Technologies to Minimize Waste and Save Money in the Food Service Industry
In the U.S., the magnitude of food waste at a national scale is astonishing; three times more food is wasted than it would take to feed every single hungry person in the country. Meanwhile, the restaurant sector generates 11.4 million tons of food waste annually, at a cost of billions of dollars.
In this second article of our two-part series on improving profitability through waste minimization, we look at the technologies that can help drive savings in not just your waste bills, but in procurement, energy and labor costs.
Smart meters provide a simple way to monitor and track the food waste from a professional kitchen, and when used as part of a regular auditing and monitoring process (see our part 1 article in this series, “Strategies to Minimize Waste and Save Money” for more detail), they can make a significant impact on pre-consumer waste, reducing procurement and waste disposal costs.
Managers gain complete oversight of the origin and financial impact of food waste, and can utilize the results to educate staff and drive significant savings. One smart meter manufacturer, LeanPath, promises that their technology can reduce food waste by as much as 50%, with an associated cut in purchasing costs of between 2-8%.
The latest smart meters now include weighing scales and AI cameras equipped with computer vision algorithms to record the weight and the type of food before it’s thrown into the trash. The user then selects an option from a touchscreen to indicate the reason for the waste (for example, kitchen error or a customer complaint).
Vacuum packing minimizes food waste and its associated costs, making food last longer than other storage methods. It can be particularly useful to store surplus food products that would otherwise need to be discarded.
Purchasing in bulk and then vacuum packing individual portions enables kitchens to benefit from bulk pricing, without risking excess wastage.
Workload can also be spread away from peak kitchen hours, allowing food to be partially prepared before packing, where it can be kept in perfect condition until the hour of service.
When food labels are written by hand, it’s not just a labor-intensive process, but it’s also prone to error and illegibility that in turn leads to excess food waste when labels can’t be read and good food has to be discarded.
With all of the compliance details that now have to be included on a food label, including product name, ingredients, best before dates and allergens, labeling software can help a kitchen to ensure consistency and food safety while reducing labor costs, and improving operating efficiency.
AI Food Sales Forecasting
This emerging technology claims to drastically reduce restaurant food waste by using weather data, growth trends, and all of a restaurant’s past sales data to generate forecasts that are 50% more accurate than using traditional methods.
Since it enables kitchens to more accurately forecast their sales volumes, savings can be made not just in procurement and food waste costs, but also in labor, since peak and trough periods can be better planned for.
The AI food sales forecasting manufacturer Tenzo promises that by using its software, you could increase gross margins by up to 18%. Tenzo’s software allows operators to forecast all the way down to the menu item level, ensuring that no ingredient is unnecessarily wasted.
Surplus Food Reuse Software
There are now a number of platforms that allow businesses to redistribute their surplus food to local shelters and other not-for-profit organizations to feed people in need.
One example is Copia, which allows businesses to safely donate their excess food while providing them with data that can inform future food purchasing decisions to further reduce food waste. Their software also makes it easy for businesses to access enhanced tax reductions, providing a healthy ROI on the technology and offering a financial benefit as well as an environmental and social one.
These are just a few of the emerging technologies available that can help drive savings by making your operations more efficient. In Part One of this two-part series, we discussed how taking a systematic approach will ensure that your waste minimization strategies are sustainably executed throughout your organization. As these two articles have shown, there now exists a plethora of strategic and technological solutions to help food service operators reduce waste and increase their margins. The toughest challenge is knowing which of these will generate the best ROI in the shortest amount of time, and which will be most readily accepted and utilized by kitchen staff.
An expert waste management firm will help identify the technologies that are right for your specific challenges, so you will have confidence they are correct and will “pay out” in terms of ROI. It will also help individual sites to implement cost- and operationally-effective strategies that can generate significant savings for your business. These strategies combined with tech know-how can make a significant impact in achieving your minimization goals and ultimately have a positive effect on your bottom line.
If you want to minimize the amount of waste that your food service business produces, contact our waste experts today and we will design a program that is tailored to your specific needs. Contact us today at
1-888-692-5005, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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