A team of dedicated and passionate professionals are behind our mission to reduce food waste in the hospitality and foodservice sector. The Winnow team is formed of a diverse and international crowd from 21 different nationalities. All living across Europe, Asia or the Middle East.
In less than 4 years we have worked with hundreds of different kitchens of all sizes and styles. From kitchens in catering sites to quick service restaurants, and large hotels. We are currently saving one meal every 10 seconds.
Through our journey, we have inspired thousands of chefs to work together to reduce their waste. Consequently, we’ve also learned some valuable lessons to help you optimise your kitchen’s workflow to save you time and resources.
Welcome to Winnow’s Insights - a monthly blog series created to share some of the challenges we’ve faced, lessons learned and recommendations on how to have smooth and efficient operations in your kitchen.
In the third edition, we interviewed Ignacio Ramirez, Operations Manager at Winnow`s MENA office. With a passion for hospitality and a vast knowledge of the hotel industry, Ignacio has been changing people’s mentality and helping hotel kitchens in the UAE become more sustainable and profitable.
Read Ignacio’s interview and find out what are the possible future trends for the hospitality sector, what were the challenges and joys of introducing the Winnow system to the Middle East, and much more:
- Where did your hospitality career begin?
My hospitality career began as a delivery boy for a local Chinese restaurant in Seville, in the south of Spain, where I am from.
But after finishing school I joined a Bachelor’s Degree in Pharmacy instead of pursuing a career in hospitality. After only a few months at university, I realised pharmacy wasn’t the right course for me and swapped to Computer Science. I really enjoyed the course, but couldn’t see myself as a computer scientist either.
So, I dropped out of the course, took some time off from university and moved to Ibiza where I worked as a waiter and restaurant manager. It was only after working in hospitality for a few years that I decided to pursue a career in the area. I moved back to my hometown and started a Hospitality Management Degree at the University of Seville.
- How did you end up in Dubai as Winnow’s Operations Manager for the MENA region?
Soon after completing my degree I began working in local hotels around Seville. First, I worked as a night manager in a small hotel, and then I started an internship program at the prestigious EME Catedral Hotel. After the internship, I moved to various other departments until I became Operations Manager. After 4 years at EME Catedral Hotel as Operations Manager, I chose to leave the company and start working for Hilton who transferred me to Dubai.
I was already living in Dubai for two years when I joined Winnow to become Operations Manager at Winnow’s MENA region office. I saw this position as a great opportunity to use all the skills I had acquired during all my previous roles in hospitality. I opened our office in the Middle East less than one year ago, and things have progressed very quickly since. We recently signed an MoU with the Dubai Municipality to deploy food waste reduction in the country’s hospitality sector. Also, our technology has been helping large hotels in the UAE save more than $35,000 per annum in food costs.
- In your previous roles, how did the kitchen team used to control their food waste?
In all the hotels and restaurants I have worked previously, the kitchen team was either trying to measure food waste manually, or they were not doing anything to fix the problem. Reducing food waste provides great opportunities for the hospitality sector, but many businesses haven't realised that yet.
- What is the best part of your job?
What I like the most about my job is the primary purpose of Winnow, which is to fix the food waste problem on a global level. We are preventing 10 thousand meals from being wasted every day. The fact that we are creating awareness, minimising the issue of food waste and helping companies save money at the same time is just so rewarding.
- What was the biggest challenge you faced when you first opened Winnow`s Dubai office?
The biggest challenge was to understand how people do business in Dubai. It’s definitely different from the way we do business in Europe. Here, in the UAE, we need to build trust above anything else.
On the other hand, I have learned that although it might take a long time for a decision to be made, once made, it progresses extremely fast. The country is only 40 years old, but it has developed so rapidly that the hospitality industry can already be compared - in size - to other major cities, such as Bangkok.
- What interesting feedback have you received from clients?
I always find very interesting when clients report that thanks to Winnow the entire team has become more aware about food waste, and they are seeing it as a serious issue. I can see that thanks to the Winnow system, the majority of our clients have started to think in a more sustainable way. Most of our clients are now looking to solve other issues, as well, such as energy efficiency and water consumption.
- What is the project you’ve worked on that has made the most difference to date?
My favourite project is the first project I worked on, which was Fairmont Dubai. It is one of the most luxurious hotels in Dubai, the company has extremely high standards. The kitchen team was already implementing food waste reduction measurements when we approached them. The challenge was huge, but we manage to successfully engage the team, and they have reduced their food waste by more than 50%.
- How do you see the Middle Eastern hospitality industry changing in five years?
I believe the Food & Beverage industry will continue to receive massive investments and it will focus more and more on high-end products. On the contrary, I see the hotel sector shifting from luxury to midscale. I believe that more midscale hotel brands will arrive in Dubai in the next 5 years.
- What’s the biggest challenge for those wanting to make a difference through technology within their operations?
The biggest challenge for those wanting to make a difference is installing a piece of technology in the kitchen which is not related to food preparation. All chefs have a lot of technology to help them prepare food, but they normally don’t have technology in any other area of the kitchen. Normally, Winnow is the first IoT technology in the kitchen, and the hi-tech side of the system can cause some resistance. Because of that, managers often need to overcome a technophobic team.
- What is your piece of advice to hotels looking to reduce food waste?
My advice is for chefs to look inside their bins. Chefs can only reduce their food waste when they have an idea of what and how much they are wasting. It is also very important to review their purchasing process. In general, revenue management is still not up to date in the food and beverage industry, so is important to keep a close eye on it.