Mitchell Delicatessen

Mitchell Delicatessen, East Nashville’s Neighborhood Deli is known for their turkey avocado sandwich, but did you know that they are excelling in their fight to reduce food waste? “Food is never thrown away. Food is money,” says owner Wendi Mitchell. This has been especially important to restaurants across the state and the U.S. as the pandemic has presented challenges to the food service industry, most who are just making it by until the storm blows over.

For many restaurant owners, like Wendi, reducing food waste is more than just about saving money. It’s about using resources wisely, keeping food out of the landfill, and making sure neighbors are fed. At Mitchell Deli they reduce most of their waste through source reduction efforts, such as using leftover ingredients in new meals like soups and pastas, and freezing items until they are ready to be used. In the kitchen is where restaurants have the biggest control over food waste. “We know our most popular items and can plan accordingly to allow for virtually no waste in the back of house,” says Wendi.

The most difficult place to manage waste is after the food has been sold into the hands of the customer. “Education is key to changing habits. There are regulars that come in and after a few times, they pick up on the message we try to communicate every day,” Wendi explains. At Mitchell Deli, it’s hard to not see or hear at least one thing about reducing food waste before you leave. The restaurant has signage in the bathrooms and by the waste stations to educate customers about food waste and proper waste disposal. At the trash stations, they plan to start having staff stand by them once a month to further inform customers about where to put item, either in compost, recyclables, or landfill. Mitchell Deli started having compost picked up by Compost Nashville in 2017, and in 2020 diverted 25,000 pounds of organics from the landfill. At the beginning of 2020, they switched 90 percent of their disposals to compostable, which has decreased their dumpster costs, but also has allowed them to send less material to the landfill.

What helps Mitchell Deli be successful in their food waste efforts? “It’s a collaborative effort,” says Wendi. “If something goes wrong, it needs to be identified and fixed and then we move forward with a positive mindset. We have great staff that cares about what we do and that truly makes a difference.”

Last Updated: Mar 19, 2021 - 12:17:12