Commercial Kitchens Tap IoT to Accurately Monitor Food Metrics

More than one-third of all food winds up in the trash, which wastes money and saps resources. Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping commercial kitchens reduce waste from overproduction and get it in the mouths of people who can eat it.

 

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Image credit: Winnow Solutions

Restaurants must strike a balance between food options, portion size, and cost for customers, but they don’t always get feedback on how well they hit the mark. Typically, kitchens eyeball what comes back, a less-than-scientific approach to food consumption. Winnow Solutions is combatting this issue.

Winnow Vision is designed for commercial kitchens to reduce food waste. A wall-mounted device is installed above a waste receptacle that sits on a scale. Using cameras, a scale, computer vision, and machine learning, the Winnow system can identify the type and amount of food dumped into the container.

 

An LED screen displays images and labels of food categories, such as vegetables, meats, seafood, fruit, rolls, and more. It also offers categories for stations of food (carving or omelet, for example), spoiled or damaged food, kitchen errors or trimmings, and plate waste. As the system learns to identify the food, the kitchen staff has to confirm the categorization, but that step becomes unnecessary as machine learning gets smarter.

A dashboard provides staff with information about how much food is thrown out or reworked and calculates the cost of it. With that information, the kitchen staff can determine how to change menu offerings or portion sizes. One hotel restaurant in Taiwan was able to cut food waste by 70 percent. At the Sofitel Bangkok Sukhumvit, the Winnow system enabled the hotel kitchen to reduce overall food waste by 58 percent, representing an annual savings of $68,000.

Screen showing waste info on different vegetables

Image credit: Winnow Solutions

Waste Not, Want Not

Expecting zero waste from a commercial kitchen might be unrealistic, until you factor in the power of IoT. San Francisco-based Copia created an app that analyzes food preparation and consumption and connects excess food to people in need.

Commercial kitchens use Copia’s software to manage and track food use. It analyzes food purchases and production to give kitchens data-based information about how they are using—and wasting—food. A cloud-based dashboard identifies where kitchens can save by limiting production and reducing surplus during meal-making. According to Copia, $1 spent on reducing food waste results in a $14 return on investment. 

In addition to providing food waste metrics, Copia offers a way for businesses to donate their excess food. Businesses request a pickup through Copia’s software by entering the amount and type of surplus food they have. Local nonprofits create a profile indicating their food needs and delivery dates, and Copia’s artificial intelligence algorithms match the surplus food with the nonprofit that can accept the donation. A Copia driver collects the extra food and delivers it to the nonprofit within an hour.

Using the Copia dashboard, the business can see how much it donates during a day, week, or month. The Copia software also generates an automated tax-deduction receipt for the business, providing additional financial savings.

Save Our Sustenance

In Copenhagen, Too Good To Go created a similar app to match restaurants, hotels, and grocery stores with community members who can use surplus food. Too Good To Go has been operating in Europe for several years and recently launched in North America. To date, the company has rescued more than 86.3 million meals.

Consumers download the Too Good To Go app and choose a local restaurant or store that’s offering surplus food that day. Consumers purchase a bag of food at a discounted price and pick up the food at a specific time, but they don’t know what will be in the bag. Too Good To Go takes a cut of the sale.

AI is propelling grassroots efforts to reduce waste by providing the links between commercial kitchens with food to offer and the organizations and people who can eat it. In addition, rescuing food helps to conserve energy, preserve natural resources, lower CO2 emissions, and reduce landfills. It’s a winning partnership between the business, the consumer, and the Earth.

 

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