Adjusting portion sizes to allow for enough value to be served to guests without over serving. If there is a lot of food from certain dishes is regularly being thrown away, we may want to adjust the portion size.

Properly dating, storing rotating food. Not only does this promote food safety, but it is a huge factor in eliminating waste.

It has been estimated that each year, more than 100 billion pounds of food is wasted in the United States. That equates to more than 160 billion dollars worth of food thrown away each year. At the same time, in many parts of the United States, there is a crisis caused by people having limited access to healthy & affordable food options. The waste of food is not only a waste of money and bad for the environment, but it is also making vulnerable populations even more vulnerable.

Authority Magazine started a new series called “How Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies and Food Companies Are Helping To Eliminate Food Waste.” In this interview series, we are talking to leaders and principals of Restaurants, Grocery Stores, Supermarkets, Hospitality Companies, Food Companies, and any business or nonprofit that is helping to eliminate food waste, about the initiatives they are taking to eliminate or reduce food waste.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Greg Provance.

Greg Provance is the owner of GP Hospitality Partners LLC, a full-service restaurant and hospitality consulting firm. In addition to being a consulting partner for Everbowl, Southern California’s fastest growing fast casual chain, Greg owns several restaurants in the San Diego area and serves as a principal consultant and advisor for restaurants across the country.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I began my career in the entertainment industry. Working in restaurants was a means to support my lifestyle, which included the need to go out on auditions and the occasional gig. When I began to sprout a family and I was looking for a more stable career option, the skills I had developed in restaurants made it possible for me to take more leadership roles and set some clear goals for myself.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company or organization?

I was once catering the Christmas party for 20th Century Fox at the home of the company’s then president. There was a kid hanging out near the kitchen and I thought he was part of our staff so I approached and asked how he was doing. He said, “a little nervous.” Before I could inquire, he shuffled off and about 10 minutes later, I heard this amazing voice coming from the dining area. I peeked around the corner to see a young Josh Grobin showcasing his talents for a room of A-List Hollywood stars. There were many interesting moments that night, but this one stood out as memorable indeed.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I suppose some mistakes that seem hilarious in hindsight are not very funny at the time. At one of my restaurants, we were hosting a wedding and a movable heater was placed too close to the sprinkler head, which of course activated, turning half the wedding into a scene every bit as chaotic what you can imagine. The fire department arrived to finally shut the sprinklers off and the bride and her party ended up taking soaking wet pictures with the fire crew. Not only did we learn how to never place a heat source too close to fire sprinkler heads, we learned to be as prepared as possible for the things that we cannot see coming. A heightened sense of awareness was instilled in our teams and we do like to think that we have averted other similar crises as a result.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Well that is a pretty broad question, but if I have to boil it down, I’d say leadership is the art of organizing a team around a common goal or mission, while ensuring everyone on that team has the skills, motivation and inspiration to achieve that goal or mission. A true leader is someone has the ability to motivate and inspire people to follow his or her example.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“How you do anything is how you do everything.” — T Harv Ecker

I have come to learn that the results that I experience in my business and in my life are in direct relation to whatever I am doing consistently. Whether that be good or bad, consistency over time will dictate my experience in any given area. For instance, if I eat well and exercise regularly, I will likely experience a toned, healthy body. If I consistently save and invest money, I will likely experience wealth. If I do not do these things, I will struggle in those areas or perhaps not reach my fullest potential. Whenever I am looking for a better result in a specific area of life or business, I look at my actions and their consistency (or lack thereof) to see what I may need to change in order to achieve that result.

OK, thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. Let’s begin with a basic definition of terms so that all of us are on the same page. What exactly are we talking about when we refer to food waste?

Food waste can be considered a loss of product or food quality somewhere along the supply chain from production to consumption. It takes a lot to get food from the farm to the table and all along the way, there are opportunities for loss. Food can be lost at the grow phase due to farming or environmental conditions. Loss can occur during packaging or transit. Waste can occur during storage or preparation. It can also occur at the consumption phase. The good news is, for as many opportunities for waste to occur, there are at least as many for waste to be diminished or even eliminated.

Can you help articulate a few of the main causes of food waste?

Problems with irrigation or drought can cause massive waste. This is something farmers are constantly challenged with and are trying to find ways to mitigate as global climate conditions are rapidly changing.

Transportation of food can cause problems if packaging is not appropriate or temperatures are not maintained properly.

In my world, the restaurants, chefs and owners must always be aware of proper storage, rotation and prepping techniques.

Overall, using more than we need is something that as a developed country, we can easily take for granted. As Americans, we may think nothing of throwing away half a meal because we just don’t want any more, whereas in countries that have much less resources, every ounce would be seen as useful.

What are a few of the obstacles that companies and organizations face when it comes to distributing extra or excess food? What can be done to overcome those barriers?

Some obstacles can include:

  • Misconception that food waste does not occur in a particular industry. By raising awareness through education and training, many industries can begin to acknowledge the problems they are facing and come up with solutions to reduce waste.
  • Customers’ expectations of food quality. Many groceries create waste due to customers unwillingness to buy items that are imperfect. Some stores sell imperfect items at a discount or utilize messaging that allows imperfect items to be seen as good quality in spite of the imperfection.
  • Restaurants can create waste by serving sizes that are too large, spoilage due to improper rotation and storage or wasteful prepping techniques. Their challenge is often training teams to properly prepare and serve food that limits waste. By investing in training and staff awareness, they can go a long way to achieve a goal of near zero waste.

Can you describe a few of the ways that you or your organization are helping to reduce food waste?

  • Cross-utilization of product. By using more of the same ingredient across different dishes prepared, production becomes more efficient unless product is needed to create a menu overall.
  • Creating regular daily specials, soups and other dishes that can be used to sell product that is in danger of otherwise spoiling
  • Only ordering enough product for what we will likely sell. Operators can use daily sales reports to track how much of each item they sell and use that to order product based on what they predict to sell that week.
  • Training prep teams how to efficiently prep food, utilizing every bit of product possible.
  • Adjusting portion sizes to allow for enough value to be served to guests without over serving. If there is a lot of food from certain dishes is regularly being thrown away, we may want to adjust the portion size.
  • Properly dating, storing rotating food. Not only does this promote food safety, but it is a huge factor in eliminating waste.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help address the root of this problem?

  • Hold a forum for organizations to explain why all of the steps taken to eliminate food waste are important. Sometimes a bigger purpose can motivate individuals to take the issue seriously and to come up with creative ideas to further the cause.
  • Organize a community event or come together with food industries in the area to talk about the importance of eliminating food waste and perhaps commit to certain steps toward change.
  • If your State allows, consider donating certain foods from the end of the day to a food bank or other organization that helps to feed the homeless or hungry. Politicians can look at effective legislation or policies to support these organizations and address challenges they face in distributing food to communities in need.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. You will have to work hard. While being an owner has its perks… Some flexibility, not having to answer to anyone in particular… When something goes wrong, the responsibility ultimately falls on my shoulders. I must be available to suit up and show up at a moment’s notice if need be.
  2. Celebrate the wins, but plan for the losses. When writing a business plan or conceiving of a business, it is easy to focus on all of the amazing things we are going to accomplish… How we are going to save the world with our new product or service. The thing we don’t often want to do, because it is painful, is plan for, or even think about the worst. Yet I have found that some of our greatest innovations have come from working through a terrible situation or problem. Rather than sticking your head in the sand, it is best to understand that there will be many downs and by seeking opportunities to learn from them, move through them and come up with creative solutions around them, some of our greatest achievements can occur.
  3. You are not the smartest guy in the room. Learning to surround myself with others that are far more skilled at certain things than I am and to leverage those skills to benefit their growth and the growth of my business has allowed us to grow exponentially, while keeping me from completely burning out. I constantly seek to partner with individuals and organizations that elevate my game and help me to serve my clients and community far better than I can alone.
  4. Keep raising the bar. Complacency is a killer of growth and by slowly and consistently upping our standards, we can push ourselves to greater heights. It is important to not push too hard or over promise and under deliver, but a gut check on how we are doing in terms of delivering incredible quality can really help us to evolve to greater heights than we originally thought possible. It is exciting to look back on a year and celebrate how far we have come. By raising the bar on what we expect for ourselves, we can continue to realize even our wildest dreams.
  5. Stay humble. Ego can be a natural by-product of success. Once we start getting and achieving, we can sometimes let our confidence and ego run the show. This is a trap that stifles purpose and can lead to making poor or misguided decisions. By staying humble, we are in a much better position to leave a positive impact on the world.

Are there other leaders or organizations who have done good work to address food waste? Can you tell us what they have done? What specifically impresses you about their work? Perhaps we can reach out to them to include them in this series.

Chef Deborah Scott is a local chef/restauranteur who cares deeply about eliminating food waste in her restaurants.

We used to laugh about the fact that she would always check the trash cans in her kitchens to see what was being thrown away and would often use her findings as a tool for training her chefs on waste. Deborah has led the industry here in San Diego with her innovative offerings and behind the scenes has always been a real commitment to cutting waste through cross-utilization, proper prepping techniques and running slim inventory by order product fresh daily.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I was always a fan of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. I think he used his talents in a very positive way to affect a very positive change.

My revolution would be to bring the art of hospitality to every business. It Is slightly outside the scope of this specific topic, but I believe that sincere Guest service is the secret weapon and lifeblood of success and one of the most under-utilized tools for any business owner.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Well while we are at it, Jamie Oliver would be a great choice. Perhaps we could collaborate on the next great food-inspired movement!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I can be reached easily through linked in or at my website.

My new book will be available on Amazon soon but can be pre-ordered here:

This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.