Digital Journal: Technology Offers New Ways to Reduce Food Waste in Hospitality
Technology Offers New Ways to Reduce Food Waste in Hospitality
“This is the essence of the agricultural revolution: the ability to keep more people alive under worse conditions.” — Yuval Noah Harari
In the last century, the relationship between humans and our planet has gone from bad to worse. Industrial pollution, global warming, deforestation, waste management, and many more related issues have plagued the world as industrial countries continue unsustainable practices. Finding solutions to these problems is critical for human survival in the long run. While thought leaders like Yuval Noah Harrari have raised this concern, the public has accepted the message to varying degrees.
In prehistoric times, when the human population was a fraction of the current population, humanity did not create existential threats to the planet. Of course, the ancient man proved capable of devastating actions, deliberate or not. However, unlike our ancestors who wiped out megafauna by hunting these giant mammals for food and resources, modern-day humans are a part of a system that industrially butchers animals, normalizes unsustainable agricultural practices, and pollutes the planet through thoughtless over-consumption. While food production is essential for the human race to survive, humanity has a horrible habit of unnecessarily wasting food that was overproduced in the first place. This is particularly shameful because while hundreds of millions of people starve in some parts of the world, millions of tons of food are being discarded for reasons beyond justification in other parts of the world.
To quote Harrari, “each year, the US population spends more money on diets than the amount needed to feed all the hungry people in the rest of the world.” To add insult to injury, according to FDA reports, a disgraceful 30 to 40% of the food produced goes to waste each year resulting in a loss of $408 billion annually. At the same time, some 828 million people worldwide go hungry.
In addition to this unethical juxtaposition, this predicament negatively contributes to our greenhouse emission problem. Most unused food ends up in landfills where it decomposes and releases methane, which is responsible for about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Even worse, the energy needed for the food industry to operate in the inefficient ways it does accounts for 26% of global greenhouse emissions.
Simply put, changes to the food industry and moderation in food consumption are critical for the planet’s, and humanity’s, long-term health.
Luckily, a handful of new businesses addressing this problem from different angles have emerged. Some help organize the distribution of excess food to partner volunteer locations like Sharing Excess, others help identify & define causes of food waste, and a few manage & prevent waste generation. There is even a startup helping households use mealworms to convert kitchen scraps into plant fertilizer; the list of exciting and innovative companies continues. While these companies have important roles to play in a comprehensive solution to our food waste-related problems, society must tackle the large amounts of food waste produced in restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality businesses. Beyond the necessary mission of reducing food waste before it happens in the restaurant and hospitality industries for the sake of the planet, efforts to reduce food waste can drastically limit unnecessary expenses and improve profitability for businesses in these industries. For most restaurants, regardless of their size, being able or unable to efficiently manage food inventory can critically influence their ability to stay in business and thrive.
Among the pioneers in this space is ClearCOGS. ClearCOGS is specifically designed to help restaurants reduce food waste by leveraging easy-to-use predictive analytics tools. ClearCOGS can help even the least tech-savvy restaurant managers quickly make intelligent business decisions leading to higher profits, less food waste, and a lower carbon footprint. Matt Wampler, co-founder and CEO of ClearCOGS, explains, “We want to empower restaurants to make proactive, data-driven decisions. Instead of reacting to the world around them, we want to give them the tools to proactively grapple with the opportunity cost of their decisions…like weighing stockout vs. waste—among others.”
By offering AI-driven solutions for inventory management, innovative companies like ClearCOGS are using technology to help restaurants improve their business and save the planet. With other exciting technological solutions attacking the food waste problem from varying angles springing on to the scene, we are hopeful for the industry at large.