Is food waste a strategic priority?

Marc Zornes, Winnow founder, highlights the benefits of tackling global food waste


Winnow believes that the foodservice market is approaching a tipping point where technology to measure and manage food waste will become the norm the world over. But why should foodservice operators make waste a strategic global priority?


When my co-founders and I launched Winnow three years ago, we did so in the knowledge that to be successful we would need to tackle the problem of food waste on a global scale.

As of today, we are live in 14 countries as foodservice operators globally begin to see the value in using technology to profitably reduce food costs by addressing waste.

We are enthused to be helping the industry understand that tackling food waste is a strategic priority and one that can drive real profitability improvement.

For illustrative purposes, imagine a site which is throwing away 8% of its food costs prior to any food reaching a plate. Cutting that in half can save 4% in food purchases. Given that many foodservice operators have gross margins of 50%, this means a two percentage point improvement in net profits – a real prize for an industry with historically they’ve found is that pen and paper methods or simply weighing total food waste in buckets is inadequate to drive real, sustained change to their business. A robust approach to food waste is needed to really drive lasting change. By replacing the traditional ways of recording food waste with a digital solution in the kitchen, operators get granular and actionable information to help dramatically reduce their operation costs. As a result of poor measurement practices in the first place, many foodservice operators systematically underestimate the food waste they generate on site. When directly measuring waste, they often find that food waste is actually twice (or even more) their original estimates. In reality, food waste costs the hospitality sector approximately $100bn globally.

Industrialised Asia contributes 28% of the total food wasted in the world while south and south-east Asia are responsible for nearly a quarter of all food waste globally.

Food waste also presents a huge challenge to the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) with its rapidly growing hotel and catering sector. There is an enormous savings potential for the industry in both regions in addressing the issue. 

Different social and political contexts influence attitudes and practices to food waste across these regions. We found that awareness is increasing and initiatives are currently being developed, however much food is being wasted due to cultural norms. In Asia and in the Middle East there is much emphasis on providing bountiful meals as a sign of respect and generosity to guests, but the impact of the wasted food is not really considered.

The business case for reducing food waste is growing stronger every day. Companies committed to measure and strategically reduce food waste are demonstrating the short and long-term benefits – to the business and society – of doing so. Our clients have shown that by measuring and monitoring food waste it can be cut by 50% or more in value. Driven by the need to make cost savings and the pressure from consumers to employ sustainable practices, it is inevitable that forward-looking foodservice companies make food waste reduction a norm within their operations.

We’ve found that addressing food waste systematically and with the right tools can be transformative for foodservice businesses, and we would encourage others to make waste prevention a strategic priority. From our perspective as a growing company, we are excited to see the global foodservice market waking up to the huge opportunity that addressing food waste presents.