Food for thought: how AI is reducing waste in restaurants

Food waste can be reduced using AI
Food waste can be reduced using AI   -   Copyright  © Winnow
By Evan Bourke  & Sarah Hedley Hymers

It’s estimated that the hospitality industry wastes more than €100 billion worth of food each year. In hotel and restaurant kitchens, that equates to around 20% of the food purchased. The cost is not only monetary for the vendor; the planet also pays a price.

Now there’s a way to prevent food waste using artificial intelligence (AI). Food waste management company Winnow estimates that its AI-powered tools have already saved 61,000 tons of Co2 to date. That’s the equivalent of 36,512,500 meals worth €42 million.

‘What gets measured gets managed’ is a mantra of sustainability leaders, and Winnow’s technology collects and measures data to help inform chefs about how to adjust their purchase orders to prevent waste.

“What we usually see in the commercial kitchens that we work with is between five to 15% of the food annual spend actually goes to waste,” says Kamran Abdollahi, Winnow’s Business Development Manager for the Middle East and Africa. “Think of a kitchen having an annual food spend of $300,000 [€285,279]. Taking the bare minimum of 5%, that's $15,000 [€14,541] being thrown into the bin every year. What we're able to do on global average is cut that down by 50%.”

The system, which comprises a Winnow Vision camera and Winnow Waste Monitor is simple to use. “If you can use a tablet, you can use the system,” says Abdollahi.

The Winnow Vision system takes photos of food as it’s thrown in the bin and, using AI, the machine trains itself to recognise the food type. The Winnow Waste Monitor comprises a digital scale and a connected tablet. Using a standard bin placed on the scale, kitchen staff can throw food away in the usual way. The weight is recorded and then the user identifies the item on the tablet and selects the reason for the waste.

“Our AI technology records things such as the weight and the value of the item, and, of course, what it is, and throughout each day all that data gets uploaded into a cloud-based server where we do all the analysis and processing of the data from our site,” explains Abdollahi. “It works on machine learning and every Winnow Vision system also learns from all the systems that we have deployed globally.”

© Winnow
The Winnow system© Winnow

Jochem-Jan Sleiffer, Hilton Hotels President for the Middle East, Africa and Turkiye, is among the hoteliers and restaurateurs who are finding that running more efficient kitchens dramatically reduces food waste and costs.

“Food waste is one of the biggest problems we have in the world,” says Sleiffer. “Using Winnow’s artificial intelligence for chefs we’ve been able to measure the food waste that we have on a daily basis and to really reduce that waste massively. In our region alone, we have already reduced waste by about 600,000 meals, which is an enormous amount of food.”

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