Senior Vice President of Operations,
Corporate Services segment,
Sodexo North America
Waste is a crucial issue for businesses; reducing waste doesn’t just prevent pollution and conserve energy, it saves companies money. This is especially evident in the food service industry, where billions of dollars are lost due to food waste. It’s very clear that waste reduction isn’t just about sustainability; it’s a business imperative.
To see an impact—both on savings and sustainability—businesses should take a hard look at their supply chains, and determine how they can save money every step of the way. Good waste reduction strategies take into account how food is sourced, prepared and produced, as well as what’s done with any unavoidable waste created. Here are some strategies to help your organization reduce waste:
Sourcing and selecting the right suppliers
Preventing waste begins at sourcing. Identify manufacturers who are committed to using the right practices to reduce waste, and who are themselves committed to sustainable sourcing. For example, Sodexo has built partnerships with some of our biggest suppliers, such as PepsiCo, to ensure we are all reducing food waste across the entire network.
Pay attention to how purchases are transported. Minimize packaging, and create a schedule that allows you to get larger shipments in fewer deliveries. This cuts down on the fuel needed for transportation, which reduces costs and is more sustainable.
Local sourcing also goes a long way towards reducing the amount of fuel needed to transport goods to your site. And, when it comes to food, shorter transportation times mean fresher ingredients. In my job, we build relationships with dairy and produce farmers within a 100-mile radius of our sites. This reduces costs and has the added benefit of supporting small businesses in the communities we serve.
Strategic meal planning is crucial to reducing waste in any food-service organization. Food service companies can enable their sites to source food locally and use it efficiently—all the while providing delicious meals. We ensure that our chefs work closely with our supply chain to make sure we’re cooking seasonal food and sourcing locally as often as possible.
Once we receive the food at our facility, it’s our job to make sure we create as little waste as possible. Best practices include storing the food safely and at the proper temperatures. Train staff to reduce waste when they’re trimming fruits or vegetables or slicing meat.
Portion control is also an important part of waste reduction. While we might like to give our customers a little extra food to show them we care, the reality is that those large portions are likely to end up going to waste. Allow customers to take only as much as they can eat and come back for more if they’re still hungry.
In food service, some waste is inevitable, so how you handle it is extremely important. Strive to reuse leftovers in appropriate ways—for example, leftovers from today’s freshly roasted chicken could be delicious in a chopped salad tomorrow. Smart use of leftovers is yet another reason why meal planning is so important.
When we can’t reuse leftovers, we work closely with second harvest organizations, which bring our excess food to food banks or others who don’t have enough to eat. If we can’t reuse or donate our excess food, we compost it in order to minimize what goes into landfills.
Sodexo has announced a commitment to achieve zero waste in landfills by 2025. It’s part of the company’s vision of sustainability, but it also makes business sense. Just as labor costs are a critical part of cost of operations, the cost of food is equally important. By reducing waste, you reduce your food cost; by spending less money on leftovers see more profit in from daily production. By using the sustainable logistics strategies I described above, we’re already seeing lower costs.