Joel Montaniel, CEO & Co-Founder at SevenRooms discusses how technology can help the hospitality industry make progress in eliminating food waste.
While attitudes towards sustainability have advanced in recent years, 10 million tonnes of food is estimated to be wasted annually. With a lack of meaningful infrastructure in place in the UK to manage food waste, individual companies and hospitality operators must take proactive measures to make positive changes.
Within the UK, non-profit FareShare recently launched an initiative to collect surplus food for charity and smart bins have been employed to track waste in kitchens. However, this isn’t enough to address the huge volume of food waste that continues to be produced every year – which comes with both an environmental and economic cost. In fact, research has shown that if the average restaurant cut food waste by just 20%, it would result in savings of £3,700 a year in food costs and waste collection.
How to reduce food waste
As simple as it seems, the solution lies with technology. Most restaurants, bars and hotels already use operations platforms to manage guest data, inventory and ordering, but too few are leveraging the data that these platforms collect to reduce food waste. With this in mind, we have looked at some simple but important ways in which the industry can use technology to reduce food waste.
Use customer data to inform supply orders
In the hospitality industry, chefs and managers struggle to accurately plan supply needs because they simply cannot predict how many people will walk through the door every day. Over-ordering becomes a regular occurrence, as no restaurant wants to be low on supplies when a big crowd walks through their doors.
For example, imagine a restaurant ordinarily sells 15 starters of calamari in a typical evening, but one night, more vegan guests are booked in than usual. If only five portions of calamari are ordered by guests, the remaining 10 will go to waste, incurring an entirely avoidable economic and environmental cost. However, if hospitality operators use an operations platform that can collect data on guests’ dietary requirements and preferences, as well as keep track of their order history, they already have all the information on hand to reduce food waste – they just need to leverage it in the right way.
For instance, by cross-referencing guests’ dietary requirements with upcoming reservations, chefs would be able to tailor their supply and ingredients orders according to the guests they have booked in on any given day. As in the example above, if 15 vegans were booked in for a Wednesday dinner shift, the restaurant could alter their orders of meat, fish and dairy products accordingly. This would result in a significant reduction in food – and money – wasted.
Monitor dining habits to tailor your food offering
Tracking guest data over time can provide clarity on what customers like, as well as what they don’t. Not only does this enable a restaurant or bar to deliver exceptional and personalised service, it can also result in reduced waste. Say a guest mentioned that they didn’t like carrots – the restaurant can record this information on that guest’s personal profile on the operations platform and set up alerts for every subsequent visit. This guest data can then be leveraged to prevent waste by informing the kitchen not to serve carrots as a side on any dishes that guest orders.
Tracking leftovers can also inform changes that need to be made to reduce waste. If much of the dish is consistently left behind, it may be that the portion size is far too large and can be reduced. Additionally, if certain elements of the dish, such as one of the vegetables served as a side, is frequently discarded, changes may be made to the dish to avoid this. These simple changes require data to inform the action that needs to be taken, and the results can have a significant effect on the amount of waste produced over time.
Consumer demand for action on the issue of food waste is substantial – research has shown that British consumers now value environmental sustainability higher than brand loyalty. Businesses in the hospitality industry must make proactive changes to their operations strategy with sustainability in mind, and now is the time to make use of intelligent technology that can inform simple and workable solutions.