When “sustainability” became a regular topic in the foodservice industry about ten years ago, it was common to group the conversation neatly into sub-components: energy, water, waste, food sourcing, and community engagement (among others). This was all new for most, and the learning curve was steep in each area. Operators wondered: where should I start? What matters most? Everyone made their own choices because there was no hierarchy within sustainability.
The food waste movement has come a long way in recent years, moving definitively into the mainstream of sustainability conversations. Television hosts and celebrity chefs are talking about it, and businesses and governments are setting goals to reduce it. The EPA’s food recovery hierarchy is the long-time accepted standard for best practices in food waste reduction, with prevention firmly established at the top as the optimal solution. And though there are various techniques for prevention, daily measurement of waste is emerging as a standard of excellence for foodservice operations that want to prevent the maximum amount of food waste.
We all know that controlling costs is critical to running a successful business, especially in foodservice. Recently the cost of labor has been top-of-mind, as various pieces of legislation take effect to raise the minimum wage in certain parts of the United States. How to react to this challenge? After years of optimizing labor, operators have few opportunities to reduce labor without damaging their business in fundamental ways. Raising menu prices to offset the increases isn’t often viable, nor will it please customers. So what can foodservice operators do to manage the adverse impact of rising labor costs?
A recent study on awareness and attitudes around food waste in the United States has yielded some interesting findings. The study, conducted by Danyi Qi and Brian Roe of Ohio State University, shows that while awareness around the food waste crisis is growing, there is a significant discrepancy among how people perceive their role in fighting food waste. The survey focuses on consumer attitudes of household food waste, but unsurprisingly, many of the findings parallel similar issues we encounter in the commercial foodservice industry. What the study makes clear is that changing individuals’ behavior on a large scale is the key to widespread and sustainable food waste reduction.
One of our core beliefs at LeanPath is that we manage what we measure. It’s at the heart of our mission of making food waste prevention easy: measurement leads to understanding which leads to prevention. When LeanPath was founded in 2004, the concept of measuring food waste was largely a foreign one in many kitchens—that’s why we’re especially excited that last month, the Food Loss & Waste Protocol launched the Food Loss and Waste Accounting and Reporting (FLW) Standard, a first-of-its-kind framework designed to help organizations, nations, regions and other entities around the world report on food loss and waste.