Food waste management and reduction is routine at ISS Fero
Lunch restaurant Fero uses smart food waste scales to measure food loss at different kitchen stations. The scales produce information for food waste management. The trends are compared against the ambitious food waste reduction targets of Fero and the entire ISS restaurant chain, and better ways of working are developed on a daily basis. How does such a methodical food waste management system work in practice?
The bright, spacious and comfortably stylish Fero is one of many restaurants serving lunch crowds in the Pitäjänmäki district of Helsinki. Restaurant Manager Mira Aarnio and Head Chef Timo Jyrkkänen, who joined the team a little over a year ago, talk about the tweaks they have made to the restaurant’s menu and concept based on their understanding of the clientele. The changes have been successful, and the restaurant is attracting growing numbers of quality-conscious lunchtime customers despite the heavy competition in the neighborhood.
“We stand out for being a restaurant. We are not a canteen. We have expanded our menu to include not just simple family favorites but also something different every day, such as grilled dishes, burgers and rustic pizza. We want to be an easy choice of venue for customers looking, for example, to host a business lunch,” Mira explains.
Fero is operated by ISS Food Services and its concept is based on versatility, high-quality ingredients and home cooking. This raises questions: How much food waste does such a concept generate? How far-reaching is the impact of the restaurant’s efforts to reduce food waste?
Keeping a tight grip on food waste
Fero has “hidden” Fredman’s wireless food waste scales (Chefstein® Smart Scale) at three kitchen stations. They are literally concealed underneath waste containers, where they discretely perform their valuable food waste management role. They continuously measure food preparation waste, plate waste and buffet line waste and automatically record data from these stations into Fero’s Chefstein® digital kitchen management system.
“The volume of waste surprised us at first. Not just the weight but also how little waste there was at some stations. Our buffet line has always produced very little waste but we were shocked to see just how little,” Timo describes the restaurant’s experiences of starting to use the scales last spring.
Every member of the kitchen team has Chefstein® installed on their work phone and can therefore monitor the volume of food waste and how it changes over time. Timo also updates the system with the number of customers served each day, which adds another dimension to the team’s food waste analyses.
Changes in the volume of food waste, the underlying reasons and ways to reduce waste are reviewed and discussed in monthly team meetings based on real-time information and trends. Food waste management affects everything from corporate social responsibility to profitability and customer satisfaction.
Reducing food waste has become routine
Towards the end of lunchtime, the Fero team gets ready for action. With quick mental arithmetic, Timo is able to tell us that only a couple of kilos of roast potatoes from the buffet will go in the trash today. This is an excellent achievement in the midst of a pandemic, with 140 customers for lunch.
Most of the leftovers from the buffet are reused: tomatoes are dried, shredded carrots added to a bolognese sauce, cucumbers pickled and hot dishes packaged in boxes with a side salad and sold to local workers to take home for dinner via an app called ResQ. In other words, much of the food still ends up getting eaten instead of being thrown away.
Timo and Mira deserve to be proud of the ways in which Fero’s fresh ingredients are recycled without compromising the restaurant’s standards. The only waste from the food preparation station today is melon skins. Peeling melons in-house instead of buying them ready-chopped is a choice made with quality in mind.
Timeliness and customer understanding help to reduce food loss and increase profitability
Timo explains that Fero’s customer-oriented concept means always putting out fresh, restaurant-quality food. While this helps to reduce and control food waste, it also naturally breeds loyalty from quality-conscious customers.
“Our food production cycles are short, the containers in the buffet line shallow and food turnover generally high. Understanding our clientele is critically important. We are always looking to tweak our menus to better meet our customers’ wishes, and we have learned, for example, to make less food on Fridays, when the lunchtime crowd tends to be a bit smaller,” Timo explains about the restaurant’s approach to reducing food waste and increasing profitability.
Food waste scales work tirelessly behind the scenes
The data produced by Fredman’s food waste scales constantly provides the restaurant with new perspectives on food waste management, such as corporate social responsibility, efficiency and the kitchen team’s job satisfaction.
“They [the food waste scales] are brilliant. There is practically nothing you need to do to them. Wash them once a week or so, and otherwise you can just leave them to it. They are a little like garden gnomes, just sitting there minding their own business,” Timo describes the team’s experiences of using Fredman’s food waste scales.
Restaurant Manager Mira agrees that the scales are extremely easy to use and adds that Chefstein® is also a handy tool in, for example, self-monitoring. She explains:
“It [Chefstein®] makes life easier. I no longer need to a stack of folders for making notes and keeping records. All the data that a health inspector, for example, might want to see is easily accessible in one place and in the same format. Compiling documents in preparation for a health inspection is a thing of the past.”
Fero also uses Chefstein® to monitor the temperatures in its refrigerators 24/7, which helps to proactively reduce food waste. The team gets an alert if the temperature inside a refrigerator drops too low or rises too high and has time to act before food spoils.
ISS has set ambitious food waste reduction targets for the entire restaurant chain
Food waste has been on the agenda for a long time already, and there are many ways to reduce it. From the perspective of climate change, however, the challenge ahead is still huge. The crisis affects us all, and large food industry operators have a particularly crucial role to play.
ISS’s global target is to halve its food waste by the end of 2022.
“We have introduced KPIs for food waste, which are reviewed every quarter. Chefstein® provides a great, systematic tool for this. It gives us precise information that we can use to identify the measures that will help us to reach our targets,” says Development Manager Sanja Orrenmaa from ISS Food Services.
ISS is driven to involve staff in individual restaurants, which each have their own approaches to reducing and controlling food waste. Pursued on a daily basis, these approaches gradually become routine for kitchen staff.
It’s also about attitude and passion
Food waste management is also about attitude and passion
“You cannot learn and change things unless you track food waste over a longer period of time. Having the right attitude and passion for your profession and work are what matter the most. The scales and the data they produce serve no purpose if they are not used,” Timo concludes.
Both Timo and Mira nevertheless believe that reducing food waste has already become routine for many food industry professionals. According to them, many consider it important to manage food waste, because working in the industry is also about personal choices. Reducing food waste is one of these choices that motivate professionals to make changes that benefit everyone, including the planet. It also makes work feel more meaningful.
Fredman wishes everyone a Food Waste Week (local event in Finland) full of delicious taste sensations and inspiration for making lasting changes!
We also encourage food industry operators to think about their long-term goals and new ways to monitor their progress in reducing food waste from the perspectives of corporate social responsibility, profitability and work motivation.
Good places to start include Chef De Cuisine Ville Parkkinen’s food waste management tips (links to articles on the right) and our free Chefstein® demo!