in almost any place you would add a potato to a dish you can add fries.

  • Casseroles – No brainer, right? Just remember that is a recipe calls for uncooked potatoes, and you are adding already cooked ones, you will need to adjust the bake time. This is a great time to use leftover ham as well.
  • Poutine (aka Canadian Smothered Fries) – Because the fries are smothered, you can reheat the fries and no one is the wiser .😉
  • Frittata – I mean frittata is so great for using up just about any meat and veggie leftovers. Try this recipe.
  • Coating – You can process french fries like you would bread crumbs. Grind them up in a food processor and use it for breading like chicken cutlets or bake it and use it for a topping on vegetables.
  • Breakfast Hash – Another recipe great at using leftovers. Pick some meat, Cook up some onions and add chopped fries to the pan and crisp them up. Add a fried egg on top.
  • Meat Hand Pies –Often meat hand pies use potato in them. This is a great time to substitute those leftover fries . Check out this recipe: Beef and Potato Hand Pies

Photo Credit – Unsplash Bret Kavanaugh


We truly love using up leftovers. It’s a chance to get creative and what have you got to lose?

Here are a few more recipes we think you will enjoy:

Thanks for stopping by today. Our goal is to help make the most with whatever you have by sharing budget-friendly, time-saving, and reusing/DIY ideas for all parts of your home. If you enjoyed this post, we would appreciate a share on any social media: Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. Plus, don’t forget to follow us as we share even more ideas on each account.

Steam the broccoli until cooked. Cover the broccoli with chilli and cheese and put it in the oven until the cheese is melted. This will taste best with the leftover chilli flakes from Pizza Hut! And if you have some leftover cheese, don’t hesitate to throw them in too!

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