Tabletop tablets and other digital ordering tools are hot project topics among restau- rant operators. But some of the industry’s
most innovative and valuable projects are happening in the back of the house.
In London, England, a government initiative used
digital scales, Bluetooth technology and analytics
dashboards to help stop a bad kitchen habit: food
waste. Called FoodSave, the project helped restaurants, hotels, hospitals and other organizations
monitor and eliminate waste, which helps cut costs
and shrink their environmental footprint.
“It helped small and medium-sized businesses
in London reduce their waste, put surplus food to
good use and dispose of unavoidable food waste
more responsibly,” says Victoria Moorhouse, former head of programs at the Sustainable Restaurant
Association and manager of the FoodSave program.
Sponsored by the European Regional Development
Fund, the London Waste and Recycling Board and
the mayor of London, the project ran from 2013 to
2015. Businesses could participate for free.
From the project’s outset, team leaders set measurable
goals to track progress. “This project was very bench-mark- and measurement-driven,” Ms. Moorhouse
says. Goals included helping 200 organizations implement a food waste reduction solution, eliminating
1,000 tons of waste and saving £350,000 annually in
food-related costs. “To deliver on those key performance indicators (KPIs), we needed to develop a
methodology to audit and reduce food waste,” she says.
The final version of the FoodSave technology
developed by Winnow Solutions features a scale
and digital dashboard allowing kitchen staff to sort
and weigh discarded food into categories, including
inventory or spoilage damage, trimmings, cooking errors, unused prepared food and plate waste.
“Being able to classify different kinds of waste was
half the challenge,” Ms. Moorhouse says. Winnow
customized the system based on a restaurant’s
ingredient costs, allowing it to convert wastage data
into a monetary value.
Once kitchen staff got into the habit of sorting
waste, owners could create daily reports about how
and where waste was being generated—and then
implement targeted solutions. For example, one
participant in the project discovered that the staff
peeling potatoes were creating hundreds of pounds
of unnecessary waste. So a manager bought an automatic peeler that could be more precise.
“They reduced waste and were able to move that
person to a more high-value task,” Ms. Moorhouse
says. The solution paid for itself in approximately
In another restaurant, staff discovered they were
throwing away four pounds of burned toast per week,
which added up to over £200 per year. “It turns out
the timer on the toaster was broken,” she says. For
£ 10, they fixed the problem. “Sometimes all it takes is
seeing the cost of waste to spur a change.”
But not every fix was that simple. Even though the
FoodSave project was free to join, due to stretched
resources the biggest obstacle was getting restaurant
owners and staff to participate. Because few restau-
rants measure waste in terms of cost, they aren’t aware
of how much money they may be throwing away due
to inefficient processes. “If you don’t see the need, you
can’t realize the value,” Ms. Moorhouse says.
Once project leaders got a few early adopters on
board, they made the most of these engagements by
sharing stories and demonstrating project benefits
through the FoodSave website and related marketing efforts. “Getting endorsements from chefs and
business owners has been very powerful for the success of the project,” she says. “That’s why building
case studies and measuring results is so important.”
TIPPING THE SCALES
One of the project’s current champions is Simon
Boyle, executive chef of Brigade Bar and Bistro,
London. Although some restaurant operations were
environmentally friendly—such as recycling oils and
buying local food whenever possible—“we hadn’t
ever focused on food waste,” Mr. Boyle says. “So
FoodSave seemed like a good fit.”
In January, the project provided his restaurant
Waste Not, Save Lots
A U.K. project helps kitchens become more efficient and sustainable by eliminating thousands of pounds of food waste.