Knowing more about a problem is a great way to figure out how to fix it. For the average person, learning about the extent of the food waste epidemic in America (and the world) can help us begin to cut back. With some gumption, we can change our ways and keep better track of the food we buy, eat leftovers, and plan our meals.

Unfortunately, this may not always be the case for the second largest waster of food in the US – consumer-facing businesses. According to ReFED, consumer-facing businesses are responsible for about 40% of the food wasted in the US. This is equal to about 25 million tons and $57 billion per year.

Breakdown of the amount of food wasted throughout the supply chain. Circled: consumer-facing businesses. (Via ReFED)

Fear Of Running Out

For foodservice operations like college and university dining halls, restaurants, corporate dining halls and food vendors, a change in awareness may not be all it takes to cut back. Operations that have hundreds, even thousands, of people relying on them every day for a meal may not be able to see an easy route to food waste reduction. It can be very hard for foodservice operators to predict how many people they will be serving on a given day, and therefore how much food to produce. This is especially true for operations that offer their patrons buffet-style dining. Buffet-style dining, or all-you-care-to-eat dining as it is now commonly called, offers patrons a chance to take and eat however much food they want. Far too much food is often produced in these situations because of a lack of accurate prediction methods, and a fear of running out. It’s worth mentioning that patrons are known to take far too much food in these situations as well.

 

Let’s take a university dining hall for example. On any given day any of the thousands of students attending that university could come to that dining hall. Many universities have more than one dining hall, making it even more unpredictable. Combine that with a multitude of sporting events, intermittent weather (keeping people in their rooms), and a number of other variables, it makes it nearly impossible for the dining staff to predict how much food to make. Because of this, they will almost undoubtedly make far more food than is necessary so they don’t run out. While some of this leftover food can be repurposed, donated, and composted, there is still a lot that ends up in the trash.

Knowing Your Waste

This problem has led many foodservice professionals to look for a way to measure exactly what is being thrown away. By knowing what is being thrown away on a daily basis, they are in a better position to adjust production and cut back. After all, you can’t manage what you don’t measure! In reality, many believe this process to be tedious and time-consuming. Who wants to sit around and count how many carrots were leftover at the salad bar every day? Obviously, we’d all much rather be at the cookie counting station, but even that would get old (and unhealthy if you’re like me). Whatever it is you got stuck counting, it wouldn’t be fun; and it would take a lot of time. Luckily, there is an alternative. There exists software that does this arduous process for you!

Tech Saves The Day

Food waste tracking and analytics is a relatively new brand of software, but it has proven to have a massive impact. In some cases, it has been shown to reduce food waste volume in foodservice operations by up to 50%, and reduce annual food costs between 1 – 5%. By collecting data on the volumes and types of food that are being thrown out, trends can be outlined, top wasted items discovered, and actionable insights provided to the kitchen managers. By viewing this data and the reports generated from it, foodservice operators can determine where to cut back production and prevent a great deal of this food from being wasted.

Of course, this approach cannot reduce all of the food waste. Some overproduction will be necessary so as not to run out. But that is where things like food donation and composting can pick up the slack. Ideally, a combination of these three approaches could result in zero waste being sent to the landfill, and (almost) zero harm to the environment! Not to mention it can save a LOT of money.

So be wary of what you’re wasting out there, folks. It may be a lot more than you think. And if you or anyone you know might benefit from commercial waste tracking and analytics software, give us a call. We’d be happy to help.

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