4 steps to cut food costs by engaging your team on food waste

Posted by Ashna Tanna / 3-Sep-2015

4 steps to cut food costs by engaging your team on food waste

A smart business is built on a strong team open to new ideas. When introducing anything new into the kitchen, the success of the operation will often rely on the collective buy in of the team members.

So if you want to launch an initiative to reduce food waste, effectively engaging with your staff is critical to driving productivity and profitability.

Working in Winnow’s operations team, I have worked with over 100 kitchens and have been privileged to learn a lot throughout the journey.

We understand that working in a kitchen is hard work, and our approach is to motivate and enthuse rather than lecture and order.We’ve learned along the way, and have developed a simple four stage process which we call ‘The 4 A’s of staff engagement’: Awareness, Accountability, Action and Award.

1. Awareness

The first step has to be to introduce why measuring and managing food waste is important both to your business but also to individual team members.

In my experience, the best awareness raising method is to inspire people and to find those points within the food waste argument that interests everyone in the kitchen staff. Each of us can have different motivations why we care about food waste, let that be environmental, economical or social. Talk to your team and ask them what’s important to them.

Whenever I talk about the issue from an individual perspective, it helps a lot to convince them to see the broader picture. Pointing out that throwing away food means wasting their time and labour that went into making it helps raise a sense of ownership for the food that is going to waste. On the other hand, shedding light on how food waste is a global concern is likely to make them proud that they also help make a change.

2. Accountability

Creating a sense of accountability and ownership within your team is necessary to drive change sustainably. You can’t be in the kitchen all the time, so do this effectively you need to delegate responsibility.

The senior manager and head chef are the leaders. In turn the leader will pick a number of ‘waste champions’, from the kitchen and front of house staff, who are engaged and passionate about reducing food waste and who will champion the project when the leaders are not present.

Working together to agree targets allows you to reduce food waste. This might involve a smart meter like the Winnow system which automates measurement of food waste. Whichever way you decide to measure food waste, make sure that you agree on what success looks like with your team rather than imposing quotas or targets.

3. Action

Once you have agreed on what success looks like it’s time to actually begin making changes to reduce waste. Brainstorm about the possible food waste reduction techniques such as batch preparation, effective peeling, using smaller cooking pots and freezing prepared but not served items with your team.

Now everyone is aware of the issue that food waste is and the fact that it can be reduced. Apart from the above mentioned tactics, they have the Winnow System at their full disposal and I encourage them to use it in order to benefit best their operations.

4. Award

I say with confidence that the best way to gain the attention of the staff is positive reinforcement. Staff needs to know that their hard work has resulted in something tangible.

Share your success with your team. Consider posting positive results on the team notice board and make food waste a daily talking point in your team meetings.

In one kitchen we worked with, management started to reward their team by doing something special to celebrate achievements. This way they feel that this project is not only achievable but is also fun rather than a massive undertaking.

Of course all kitchens work differently and there is not a model that fits all. There will always be staff members who might be nervous about introducing or accepting a change, but once the benefits become obvious and we manage to win their hearts and minds, the process becomes just natural.

A new technology, such as the Winnow Smart Meter, not only can help you achieve your food waste reduction efforts, but can also provide the means to improve employee engagement and create a positive working environment.

It is a great opportunity to incorporate staff engagement to your food cost reduction process. If employees are successfully engaged, a significant part of the food waste battle won.


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