Caterers can make $6 for every dollar invested in food waste

Caterers can make $6 for every dollar invested in food waste

Restaurant brands with large catering arms would do themselves a favor by cutting food waste, according to a news report that found that every $1 invested in food-waste reduction saved more than $6 in operating costs.

Champions 12.3, a coalition of business and government leaders interested in reducing food waste, compiled the report examining financial cost and benefit data for 86 sites in six countries where waste-reduction practices had been employed.

Within one year, the study found that the food catering sites had reduced food waste by 36 percent on average, and 64 percent had recouped their investment in food waste reduction tools. Specifically, the food service operators invested in things like "smart" scales or similar technology to measure their food waste, as well as employing staff training around measurement and waste reduction techniques and redesigning menus with an eye toward this goal. Most of the sites (79 percent) kept their investment in such waste reductions tools under $10,000.

In return, the businesses realized:
•    Lower food costs through fewer purchases.
•    More revenue via new products using unsold food or previously "scrapped" foods. 
•    Lower waste management costs.

"We began segregating, weighing and reporting our food waste in early 2014 through our own online accounts portal,' BaxterStorey Head of Sustainable Business Mike Hanson said in the release. "We split the waste into production waste, spoilage waste and plate waste, and alongside that ran our in-house Green Flash training modules. 

"We have seen some fantastic results with more than 40 percent reduction in waste. The ROI is far-reaching and not just financial, in terms of cost of food. We have also seen huge savings in waste disposal and energy costs for our clients. Our margins have improved and we have seen a massive reduction in carbon and other environmental impacts."

One-third of all food produced in the world goes uneaten, the news release said. Food loss and waste accounts for $940 billion in economic losses and 8 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to Champions 12.3. At the same time, more than 800 million people are chronically undernourished.    

"This report has real-world lessons that can be applied in company kitchens today," World Resources Institute Senior Fellow and Director Liz Goodwin, said in the release. "The catering industry has been a leader in piloting creative solutions for reducing pre-consumer food waste. The task now is to expand the pilots and for those in the industry to learn from what others have seen success doing.  This is critical for companies to realize the financial benefits for themselves and contribute to the global effort to halve food waste."

The report recommended that catering managers take a "target, measure, act" approach to reduce the amount of food their kitchens produce as waste. It also said brands that cater to institutions, such as sports venues or large corporate groups, should the following five actions: 

•    Measure food waste to best know where to prioritize efforts.
•    Engage staff in the efforts. 
•    Start small and get creative.
•    Reduce over-production.
•    Re-purpose excess food. 

By sharing knowledge about what works and expanding its efforts, the industry can play an important role in halving food waste in line with the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3, according to the report.

Photo: iStock

Topics: Business Strategy and Profitability, Catering, Financial News, Food & Beverage, Food Cost Management, Sustainability

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