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.
Multiple options exist for operations that want to work on food waste prevention, such as portion control, trayless dining, consumer education, and recipe engineering. While these each present unique benefits, more and more foodservice operations are acknowledging that to implement a truly comprehensive food waste prevention program, it’s crucial to first make measurement a core part of the culture. With a measurement program in place, operators can identify the root causes of food waste and implement strategies to address them.
Daily measurement highlights exactly where food waste is occurring and why it’s happening. Armed with data, operations can make changes and improvements, focusing on the high-value targets identified by the waste data they have collected. And by tracking food waste over the long-term, operations can monitor their progress versus a starting point, prove food waste reduction performance, and identify any backsliding.
This array of benefits has helped transition measurement from a “nice-to-have” to a “need-to-have” component of any robust food waste strategy. Reports confirm this evolution towards a new standard of excellence, such as ReFED’s Roadmap to Reduce U.S. Food Waste by 20 Percent, which highlights measurement’s strong financial and environmental benefits. Simultaneously, major businesses are publicly announcing their measurement initiatives, like global hotel chain Accor Hotels, which has committed to reducing its food waste 30% by 2020 using food waste tracking as the primary tool.
And Accor Hotels is among a growing list of operations implementing measurement as a central part of their food waste prevention programs. For example, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, which earned first place in the Princeton Review’s survey for best college and university dining services this year, recently explained how measurement is a key tool to help its teams prepare food more efficiently. Tech leader Google is also at the forefront of food waste measurement success, describing in their Green Blog how measurement bolsters their robust sustainability program. And contract management company Sodexo has shared stories of its success with measurement on its UK & Ireland blog, emphasizing the benefits of improved visibility of food waste and increased employee engagement afforded by measurement.
With many top-tier foodservice operations acknowledging the benefits of food waste measurement, it’s no surprise that measurement has emerged as a standard of excellence for operations that want to cover all the bases for food waste prevention.