How to Use Tech to Cut Down Food Waste

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By Michael Hunte, Foodable Industry Expert

Food waste has always been a concern for many facilities. Recently, we’ve seen restaurants transition back to methods that help cut down on waste. From utilizing whole animals to offering excess product to charities, we can tell food waste is on the minds of many chefs and owners. This is a great thing!

Food waste in US restaurants is no small matter, with as much as 33 million tons of food getting dumped each year. Much of this food still edible and able to be repurposed. Recently, we saw the city of New York mandate that businesses compost their food. The effects on the environment are widespread, but excess food waste can truly be a problem for a restaurant’s bottom line. Thankfully, there are tech companies lining up to help you tackle the issue. Ready to get food waste under control? Start by monitoring current practices. New tech can then help analyze the causes of excess and ultimately reduce our waste.

Monitor

It’s difficult to implement solutions before you know what, if anything, is broken. The first steps to reducing food waste should center on monitoring your current practices. A great place to start is examining where in production much of your waste is coming from. Are you losing product due to spoilage, over ordering, or perhaps cooking an excess amount of product?

To get a handle on spoilage. consider taking a look at the temperature and efficiency of refrigeration units. Although FDA mandates that products be stored at temperatures of at least 41 degrees Fahrenheit, lowering temperatures to 38 degrees Fahrenheit can be helpful. More on this topic can be seen here.

For establishments looking to get a handle on ordering, there is an array of software and apps that help make tracking inventory less painful. Some restaurants may even want to consider installing heavy-duty cameras in refrigeration units to aid management in last-minute ordering decisions. For small scale operations, utilization of connected fridges can also help with this process.

At many restaurants, excess preparation of product is the issue. Companies like Winnow Solutions are tackling this problem with a smart waste bin system. The ability to recognize what products are being trashed most often, and how much, can lead to real progress in waste reduction. Services like this do best in operations where it may not be feasible to have every cook track their waste individually.  

Analyze

Once you are able to identify some of the areas in your operation where waste is occurring, go a step further and understand what that waste actually means.

Lean Path is one of the industry leaders in commercial waste reduction. Like Winnow Solutions, they focus on helping restaurants track waste trends over time to help identify areas where changes are needed. If adopting a fully-integrated system for all staff members seems tedious or you have a small operation, consider a waste tracking mobile app.

Unilever has developed Wise Up on Waste, a mobile app that tracks waste generated throughout different meal periods. Data is manually entered, making this solution much more approachable for smaller restaurants with one person overseeing waste reduction. Over time, restaurants can identify trends in waste and utilize in app suggestions to find solutions.

The power in these platforms is the ability to identify trends over time. Providing users with easy-to-read dashboards makes it much more likely staff will be able to identify problem areas and make appropriate changes.

Reduce

Armed with information, begin taking steps to reduce your food waste. Some solutions should stand out. Perhaps the bulk of your waste comes from food that diners did not finish. This is a clear sign to reduce portion sizes. Other solutions might take a bit of work to implement.

Larger operations that consistently see inflated waste-hauling costs should consider products that reduce volume. Sustainable Kitchen offers quite a bit of information on how different products can help. Moving beyond compactors, many of these products focus on dehydration to reduce the amount of waste that needs to be hauled. Products like the Eco-Safe Digester also help reduce the load on landfills by converting waste into water — eliminated through standard sewer lines.

Reducing food waste should be a goal in every restaurant operation. Whether motivated by saving the planet or your bottom line, there are steps every establishment can take. Utilize new tech to make identifying problem areas in your operation easier, then focus on behavioral changes for staff to reduce overall waste. As you get closer to operating with zero waste, consider options to get the most out of what waste you find inevitable.  

Consumer looking to cut down on food waste in home? Waste Less Save More shares great tips on how we can move closer to zero waste as well.