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5 team challenges to focus your staff on food waste

By Robb White, CEC CCA AAC; Executive Chef & Food Waste Prevention Catalyst  ///  June 10, 2021


Inspiring and engaging your culinary team is a constant challenge in today’s kitchens. There are always so many tasks to check off, prep to get done, things to clean, and meals to cook that sometimes keeping our teams inspired and engaged falls off the radar. As kitchens begin to ramp back up production, now is the perfect time to refocus your team's efforts and continue to build that culture of  food waste prevention that you had before the foodservice industry came to screeching halt due to the pandemic.

For any waste reduction campaign to be a real success you need to involve and engage all of your team. When introducing anything new into the kitchen, the success of the operation will often rely on team cooperation, communication, and accountability. So if you want to launch or refocus your efforts to reduce food waste, effectively engaging with your staff is critical to ensure that you are building a strong and lasting foundation to grow on.

At Leanpath, we believe that culinary teams are the gatekeepers of food waste.  We believe that the frontline team members are the ones that are in the best position to prevent food waste, and we are constantly coming up with solutions for chefs that will help them inspire and engage their teams. Along with the tools that chefs can find currently on Leanpath Online, here are some food waste prevention challenges that you can use to rally your team and get their creative juices flowing to tackle food waste.

#1: The Staff Meal Challenge 
Repurpose at least one item that would have gone to waste in your staff meals.
Challenge your team to come up with the best ideas to repurpose food from your top wasted food categories found on Leanpath Online. Use your data and set a specific reduction goal on the Goals Module and share your results with the team.  Using repurposed foods for staff meals gets your team thinking creatively. Once they become used to the process, then have them tackle the next challenge. See what creative ideas your team will come up with.

#2. The New Menu Item Challenge
Empower your team to come up with a new menu item utilizing repurposed foods.
Give your team the freedom to develop new menu items based on foods that you would normally have left.  Run them as a menu feature and possibly add them to your menu if they sell.  Be sure to give credit on the menu to the culinary team member and tell the story behind the new menu item. One chef recently challenged his team to repurpose orange peels - they came up with a house-made marmalade recipe that was incorporated into the menu. 

#3. The Receiving/Storage Challenge
Challenge your team to reinvent the receiving/storage process.
Sometimes the folks that do the work have the best ideas to streamline the process. Have your receiving team take a hard look at the process to see if they can come up with more efficient ways to receive and store the foods.  Proper storage is often an overlooked area of food waste prevention.  Maybe it's reorganizing the food stores to be more efficient, maybe it’s a new process of rotation to utilize opened products - open the lines of communication and challenge your team.

#4. The Station vs. Station Challenge
Offer a food waste reduction challenge between the different stations in the kitchen.
Structure a friendly competition between your kitchen stations for a week to see who can be the most efficient with their mise en place. Measure all the food waste at the end of service and the prep process and see what teams can reduce their food waste by the largest percentage.

#5. The Food Waste Leader Challenge
Grow new leaders of food waste reduction by having them share your team's achievements during your daily stand up.
Get all team members involved by printing off the Leanpath Online reports and have them share the results of your Goals and your overall reduction efforts. Maybe offer small awards or prizes to the team members that have the most transactions, or that have come up with the best strategies to reduce food waste.

If you incorporate awareness in your kitchen, you can begin to change your culture. The best awareness raising process is to inspire people and to find those areas within your food waste reduction campaign that will set a spark in your culinary team. Getting teams to collectively come up with solutions to food waste, and then putting those solutions into action is the most inspiring and motivating thing you can do. It’s always best to communicate and discuss food waste issues from an individual perspective.  Your team might see areas to reduce waste that you may have overlooked. Use your daily stand up meetings to point out that throwing away food means wasting their time and labor that went into making it. This can help raise a sense of ownership for the food that is going to waste. Another benefit is  you are shedding light on how food waste is a global concern and their individual efforts will make an impact on the world.

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Topics: Food Waste News