In recent years, as restaurateurs cater to customers who are growing more connected every day, technology in restaurants is on the rise around the world, From smartphone ordering to self-service kiosks, the trend has been plenty visible for customers. But tech is also shaking things up behind the scenes, and it is changing the way that savvy restaurant operators think about their back-of-house tasks.
Apps and technologies designed to streamline ordering, invoicing, and inventory have exploded in recent years—and although the original reason for their popularity was their ease of use and time-saving benefits, restaurant operators have quickly realized that these apps have huge potential to reduce food waste and improve restaurants’ sustainability, while saving owners money on wasted food.
BlueCart, originally a small tech start-up, blew up the scene, receiving $10 million dollars in investment in 2017 to continue expanding its operations. The app connects restaurant operators directly to wholesale suppliers, with the goal of more efficient ordering. It also provides analytical tools and attempts to reduce or even eliminate reliance on separate spreadsheets, making the ordering process faster and easier. This could not only save restaurant owners money; it might also help to reduce food waste, a problem which, according to the USDA has seen the U.S. throw away as much as 30 percent to 40 percent of the food supply annually. Because of the increased efficiency of direct, app-based ordering, restaurants are able to decrease excess orders and food spoilage while also improving productivity.
Another back-of-house technology innovator is Orderly, which utilizes machine learning to provide analytical tools for users, and streamlines invoicing and inventory. The program allows restaurant operators to simply snap a picture of their invoices, creating a digital archive of information. This program is focused on simplifying data entry and making it easier for restaurant owners to keep track of their data, which could help restaurant owners improve efficiency and reduce food waste.
Tech in action
This kind of technology has huge potential for eliminating food waste, as apps designed to help restaurant operators track orders and analyze their ordering history become more readily available. By adopting these technologies, forward-thinking restaurateurs are improving their bottom line while also reducing food waste. One of the innovative restaurant owners to realize this potential is Tim Ma, owner and chef at Kyirisan, which opened in D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood in 2016. For Chef Ma, eliminating food waste is “a no-brainer as far as good business practices are concerned.”
And in the process of saving money and helping the environment, Chef Ma draws new inspiration from using produce efficiently, telling Eatery Pulse News that “there’s no better motivator than food waste to help you flex creativity (e.g., understanding the different ways you can use uncommon or unusual parts of an animal or vegetable as an ingredient) and save on your bottom line.”
Chef Ma is not alone in his quest to reduce food waste. He, and other like-minded chefs, are taking advantage of technology to help reduce their food waste. Chef Ma teamed up with BlueCart for the Zero Waste Kitchen initiative, which brought Chef Ma and Kyirisan together with two other innovative restaurants from across the country; Tanya Holland’s Brown Sugar in Oakland, and Jehangir Mehta’s Graffiti Earth in New York City. The Zero Waste Kitchen initiative lasted for 8 weeks, and participants’ data was posted weekly to showcase their progress towards sustainability.
On opposite coasts, these star operators showed off their success through BlueCart’s app, which tracked their progress in reducing food waste and included statistics in both money and time saved—and the results are clear. At the end of the 8 weeks, all three chefs had saved money and time, and greatly increased their sustainability scores.
Tech solutions like BlueCart and Orderly, as well as many others, are making it easier every day for restaurant owners to reduce their food waste output, saving them time and money and reducing their impact on the environment. But it’s still up to creative and forward-thinking restaurateurs like Tim Ma, Tanya Holland, and Jehangir Mehta to make the most of these opportunities.
Author credit: Max Testa
Photo via Kyirisan