Getting Smart about Food Waste: The Sodexo and LeanPath Partnership
This blog post was created by Andrew Shakman, Co-founder and CEO, LeanPath
In the foodservice industry, food waste has historically been a blind spot for many operations, with little to no data to illuminate it. But that story is now changing in a significant way. More than ever before, food waste is in the spotlight, and organizations like Sodexo are paving the path for smarter utilization of these important resources.
When I co-founded LeanPath in the U.S. over a decade ago, we set out our vision to end avoidable food waste. Nearly a third of the food that’s produced globally is wasted. As we started looking into foodservice, we found that an average operation is throwing away 4 to 10 percent of its food purchases in the kitchen, before it even reaches a guest’s plate!
In September of 2010, Sodexo campus services in the U.S. partnered with LeanPath to do a pilot program across eight universities to determine if measurement and analytics could help to reduce the amount of food going to waste. The results of the pilot demonstrated an overall food waste reduction of 47 percent across all sites, with the highest achieving site reducing waste by 62 percent versus starting baseline levels.
What enabled this dramatic change? First and foremost, data and awareness. At its core, the LeanPath program enables kitchen teams to quickly and efficiently record what foods are being discarded and why. This information, captured on an automated tracking station, transmits to a reporting platform where chefs and managers can view total waste, top wasted foods, top loss reasons and more. This data drives changes to purchasing, production, and menus. Additionally, the simple act of putting a food waste measurement program in place changes the behaviors and culture in the kitchen, ensuring that team members are engaged and providing them with a platform to share ideas for waste reduction.
Sodexo has since expanded the LeanPath program in the U.S. to more than 100 campus locations, as well as a number of healthcare, corporate, and government service locations.
We expanded our partnership with Sodexo to the United Kingdom and Ireland in 2014. It began with a study that was funded by WRAP, in which Sodexo conducted an eight-week test program at three sites using LeanPath smart food waste meters. The program achieved a 16% reduction in grams of waste per cover across the sites, equating to £3,900 savings from the eight week monitoring period, the equivalent of £25,000 per annum.
Sodexo also conducted a study with LeanPath in 2014 across four sites, independent of WRAP. In the last four weeks of the trial, an average figure of food waste showed a 48 percent reduction in weight from the initial baseline levels of waste, and a 56 percent reduction in the value of food waste discarded.
In a webinar co-hosted with LeanPath, Paul Bracegirdle, the Environmental Manager for Sodexo UK and Ireland at the time of the pilot program, emphasized that one of the largest benefits for him was having central visibility of all the data being entered, both at the site level and in aggregate. He also commented that from the staff perspective, one of the most frequent comments he received was how the program had raised employee awareness about how much food is being wasted and what the wastage is costing the business.
Sodexo has since launched the program at a number of additional sites in the UK, one of which is Colchester Garrison, home of the British Army’s 16 Air Assault Brigade, located in the county of Essex, England. Launched in the autumn of 2015 across all four kitchens, the LeanPath Zap program allows the Sodexo dining team at Colchester to measure and monitor all of its waste in real time. Within the first two months of utilizing the program, they saw a 30% reduction in pre-consumer food waste versus the baseline waste generation levels calculated at the start of the program. At the same time, the team reported a substantial turn-around on cash margin. With steady waste decline, and increased engagement and awareness from the team overall, Sodexo Defence stated that they are very pleased with the results and are evaluating other sites that may benefit from the program.
Andrew Shakman is a food waste prevention advocate and the CEO of LeanPath, a foodservice technology company. Since co-founding LeanPath in 2004 to address the food waste crisis, Andrew has been working at the front lines of behavior change, helping foodservice operators prevent and minimize food waste in the US, Europe and Australia. Under his leadership, LeanPath created the first automated and patented food waste metering system to enable real-time, daily monitoring of food waste.