Combating food waste in restaurants with technology

Food waste is becoming a hot topic in the past years and it is easy to understand why, as it is a huge problem. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, up to one third of all produced food is spoiled or squandered before it is consumed by people. This is an incredible amount, especially since we are living in a world where almost a billion people are forced to go to bed hungry. Hence, it is obvious that new solutions to this problem are more welcome than ever before.

Food waste and food loss

Let’s dig into the terminology first, as there is a difference between food loss and food waste. According to the FAO, food that gets spilled or spoilt before it reaches its final product or retail stage is called food loss, whereas food waste is food that is fit for human consumption but is not consumed because it is left to spoil or discarded by retailers or consumers. Food is lost or wasted throughout the supply chain, from initial agricultural production down to final household consumption. Every stakeholder along the chain is therefore responsible for food waste and losses, thus also responsible in reducing this problem. 

Food waste in restaurants

Restaurants, as one part of the food chain, are not only feeling the responsibility, but also taking on this responsibility more often. That the hospitality sector is, in general, taking a more serious look at food waste, is acknowledged by Marc Zornes, the owner of Winnow. This company provides technology that can help restaurants to cut food waste. Winnow was launched in 2013, offering a scale that weighs food waste bins which are connected to a touch screen where kitchen staff log the type of food they are throwing away. The system then calculates the economic and environmental impact the wasted food has. This data is valuable for the kitchen managers, as it enables them to work more efficiently and subsequently cut down on waste.

Another example of innovative, smart technologies that contribute to mitigating food waste in restaurants is Karma. This is a Swedish start-up using artificial intelligence to connect left-over meals of restaurants to hungry users of the app. Not only this, the data that is entered and collected in the app of both the hungry user, as well as the participating restaurants, can be used by the restaurants to create strategies for sustainability. In this way, data minimizes their environmental impact.

It is expected that over the next decade the benefits of using these types of technologies and data in food waste management will increase extensively. Data-enabled technology is expected to become cheaper and more accessible, even for smaller businesses such as the local food truck around the corner.

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