5 ways to conquer food waste without spoiling the customer experience or the bottom line
By Ryan Hildebrand, product manager, SICOM Systems Inc.
Our parents always told us to clean our plate and not to waste food. With Americans wasting more than 70 billion pounds of food each year, according to Feeding America, it doesn’t seem as though we listened. Food waste is a growing concern not only in the United States, but around the world.
Food waste is on the minds of restaurant operators for two key reasons: its impact on the bottom line and the environment. Beyond that, 41.2 million Americans lived in food insecure households in 2016, according to the USDA, adding an ethical component to the food waste dilemma.
How can fast casual restaurant operators make a difference and reverse this growing problem? Many are looking at their operations and evaluating factors such as their inventory, ingredients’ shelf life, employee training and the efficiency and effectiveness of their processes. However, they are finding it challenging to reduce waste without causing other issues such as shortages, or diminished freshness or safety.
The good news is, with advancements in technology, automated kitchen management solutions can enable fast casual operators to reduce waste, while also driving greater profitability, efficiency, food freshness and guest satisfaction.
Here are five ways a kitchen management system can help solve the food waste dilemma during food preparation, cooking practices and inventory management for fast casual restaurants:
- Aligning projections with sales
Demand varies by restaurant. A kitchen management system can predict requirements for preparation and production based on specific sales patterns by pulling information directly from a restaurant’s point of sale system. With both historical and current data, a restaurant crew can better understand the items in highest demand, the best sellers for each day part and the number of orders placed throughout the day. This valuable data can help inform kitchen management processes, reduce the waste that comes from overproduction and eliminate the dissatisfaction that results from underproduction.
- Assisting Staff in Preparation
With the high turnover of crew and minimal culinary training in the fast casual space, a kitchen management system can serve as a powerful tool to assist the busy kitchen staff. An easy-to-use kitchen management system can provide intuitive directives on how much food to cook, prepare and thaw to mitigate waste and serve customers. And, through the ability to define and deliver customized automated reminders for tasks, restaurant managers can ensure that consistent quality standards are upheld across shifts and day parts.
- Automating Hold Times
The kitchen management system should seamlessly integrate with the restaurant’s product holding units (PHUs) to automate temperatures and hold times. As a virtual chef, the kitchen management system can oversee quality, quantity, safety and freshness for all food items. As a result, the appropriate amount of food can be prepared at precisely the right time – reducing the potential for food waste.
- Product Holding Unit Alerts
A kitchen management system can also monitor PHU performance, alerting the restaurant crew and PHU vendors of outages. By ensuring the continual performance of its PHUs, the restaurant crew can further prevent unnecessary spoilage.
- Data-driven Kitchen Intelligence
To prevent food waste, restaurant crews must understand the current state of their kitchen performance. A kitchen management system can provide valuable, real-time insights on strengths and weaknesses and help management proactively address food waste issues.
Selecting a purpose-built kitchen management system specifically designed for fast casual restaurants will help improve food accuracy and eliminate food waste. Automating processes through advanced technologies can go a long way in enhancing a restaurant’s bottom line and reducing the impact of food waste on the environment.
Cover photo: iStock