Chefs and Managers Step Up to the Plate

By Cassie Bartholomew, Program Manager at StopWaste

You’ve probably heard that a staggering 40{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91} of all food in the United States goes to waste before it ever reaches a plate, and the problem is just as prevalent in our homes as it is in restaurants, institutional kitchens, and corporate cafeterias. National food service management company Guckenheimer operates 13 corporate cafeterias in Alameda County, many of them serving thousands of employees every day. In 2016, Guckenheimer committed all 13 sites to tracking pre-consumer food waste for one year, as part of the Smart Kitchen Initiative, a program by Alameda County public agency StopWaste.

“We wanted to learn about opportunities to improve our kitchen operations because in addition to the environmental impact, wasted food also means wasted money,” said Mark Crilly, Director of Strategic Initiatives at Guckenheimer, who led the effort. It involved setting up a station in each kitchen where pre-consumer food waste—such as trimmings, expired ingredients, and unserved, prepared foods—were weighed, categorized, and electronically logged on a tablet. Regular reports generated by the tracking system provided feedback about patterns and recurring waste, so that staff could implement food waste prevention strategies and donate surplus food.

Over the course of the project, all sites combined reduced pre-consumer food waste by 68,000 lbs, or 42{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91}, compared to a baseline set at the beginning. This result well exceeded their initial food waste reduction goal of 25{94d79dd6af1e87a94e700e4c297236468333f22e27ed5757b44711974a9a4b91}. 

Many different changes to kitchen operations contributed to Guckenheimer’s success. For example, several kitchens learned from the tracking data that soup was a frequently discarded item, so they offered free sides of soup, or sold leftover soup in pints for customers to purchase and take home. Another kitchen switched their salad bar trays for more shallow pans so that less food was left over at the end of the day without making the bar look empty or sparse. Regular conference calls among all participating kitchen chefs and managers helped foster exchange and sharing of progress, insights, and ideas. 

 “Kitchens are extremely fast-paced workplaces, and making time to evaluate and act upon the tracking data certainly requires commitment,” said Crilly. That commitment paid off—earlier this year, StopWaste honored Guckenheimer with the Award for Excellence in Reducing Wasted Food in Alameda County. To learn more about the Smart Kitchen Initiative, visit www.stopwaste.org/smart-kitchen-initiative.

Sponsored content. Photo courtesy of StopWaste.