Food waste across the hospitality supply chain is quickly becoming a global crisis. According to the U.S. Food and Agriculture Organization, 1.3 billion tons of food produced is wasted each year. Food loss is not only damaging to the bottom line; it’s also bad for the planet. The FAO estimates that food waste has a significant impact on climate change, contributing 3.6 gigatons of CO2 per year. To put this figure into context, if food waste were its own country it would be the third biggest greenhouse gas producer in the world, after the United States and China.
Besides unsustainable practices at harvest time and in transport, food is often wasted at “ground zero,” within the walls of food service providers. This includes restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, and casinos. By identifying some of the worst culprits within the hospitality supply chain, we can apply sustainable, targeted best practices that will not only save time and money, but will also protect the environment from further harm.
1. Cultivate a 360 Vision
Hospitality supply chain managers should know what happens at every point of the food supply process — not only from truck to table, but also from field to processor to warehouse. By embracing a global view, managers can locate trouble spots that may occur even outside their business’ walls. Take time to become an “expert” as it relates to the end-to-end chain; not just what goes on in your world.
2. Get a Helping Hand from Tech
In 2017, there is no excuse to not embrace innovative technology to identify and tackle food waste. Whether it’s a cloud computing or monitoring software package or big data analysis, a myriad of inexpensive, powerful tech solutions is at your fingertips. Such programs can track shipments, identify wasteful patterns, optimize shipping schedules, and often suggest solutions via artificial intelligence modules.
Everyday hospitality supply chain analysis no longer has to be done by a human. Take a helping hand from tech and get the gears moving towards waste reduction.
3. Monitor, Track and Control Inventory
Does your business have a unified, interactive strategy to optimize inventory management? Or, is the process a hodge-podge of past practices, Post-it notes, and unclear chains of command (“That’s the way we’ve ALWAYS done it!”)? Once again, with so many point-of-sale and inventory management integration packages available, there is no excuse for poor inventory management. Food service providers who lack a proper inventory plan waste tons of food every year — money down the drain. Use technology to fuel a sleek, powerful, connected inventory system from the back door to the front register.
4. Let it be a Team Effort
Sometimes, solving food waste issues can be as simple as asking the right questions of the right people. Talk to the suppliers, truck drivers, servers, and dishwashers. Don’t depend solely on managers to provide their “take” on the problem. Dig down through every step of the chain. When food wastage occurs, front-line employees and back-room staff usually know precisely where the breakage point lies but may be too timid or fear managerial reprisal to speak up. You cannot wait for the team to speak up; you must wade into the process and talk the talk.
In many food-service sectors, food wastage is the “elephant in the room.” Everyone knows the problem is in front of them — stomping around; wasting time, money, and CO2. Few managers take proactive steps to plug the holes in the supply chain. As sustainability issues become a looming challenge around the corner and across the world, managers owe it to their customers, team, company, and the planet to step up and solve the problem of food waste.
About Michael Wilson
Michael Wilson is AFFLINK'S Vice President of Marketing and Communications. He has been with the organization since 2005 and provides strategic leadership for the entire supply chain team. In his free time, Michael enjoys working with the Wounded Warrior Project, fishing, and improving his cooking skills.