reducing food waste in restaurants with small menus and versatile cuts of beef

How Small Menus and Premium Beef Cuts Help Restaurants Cut Down on Food Waste

Aug 27, 2021

With the simplicity and profitability that menu redesign can bring, the restaurant industry’s trend toward smaller menus has been on the rise for some time now. Smaller menus can create efficiencies in preparation, lower labor costs, and eliminate “choice paralysis,” for starters. They can also help restaurants narrow their brand identity and align menu items with their guests’ unique preferences.

“When we include over seven items, a guest will be overwhelmed and confused, and when they get confused, they’ll typically default to an item they’ve had before” –Gregg Rapp, menu engineer.

Even Major Chains Have Reduced Menu Size

Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic is making a resurgence and the food industry faces labor shortages and interruptions to supply chains, more and more restaurants are adopting smaller menus, including major chains. IHOP, for example, consolidated its menu from 12 pages to 2, according to CNN[1]. Dave & Busters reduced its 40-item menu to 15 offerings, and McDonald’s eliminated all-day breakfast, along with salads and parfaits. None of the corporations plan to return to their full pre-pandemic menus due to the benefits they’ve experienced, which include simplified operations, cost savings, and faster service (CNN).

How much food do restaurants waste?

The effort to cut down on food waste in the restaurant industry goes hand-in-hand with the move toward smaller menus. In 2017, the Natural Resources Defense Council[2] estimated that the U.S. restaurant industry generates 22 to 33 billion pounds of food waste each year, with common causes being inconsistent prep, unused ingredients, and portion sizes. The numbers are concerning, both in terms of sustainability and the bottom line for dining establishments, causing many restaurants and chefs to reconsider menu sizes and offerings to avoid losses in revenue.

The Pandemic’s Impact on Food Waste

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem of food waste at every stage, and the problem is likely to continue growing, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)[3]. That means the reduction of food waste is more important than ever.

Smaller menus featuring versatile premium beef cuts offer restaurant owners and chefs a unique opportunity to address these issues, increase profitability, and reach customers craving a personalized fine dining experience. Although consumers took advantage of curbside service, delivery, and meal kits in the early days of the pandemic, they’re still looking for the experience that comes with dining out, and we know beef is often the hero of that experience.

And, while it’s no secret that everyone loves a good ribeye or filet mignon, one beef cut can be the base for countless delectable dishes, providing chefs with the opportunity to rotate menu items to incorporate unused or leftover ingredients. Using premium cuts that are versatile  can also help streamline the ingredients required for total menu items while creating a feeling of exclusivity for customers.

Here are some of the most versatile beef cuts and dishes in which you can use them.

1. Natural Angus Top Sirloin: Around-the-World Eats

Full-flavored and relatively lean, top sirloin is an excellent cut to offer as a steak with flavorful, healthy sides like eggplant fries. However, the flavor and texture of top sirloin make it an excellent candidate for Mexican- and Asian-inspired eats, as well. If you’re offering top sirloin as a steak on the menu, consider adding Carne Asada Tacos or Korean Beef and Broccoli to diversify your menu without changing the hero of the dish. These dishes are also good for helping use extra veggies and salsa, as well as appealing to those interested in healthy or low-carb dishes.

natural angus top sirloin diverse menu ideas

2. Natural Angus Beef Tenderloin: Steak & Salad

If steak is a permanent offering on your menu, beef tenderloin is probably one of the best options. While there’s no beating a filet mignon simply seasoned with salt and pepper, if you have beef tenderloin to spare, there are endless possibilities for high-margin salads. Whether you use it to top the quintessential American Cobb salad or toss it onto a bed of arugula, premium beef tenderloin helps elevate any salad—and helps you move ingredients with a shorter shelf life. Beef tenderloin also makes for delicious sliders if you have extra bread or buns that need to be used

natural angus tenderloin steak and salad menu ideas

3. Natural Angus Chuck Roast: Not Just for Stew

A hearty stew that tastes homemade is great for comfort food (and for fall), but chuck roast—especially when well-marbled and raised Naturally—can offer restauranteurs exceptional value that extends beyond one time of year. Chuck roast is one of the most versatile cuts of beef, adding delicious, beefy flavor to everything from enchiladas to beef stroganoff. If you need to move tortillas, potatoes, pasta, root vegetables, or even fruits out of your kitchen and onto guests’ plates, use chuck roast to get creative or view our exclusive recipes for chuck roast.

menu ideas for natural angus chuck roast

Another tip? Limit portion sizes (or offer a range). Research shows that large portion sizes account for a significant amount of food waste, as restaurant guests often fail to take home or consume leftovers. And, cutting down on portion size will save you time on prep or wasted ingredients—you can avoid having to throw out large amounts of cooked pasta, for example.

“On average, diners leave 17 percent of meals uneaten, but 55 percent of these leftovers stay on the table” –Natural Resources Defense Council.

Give Your Guests Meals and Experiences They’ll Crave

Natural Angus beef elevates the dining experience, no matter the menu size or dish. Tender, well-marbled, and raised Naturally, Natural Angus beef gives your customers beef they’ll crave by name and adds to the premium experience of fine dining. Learn more about Aspen Ridge beef for foodservice or get in touch with us today for menu development inspiration for menu development.


[1] CNN. “Why Restaurant Menus are Getting Shorter.” 2020.

[2]Natural Resources Defense Council. Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent Of Its Food From Farm To Fork To Landfill. 2017.

[3] WBUR. “Food Waste Worsens Amid Pandemic.” 2020.