Reducing Food Waste will save you money and make your environmental footprint smaller

by Tuulia Heiskanen, Trainer

Food is thrown away every day in households, restaurants and the industry as well as already at the producers. You probably throw away large quantities of food yearly yourself, without even noticing it. Most of this food waste is a result of both unmade plans, but also of not following the plans that have been made. When you cook food in advance for more than one day, as you often do, you might end up eating something else the next day just out of an impulse. After a while, the ready made meals or untouched out-of-date packs are on their way from the fridge into the garbage bin. So there is a place for improvement.

I looked at some statistics on food waste and on the impact it has. Here are some figures:

  • One third of all food produced is lost or wasted (Source: FAO)
  • 150.000 tons of food is wasted each day in the United States (Source: The Guardian)
  • Households are responsible for almost half of the food wasted, but restaurants and other food service operations build up a notable 25 % share, as well (Source: Statista). Food waste could be avoided by better forecasting, or by preparing and storing food in another way.
  • Food that is produced for nothing puts a load both on the economy and the environment. Environmental effects are huge: the carbon footprint related to food waste is almost as big as the road transport emissions globally (Source: FAO).

Food waste is something that we most probably cannot get rid of completely, but it is clear that there is a need to reduce it.

 

New goals and legislation planned for reducing food waste

Fortunately the excessive amounts of food waste have been noticed in the past couple of years. The UN Sustainable Development Goals include cutting down food waste in half on the retail and consumer levels by the year 2030, as well as significantly reducing food waste within the whole production-distribution chain. Reaching the goals requires functional tools for continuous monitoring and reducing of food waste. Reaching the goal set by the UN, that is cutting down the food waste in half in a decade’s time, requires involvement from each food producer, business, retail store, restaurant and consumer.

Legislation needs to support the reduction of food waste. In France there is a legislation that forbids tossing food in retail stores and restaurants. Legislation really should be revised: The other day I heard from the radio that a part of food goes to waste already at the producers. This is caused almost solely by too strict quality standards for products: If the appearance of an item is not according to the standard, it doesn’t qualify to be sold in a store and it gets thrown away.

In addition to legislation, you need to educate people both at home and at work places, and provide tips and tools for reducing food waste. In Finland the Consumer’s Union has taken a grip on this and the national Food Waste Week is being arranged already the sixth time this year. The campaign aims at encouraging everybody in reducing food waste and at the same time increasing the appreciation of food by providing information and practical tips. The campaign welcomes businesses and organizations as partners, and JAMIX has also been participating the Food Waste Week for several years now.

 

Restaurant management system helps in reducing food waste

As mentioned before, the lack of planning or the lack of systematic practises cause a major part of food waste. This applies both to households and to restaurants or other food service operations. Just implementing a kitchen management system with basic functionalities often already results in reduced food waste. But you can also maximize the benefits of the system with regards food waste by exploring it more extensively, and utilizing all the functionalities provided.

JAMIX KITCHEN MANAGEMENT system provides a great menu planning tool along with procurement management, which together aim at the best possible match between the amount of prepared food and the sales or consumption. The amount of diners and the portion sizes are easy to plan on the menu, and the program will automatically calculate the right amounts for recipes to be produced. The program creates a shopping list based on the menu, so you will have the exact need for ingredients for producing the meals on the menu. When you compare the list to the existing inventory, you will avoid ordering excessive amounts of ingredients which could end up in wastage.

In JAMIX software, you can also register the sales and wastage on the menu. This enables you to check the figures next time you are producing the same recipe, how much was produced for a certain amount of diners, how much was consumed and how much was left over. This makes updating of portion sizes on the menu easier. You can even let the program update the portion sizes automatically based on the sales and wastage registered in the system.

In addition to well executed menu planning, the inventory management functionalities in restaurant management systems and separate HACCP systems support food waste management. Inventory balance monitoring and inventory-take are useful tools in preventing out-of-date items from ending up in wastage, and by setting par levels for items you can prevent excessive ordering.

Customer feedback is another good tool for preventing food waste. Through collecting feedback either with a restaurant management system or otherwise, by listening to it and taking it into consideration in menu planning you can both increase your sales and prevent food waste.

By not producing food for nothing, or by not having out-of-date items to be tossed away, has an impact on the environment as well as on the costs for a kitchen. Ingredients are the biggest individual cost for a kitchen in addition to labour costs, and by forecasting the amount of food to be produced as precisely as possible and by monitoring the wastage you will quickly gain savings. The reduction of food waste might be pushed by legislation in the years to come, so it is worth while to start giving it a thought already now.

Kitchen manager – when is the last time you updated your menu?

by Salla Arffman, Trainer

”Well planned is half done” is a valid statement concerning menus, as well, and I dare to say that this is something everyone has noticed also in your kitchen at home. How nice it is to come home after a hard day at work, and know beforehand the answer to the following question: What are we going to have today?

In the professional kitchen the menu is one of the most critical elements of the operations. The menu defines the items and services offered to the customers, it provides the framework for the following weeks, days and shifts to come, and partly even specifies the tasks for the kitchen staff. For this reason, the menus need to be planned carefully and the impact of the menu evaluated in a broad perspective.

The basis for menu planning should come from the business idea of the organization, as well as from customer needs and expectations, and available resources. The objectives for different types of professional kitchens are different from each other and the quantities of food prepared vary from batches as much as thousands of pounds, down to single dishes, and this has to be taken into consideration also when planning the menu.

We know that when you have planned your menus successfully you can save time and money, and it has a huge impact on customer satisfaction, but it also has effect on the company image and on the employees’ well-being. The menu is one of the management tools, it leads the organization into the right direction and defines the need for staff. Menu plans are not successful if the equipment capacity and the human resources are continuously overloaded.

So you need to plan your menu carefully, but it also needs to be dynamic in this ever changing world. The availability of ingredients varies, new items keep popping up all the time and the food trends change. This is why you can actually never stop planning, and a good menu is flexible, as well.

 

The basis for menu planning in restaurants and institutional kitchens

The menus of restaurants and institutional kitchens differ from each other, so the focus needs to be different in different types of professional kitchens.

In a restaurant the business idea pretty much determines the content of the menu, and you can communicate the company values with the menu. The amount of customers might vary substantially and in addition to lunch you often serve dinner and à la carte dishes, for which the ingredient costs and cooking methods might be completely different. When the food is prepared in the same space, and often even by the same people, you need to aim at building your menu so that the ingredients, the equipment capacity and the human resources can be utilized efficiently. When choosing a restaurant, the customer makes his/her decision specifically based on the menu, and this is why the menu should be appealing and interesting to the customer.

In an institutional kitchen the basis for menu planning comes from the nutritional guidelines, the amount of diners and the ingredient costs. Menus are often rotating, and it will be easier to predict both the need for ingredients and the work schedule for the coming weeks, and to make sure that the same dishes are not recurring on the menu too often. If the customer base for the institutional kitchen is wide (ranging from toddlers to seniors), you need to plan the menu so that it can be utilized broadly to different customer groups. Equipment capacity and human resources have a big impact especially when planning the menu for an institutional kitchen, and new production methods enable utilizing the resources more efficiently. Gone are the days, when in an institutional kitchen you prepared lunch in the morning and the kitchen was empty for the rest of the day.

Whether we are talking about a restaurant or an institutional kitchen, when planning the menu, you should pay attention to the availability of ingredients, seasonal items, sustainability, food safety and of course the customer expectations and the company policies.

You can never be sure which dish will be a success, and even if a dish was popular in the summer time, it might stay untouched in the winter time. Furthermore, the customers appreciate variation as much as they appreciate stability, so the menu planning remains to be constant balancing between these two.

 

Restaurant management systems as a part of menu planning

Planning your menus with software systems is what you do today. Customers demand for more information on the nutritional aspects of food, allergens and ingredients, and the software systems enable providing this information quickly and effortlessly. Already building a week’s menu without a software system is exhausting, if you want to provide the customer with any other information than the name of the dish.

A restaurant management system enables you to:

  • monitor the nutritional values on your menu and compare them to the nutritional guidelines
  • do costing
  • estimate portion sizes and the amounts of diners, and print for instance your shopping list or instructions based on them
  • follow sales and wastage of food

Time will tell, how software systems evolve and what kind of impact it will have on menu planning in the future. You will be able to provide more information related to the meals and maybe artificial intelligence will revolutionize the whole functionality, and the software will suggest changes to the menu based on customer feedback, wastage, availability of ingredients and nutritional guidelines. While waiting for this to happen, deciding on the dishes to be served is still the task of the menu planner.

JAMIX KITCHEN MANAGEMENT ensures the quality of food and saves time

Aleksia is a public utility providing foodservices for over 40.000 people in the Finnish community of Nurmijärvi. Aleksia’s services include daily meals for children in pre-schools and elementary schools, for employees of the community and for senior citizens at care facilities. In addition, Aleksia provides catering services for meetings and events.

– JAMIX streamlines restaurant operations by assisting us in preparing right amounts of food and odering right things at the right time, tells Teija Määttä who is the Food Production Advisor at Aleksia Food and Cleaning Services.

 

” Good and tasty food of high quality”

– We have 12 commissary kitchens, and in total there are 50 sites where food is served and consumed. We prepare 14.000 meals per day. Each kitchen used to have their own recipes and own ingredients, so the quality of food probably varied. Now we are able to produce food of uniform quality and everyone is aware of the ingredients a certain meal contains, explains Teija Määttä.

 

The program provides time savings while taking care of critical calculations

– It would be impossible to manage this number of kitchens and sites without a kitchen management software. The program saves time as it calculates order quantities for us. You don’t need to gather any paper sheets or notes and calculate what and how much needs to be ordered, summarizes Teija Määttä the benefits of the system.

 

Menu in a mobile application

– Thanks to the free JAMIX MENU mobile application our customers can browse the menus of schools and kindergartens on their smart phones. In addition to the menu content, ingredients and nutritional values are available in the application. Our kitchens that serve meals utilize the mobile application, as well – it works as a tool for them as it contains the latest and correct information about the food, says Määttä.