This week’s guest blogger is Will Harmon, Marketing Associate at BlueCart.
Sustainability is a word that’s tossed around relentlessly, especially now as we transition from winter to spring and we enter the growing season. Sustainable food, sustainable communities, sustainable transportation; almost everything has a sustainable variant these days. That’s fantastic. It wasn’t too long ago that these variants didn’t exist. With viable options for reducing waste, whether it be food scraps or C02, more and more people are able to tap into sustainable resources to streamline their operations for maximum efficiency.
One of the cornerstones of the sustainable movement is the restaurant industry. The nature of the market creates limitless opportunities for restaurants to improve their food waste strategy to throw less and less away at the end of the day. Let’s take a closer look at how far the restaurant industry has come and where it’s going.
Modern Food Waste History
In the last couple years, the topic of food waste has hit record high numbers in terms of awareness and action. To name a few, the Obama administration announced plans to cut national food waste in half by 2030, Austin, Texas’ local government voted unanimously for an initiative that requires restaurants separate all compostable materials from other waste, and innovators like Dan Barber are changing the way we look at “food waste”. In addition to the United States’ grandiose plan to cut food waste in half by 2030, progressive cities like San Francisco intend to be completely waste-free by that same year.
So what happened? How did food waste and sustainability go from something we measure on a granular level to a nationwide movement? Well, sustainability started to trend. If the examples above are any indicator, it’s clear that innovators and thought-leaders got a hold of the sustainability movement and put it under the public microscope.
The power of the sustainability movement lies in its accessibility. It’s not dependent on organizations or restaurants or consumers, and everyone can partake and “do their part” to reduce the amount of food waste leaving their restaurant/house/business in a plastic bag.
As consumers, we can all relate to the same scenario. We went shopping, bought a little too much food which resulted in a portion of monstrous size. So we do what any rational consumer would do: Tupperware, Ziploc bags, Saran wrap, whatever gets the job done to save the mountainous amount of leftovers. We eat what we can over the next coming days, but whether we get sick of it or it goes bad it all leads to the same outcome; we toss it (or give it to the dog).
This is the same scenario that restaurants face, give or take a few nuances. Things are a bit more complicated when you’re running a restaurant. For some context, when you’re shopping for yourself or your family, you have a degree of certainty for how much food you need. When you’re in charge of ordering for the entirety of your restaurant, there are countless conditions that will affect how many people come in that week, and ultimately, how much product you need to order.
Tech: Sustainability’s New Best Friend
Organic waste makes up 68 percent of total restaurant waste alongside cardboard, paper, and other forms of waste. Advancements in tech allow chefs and restaurant operators to track, analyze, and act on every measurable piece of data coming in and out of the restaurant. Everything between inventory management and payment processing has an available tech solution ready to be utilized.
Specifically in regards to food waste there are a plethora of apps that help restaurant owners measure how much of their inventory isn’t making it onto plates. A common mistake that today’s restaurateurs make is not following the discarded bread crumbs to a sustainable solution. People get laser focused on reducing food waste itself without looking into why they’re wasting so much food in the first place.
Naturally, that answer will vary from restaurant to restaurant. Maybe they’re food recovery strategy isn’t airtight, or their food preservation methods aren’t up to snuff. Yet, a common theme has been identified. Outdated ordering methods have been associated with ordering imprecise quantities and as a result, a larger degree of food waste.
Potential for Ordering Errors
When you’re calling in specific order quantities with your suppliers via phone or e-mail, it opens up windows for human error on both ends of the spectrum. A recent survey conducted by BlueCart, an online and mobile ordering and inventory management platform for the hospitality industry, showed that restaurants that implemented their tech solution for ordering experienced up to a 52 percent decrease in food wasted.
Simply by empowering restaurant operators with real-time analysis surrounding their ordering methods, they were able to cut their food waste in half. The value of technology lies in its ability to provide total transparency to both the restaurant and the supplier in a way that allows restaurant operators to make informed decisions. Tech essentially plugs up the holes in your operation before they result in wasted inventory.
Another overlooked segment of sustainability is water waste, and when it comes to sustainability there’s no room to leave a process unchecked. Up to 52 percent of restaurant water waste originates from poor dishwashing practices, with an additional 31 percent coming from restroom use. Faulty/outdated equipment often results in excess water being used for food preparation and washing dinnerware. Keep the following checklist in mind when evaluating your water waste prevention strategy:
- Run a restaurant-wide equipment audit to make sure everything is working as expected;
- Install high efficiency pre-rinse spray valves to your dishwasher to save thousands of gallons of water a year;
- Check your arsenal of commercial kitchen tools to see if there’s more efficient tools available (spoiler alert: there are); and
- Keep your staff educated on best waste management practices.
Adopting tech solutions to implement into your sustainability strategy is guaranteed to speed up your efforts. By gaining the ability to accurately track your performance, restaurants operators are able to run leaner inventory, cut down on costs, and reduce their food waste footprint. If you’re on a mission to create a sustainable environment for your restaurant staff and customers, finding the right tools for you is a proactive first step.
Will Harmon is a Marketing Associate at BlueCart, an online and mobile ordering, inventory, and operations platform for the hospitality industry. When he’s not busy being a social media guru and creating content, you can find him learning about procurement practices and up and coming restaurant trends.