What does it matter when the last three mackerel servings go in the trash bin at the end of service, or if you bought a few too many carrots in this week’s order? Well, it matters a lot.
40% of food goes unused each year, and the amount of waste our country produces annually has grown over 200% since the 1960’s. It’s no secret; food waste is a problem and the industry has taken notice. From innovative chefs touting sustainability like Girl & the Goat’s Stephanie Izard, to Anthony Bourdain releasing his new feature length film ‘Wasted’, many in the restaurant industry want to help solve the problem. Who doesn’t want to help the 16 million children in America who are food insecure or reduce the 40 million tons of waste that goes to the landfill each year?
Not only does large scale waste have a global impact on our natural resources, as a restauranteur, it directly impacts your wallet. In fact, the Food Waste Reduction Alliance states that across the industry, there are 3.3 pounds of wasted food per $1,000 in company revenue. Or, in other words, if your business has a million-dollar revenue stream, you likely buy 3,300 pounds of food each year that is never used.
Thankfully, you’re sitting on a gold mine — your POS data. The transactional data you collect every day can unlock the answers to many questions you may have about your restaurant, including how to reduce waste. Here are a few simple ways you can leverage your data and save resources:
You know the saying, “past performance is the best indicator of future performance”. Well, it applies to sales forecasting as well. Looking at historical sales is the best way to predict future sales. Using restaurant management software, you can better understand customer trends by taking historical transaction data and comparing it to variables like day of the week, time of year, weather, and even local events. These factors, combined with your POS data, help you predict demand so you can determine how much food to prep on a given day. This is critical, as a majority of food is wasted post-prep due to higher spoilage rates and tough storage regulations. How nice would it be to know you only need to prep 10 tuna tartare before you prep the 15 you thought you needed?
Once you have a solid, data-driven understanding of customer trends, you can stop another common cause of wastefulness — inventory mismanagement.
Manage Inventory Like It’s 2017
Unsurprisingly, a mismanaged inventory is often a culprit when it comes to food waste. Whether double-counting or allowing older, unused items to spoil, there are many pitfalls that lead to increased waste.
A far cry from manual counts with pen and paper, today’s inventory management tools are easy to use and accessible to any sized restaurant. Historical stock can now be counted and depleted automatically throughout the week so when it’s time to order, your count is accurate. Incoming orders can be quickly imported and items are automatically accepted, counted and sorted into your pre-determined inventory areas. And, if you notice an abnormal increase or decrease in the demand for a specific item, modern inventory systems allow you to change the next day’s order on the fly so you can have just enough product to put on plates and not in the waste bin.
Properly managing inventory is a great way to reduce waste and food costs, but it also can save you and your team a lot of time and effort. Who knows, you could spend some of that extra time donating excess food to organizations fighting food loss or working with a local farm to even further reduce your food waste footprint.
Use a Predictive Ordering Solution
Now that you have reliable sales forecasts and your inventory’s dialed, ensuring accurate and efficient food orders just got easier. Even if you can’t remember the exact details of your daily forecasts, or how many lamb chops you have in the walk-in, modern restaurant management software does. And, it gets smarter over time.
Taking historical data into account, static pars used to determine when an item is to be replenished can become dynamic, and change based on your sales forecasts. Combined with an accurate inventory count, orders are pre-populated with the exact amounts you’ll need for each item. Further, if you input custom recipes you can drastically improve the ease and accuracy of your orders, all of which means you waste less food.
Whether you try these suggestions or take a less technical approach like canning or composting, anything that reduces waste is a step in the right direction. Take inspiration from Mario Batali and Sam Calagione; be creative and find not-so-obvious ways to use existing resources. As the people and companies of the food industry, this is our problem and for change to occur we must be part of the solution.
To learn more about how you can up your restaurant’s technology stack while reducing your food waste footprint, check out our solution here.