|We’re pleased to feature a guest blogger, Andrew Shakman, Co-Founder of LeanPath. These were his unsolicited, honest sentiments regarding the synergies between food production automation and waste tracking solutions. Let’s see what he’s got to share!|
What would you do if you observed someone carrying a bag brimming with dozens of $20 bills out of your operation toward the loading dock? Confront them? Call the police? Take a photo? No doubt, you’d do something. Pronto.
Yet, in most foodservice operations, this very situation plays out every day without getting anyone’s attention. I’m referring to the bags of pre-consumer food waste you throw away daily due to overproduction. Make no mistake: these bags may look like waste but they’re actually filled with your precious cash. Overproduction eats away at your budget due to food, labor, energy, and disposal costs.
What can you do to control overproduction and get these dollars out of the garbage?
First, you can turn to your production automation system such as Computrition’s Foodservice Operations Management (FOM) solution to record your actual production usage for the central elements of your menu. This allows the software to predict the popularity of specific items relative to other portions of your cycle menu the next time you offer it, commonly referred to as the menu mix.
Second– and this is very high impact – you can add a new system alongside your core production automation system: an automated food waste tracking system such as those we offer at LeanPath. You use this system to quickly and easily track all your pre-consumer food waste (not plate scrapings) daily using a scale connected to a touch-screen terminal. It’s extremely easy to do and studies show it has no labor impact. Food waste tracking allows you to see every bit of waste that is costing you money. From overproduction to inefficient trimming, or spoilage due to poor FIFO practices to trim waste due to careless cutting of fruit – all of which can be reduced easily, once the challenge is identified.
By tracking all your food waste, you have the ability to precisely diagnose problem areas in production and provide extra staff training. You also get data which allows you to baseline your progress on reducing food waste over time. And, most importantly, every staff member begins to pay attention to waste because they become accountable for tracking it. Waste is no longer the “Chef’s problem”; it represents an opportunity for the entire team to improve and make a difference.
Once you begin tracking food waste, you have the opportunity to use your production automation systems to solve problems. For example, if soup is constantly overproduced, you can make sure to input data about soup popularity so the production system can help forecast more precisely the next time around.
Often people wonder if they need a food waste tracking system if they have a production automation system. The answer is yes. The two systems complement and support each other while each offering a distinct solution. Production automation gives you the power to plan and manage recipes, menus, inventory, purchasing and production. It essentially helps you build the best possible purchasing and production “game plan.”
Yet, we all know that the game plan often doesn’t get executed correctly because of staff behavior. People don’t always follow the plan, instead defaulting to their instincts or whatever seems easiest to them. That leads to padding of forecasts, excess use of raw materials, non-adherence to recipes, ultimately equating to increased costs.
Food waste tracking systems close the gap between a production system’s “Game Plan” and the actual behavior of staff. By tracking what actually goes into the garbage every day, including spoilage, trim waste, expiration, burned items, and of course the greatest pre-consumer food waste, overproduction, food waste tracking shows areas for improvement, allowing you to step back to the root causes and address them. Sometimes the issue is a forecast, but most often it’s about focusing staff behavior in the correct areas.
It’s critical that food waste tracking be deployed in a positive way – it cannot be used in a punitive manner. Rather, getting the staff involved in tracking gives them an ownership stake in the improvement. There are many ways to get them engaged in this, but we will leave that for a future post.
Bottom-line: Costs can be dramatically reduced by pairing production automation systems with automated food waste tracking systems. Their symbiotic partnership assists operations in driving out inefficiencies and driving additional savings through to the bottom line. You may be able to save 2-4% — or more — on food purchases, simply by adding simple food waste tracking to your existing production automation systems. Ultimately, the proof is in the scaled, calculated and quite delicious pudding.