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Thinking Outside the Bin: Smarter Ways to Reduce Your Food Wastage

Posted on Monday 19 October 2015

How much food do you waste in your kitchen every day? Nobody likes to think, much less admit that their restaurant, café or bar is quite literally throwing away its profits, but chances are that in the course of a typical service you’re binning so much more than you think

According to statistics from WRAP, £2.5bn of food is wasted by the UK hospitality industry each year, yet almost two-thirds of this waste food - which ends up in landfill - could be completely avoidable. With the United Nations World Food Day 2015 taking place in October, drawing attention to food insecurity and sustainability and wastage issues all over the world, there’s no better time to talk about reducing food wastage not only for the benefit of your business profits, but for the greater good of the environment too.

Food is the second biggest cost after labour in a hospitality business. You wouldn’t pay your staff for the days that they don’t work, yet it seems that many kitchens are happy to spend money on food that isn’t ‘working’ for them either; this is where companies like Winnow Solutions come in, to provide innovative food wastage solutions that enable you and your staff to see exactly how much food they are wasting every day, and begin taking steps to reduce it.

Their revolutionary food wastage technology, known as the Winnow System, has been proven to slash food waste by half by using a ‘smart meter’ to record exactly what is thrown away. When the meter is attached to any bin, staff can use the touch screen to identify the type of food that they are throwing away, and then the meter will weigh the waste and calculate its cost.

This reveals exactly what is being thrown away in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand, and makes it possible to identify patterns and consistencies in what food is being wasted so that less can be prepared, spoiled, or ordered from suppliers, or perhaps repurposed in another way. It’s a wonderfully simple, yet incredibly effective solution that’s already helped over 150 businesses to save more than £2m on what would have been wasted food, in the space of around just two years.

Making every morsel count

However through working with so many kitchens, Winnow Solutions have found that it’s not just their technology itself that has helped businesses to reduce its food wastage. They discovered that solving the issue of food waste is as much about changing staff attitudes and habits as it is about physically putting less into the bin.

At the Lockhart Catering Equipment Expo that took place at Wembley Stadium on 16th September 2015, we were proud to welcome Winnow Solutions’ Marc Zornes to talk about the six lessons about food wastage that they’ve learned from helping businesses dramatically reduce theirs – and we were so fascinated that we wanted to share them with our readers too.

Better communication is essential

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Kitchens are busy places, and it’s easy to let communication between staff slip by the wayside in favour of simply ‘getting things done’. But food wastage happens as a result of poor communication and misunderstandings; having actual data that shows just how much food is being wasted shows where the ‘pain points’ are in your kitchen, and where communication really needs to be improved so that food is not over-prepared or spoiled, and ingredients are not over-ordered.

It’s important to think differently about food wastage

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A discarded burger bun here, a bowl of wilted salad there; food is often wasted in such small amounts that it can be difficult for any restaurant employees to truly appreciate the shocking quantity is being thrown away, and the negative impact that it is having on their business, much less the wider world. Being able to quantify your food wastage right down to the tiniest morsel is sure to lead to a ‘mentality shift’ among your kitchen staff, and hold them accountable for playing their part to reduce wasted food and wasted money.

Everyone has to play their part

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Solving the problem of food waste is not down to one person, or even one team in the kitchen. It requires everyone in your hospitality business to understand just what they can do on an individual level to reduce discarded food, and how they can help others to reduce theirs too. Lecturing your staff doesn’t work; working collectively to find solutions to the challenges you face regarding food wastage does, and when you have the data you need to support this, you’re sure to have more success.

You must admit that food wastage does happen

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For various reasons, it’s impossible to completely eliminate food wastage in every kitchen. What you must focus on is the ‘avoidable’ food wastage that you can, and should be addressing, as this is the type that is making the most impact on your bottom line. But this can’t happen until you admit (and accept) that your business does waste food, and take stock of just how much you’re throwing away – once you understand this, in the very real terms of pounds and pennies, you’ll have the motivation you need to look for solutions.

Data is your secret weapon

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Having a record of the amount of food wasted in your kitchen on a daily or even hourly basis means that you can see, in ‘black and white’, just how much you have to improve. It also means that you are empowered to start making changes right away as you can identify the largest culprits for waste, that are often the easiest changes to make, and begin to set realistic long and short term targets for your food waste reduction. Then of course, as you’re quantifying the amount of food that you waste, you’re able to see when you are meeting those targets – or indeed surpassing them altogether!

Look for the quick wins

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Once you’ve identified the key areas of food wastage in your business, you can begin to investigate the causes, and make those ‘quick wins’ – such as producing food in smaller batches, reducing the quantity of ingredients that you order, making portion sizes smaller, or simply improving the lines of communication between your staff where there are clearly ‘bottlenecks’ taking place. You may be surprised just how many improvements are based upon simple common sense.

To find out more about the Winnow System, visit the Winnow Solutions website and use their simple food wastage calculator to see how much money they could save you. You may wonder why you didn’t do it sooner!

Is food wastage a problem in your food service business? What steps have you taken to reduce it, and what were the main culprits? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave us a comment below or tweet us @BunzlLockhart.