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Waste not, want not – don’t bin your profits

Technology really comes into its own when tackling the huge levels of waste in the restaurant sector.

Food waste is now a real problem in the restaurant sector. Thankfully, operators are going in search of solutions that will bring about dramatic change. According to the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), food waste represents a cost to the UK restaurant sector alone of £682m each year – equating to an alarming £3,500 per tonne.

When you drill down further into the report to find out where that waste actually comes from, a staggering 45% is in food preparation, 34% from customer plates and 21% in spoilage – with just 51% of all waste being recycled.

There are some simple steps operators can take to reduce waste, while sending profits in the right direction. A reduction in waste from food preparation could be achieved through running chef masterclasses to ensure back-of-house teams are making the very most of ingredients purchased. A reduction in spoilage could be achieved by undertaking a review of stock management and food delivery processes, particularly for items with a short shelf life.

Technology really comes into its own when it comes to waste from customer plates, while also having the power to take the heat of a busy kitchen. Ask any number of restaurant customers what they want and indeed expect from their restaurant experience and they’ll unanimously answer, freshly cooked, hot food, coupled with great service. What they don’t want is lukewarm, overcooked food, which, in turn for an operator, equals wasted produce and wasted profits.

Automated kitchen technology is helping chefs determine which food items to focus on and when, taking into consideration prep times of each, so each element for the table is freshly cooked, hot and ready at the same time.

Irrespective of whether cooking times vary for each dish, the solution will calculate average cooking times, allowing food production and speed to be carefully monitored.

Interactive touch screens placed at each food station provide chefs with all the information they need, when they need it. The screens use tabs to separate each order so kitchen teams can easily manage the workload. For an executive or head chef, the technology dramatically streamlines operations by eliminating the need to manually time orders, meaning they can quote front-of-house teams’ real-time stats for when dishes will arrive at the pass.

For an operator, taking the automated route results in lower costs, enhanced quality, better productivity, reduced food waste and increased labour efficiencies.

Food waste does not need to be a problem within our sector. It’s clear that by not embracing either manual or technological change to tackle waste head-on, operators will see their profits end up in the bin, as wasted produce does indeed equal wasted profits. By taking a few simple steps to waste less and recycle more, operators can reap financial as well as environmental benefits.

Comments made by Ashley Sheppard, Sales and Marketing Director of CST, in the September issue of Restaurant Magazine.