The Role of IoT in Tackling Restaurant Food Waste

by Anders Hans Hinrichs

Restaurant and hotel owners are becoming increasingly concerned with the amount of food wasted each year. Many are taking significant steps towards reducing waste and optimising their systems to deal with the capacity. Technological developments and innovations have the ability to propel the hospitality industry towards a more sustainable future.

While many hotels and restaurants were forced to close their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the breakthrough of the vaccine gives hope to the prospect of reopening. When the world came to a halt in 2020, business owners had time to reflect on their own practices and consider which aspects of their operations can be improved. 

One area of focus is the vast amount of food waste which is an increasingly growing issue for the industry, environment and economy. The ministry of Denmark found that 60,800 tonnes of food waste originate from restaurants and cafes alone. Hotels are also a key producer of waste, generating around 1kg of waste per night per guest.

Why is the management of food waste such a big problem? Here are some of the major challenges faced by the hospitality industry today: 

#1 Fluctuating waste depending on the high or low season 

An inconsistency in waste streams makes monitoring and planning difficult for restaurant/hotel owners and operators. A fluctuating waste pattern leads to pick-ups of containers that are too early or too late. In many cases this results in overflowing bins and avoidable collection fees. 

#2 Over preparation of food 

Excess food production is the leading cause of food waste posing a financial threat to a huge amount of businesses. The cost of ingredients and produce is the second largest overhead expense in the restaurant industry so losses in this area can be detrimental. 

#3 Demand for more sustainable practices 

Business owners are often unaware of how they should introduce more sustainable and environmentally friendly operations. The increasing pressure from customers to provide ethically sourced ingredients and operate more sustainably leaves many restaurant owners bewildered with where to start.

#4 Lack of control of inventory and control of customer leftovers 

Without temperature monitoring and proper training of staff in regard to food expiration, the stock is over-ordered and unnecessary food waste is generated when produce is thrown away. 

#5 Tougher government legislation 

Tighter food waste policies increase pressure on restaurants and hotels to make a change e.g. UK government aims for it to be mandatory to separate food waste collections by 2023, with a further target of 75% being recycled by 2030. 

IoT Innovations That Offer Fresh Ideas 

Undoubtedly, there is a need for the hospitality sector to investigate more efficient and sustainable management systems to tackle food waste. The hospitality industry is turning to IoT technology for answers. One way in which they can do this is to begin to optimise their waste streams, whereby measurement and monitoring are key. Simply put, you can’t work towards reducing waste until you know how much is being wasted.

Implementing an IoT-powered solution can help restaurants and hotels to keep track of food waste levels. An optical smart bin sensor measures container fill levels and a waste monitoring platform can give users a comprehensive overview of their waste streams. Containers are therefore only collected when at sufficient capacity, reducing overflowing bins and the expense of unnecessary collections.

A waste monitoring software can collect historical data which can be used in order to measure future KPIs surrounding food waste levels. This gives restaurants a more analytical approach to measuring the amount of food wasted. According to the National Restaurant Association, only around half of the restaurant operators currently track their food waste.

All fresh produce has a maximum shelf-life or capacity for freshness. This can vary depending on the conditions and processing, the quality of the harvest and the temperature at which the product kept. 

IoT sensor technology can also be used by restaurants to monitor the freshness of their stock and extend its shelf life. For instance, temperature and humidity sensors can ensure that ingredients remain fresh throughout transportation and storage. Proper controlling during these stages can prevent losses as well as improve the supply chain in general. 

Solutions that prevent waste in restaurants yield the greatest financial value as well as benefit the environment. Overall, solutions focused on reducing waste save 400 thousand tons of waste each year. Employees can also be empowered to be more responsible for the amount of waste generated, encouraging them to be proactive in avoiding ordering too much and overproducing. 

Food waste does not need to simply be “the cost of business”. It’s a major issue posing a financial and environmental threat. With innovation in mind and the help of fresh solutions offered by IoT technology, it’s a problem that can be fixed.

Interested to learn more about how we can help your restaurant handle food waste? Contact a WasteHero expert today!

author
Written by

Anders Hans Hinrichs

Director of Business Development

  • Waste
  • Sustainability
  • IoT
  • Future
  • Trash
  • Restaurant

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