Author: Naji Haddad, Middle East General Manager, Deliverect
We probably all agree that reducing food waste is a noble goal. Countries in the GCC have already started putting initiatives in place to achieve this vision. For example, last year, the United Arab Emirates launched Ne’ma, its National Food Loss and Waste initiative. Recently, Saudi Arabia also launched its plans to reduce $10.66 billion in food waste through a national program by the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing.
While restaurants aren’t to blame for all of it, the exploding food delivery industry does contribute a hefty share. In the last two years, the industry has grown exponentially into a $270 billion behemoth – benefiting from draconian lockdown measures and forced closures of private businesses.
What can restaurants do to reduce food waste? The first step is to look at the causes of food delivery waste. Then, we can tackle each to take control of food production and online ordering and eliminate unnecessary waste.
What are the causes of food delivery waste?
Not only is food waste a huge problem – but it can also be reduced by having a clearer idea of the demand and better data on ordering preferences.
It’s not just restaurants throwing good food away. In fact, households throw away nearly one-tenth of the food ordered due to leftovers that would end up being wasted.
Over-ordering is another challenge that restaurants can help address from their side, even if they can’t influence a customer’s behaviour once the food has left the restaurant.
Key food delivery metrics that restaurants should track
- Order Accuracy – Reducing mistakes is important in reducing food waste
- Percentage On-time Delivery – Delayed deliveries lead to cold, soggy food, customer complaints, and food in the trash
- Average Time Per Delivery – Also important in ensuring food arrives in the right condition
- Order Volume – Tracking order volume by category helps you make better predictions for purchasing and production
- Online Ratings – Keep track of customer satisfaction to avoid unwanted meals being thrown away
How can restaurants use food delivery insights to reduce food waste?
There are two areas in which restaurants can reduce food waste. First, using ordering insights to gauge demand, so they can control stock levels and not overproduce meals. Second, use ordering insights to optimise food menus and ordering systems to encourage customers to order the right amount of food.
Reducing waste at the source
The restaurant itself is the most important place restaurants want to reduce food waste. This means strictly controlling inventory, ordering, recipe management, and costing. So how can insights from your delivery performance help you tackle food waste?
Accurate inventory management
Managing inventory in a restaurant is notoriously tricky, with fresh, frozen, and dry ingredients all having different storage needs and expiration limits. Food waste can skyrocket if your stock is not properly managed before an order is made.
The key to ordering the right amount of stock for a given service is to accurately forecast the day’s demand. This is not easy, but restaurant owners can look at past performance at similar times to estimate how much stock they need to order and how much food they need to produce.
The good news is that when restaurants use online ordering and digital platforms for their delivery orders, they can get deep insights into the data. And as long as they have a streamlined tech system, where the ordering system, delivery partners, and other tech is all communicating in the same language, they can easily generate reports and forecasts to make predictions that are as accurate as possible.
Limit ordering mistakes
Imagine a busy Friday night at a modern restaurant. Orders come in thick and fast, from dine-in customers and multiple delivery tablets. The front-of-house staff is rushing around, taking drinks orders while also managing multiple tablets. You can see how an order can be missed or punched in wrongly.
The kitchen team makes the order, which could be for delivery or dine-in. It gets sent out and gets flagged as wrong or incomplete. That food has to be remade, the customer compensated, and food ends up in the trash. Not to mention the time and money wasted over the error.
One of the simplest ways to avoid food waste for restaurants is to make sure they don’t make unnecessary mistakes. Kitchens should use the ordering data to determine how many orders must be re-made, then optimise their system to limit these mistakes. Streamlining the ordering process can reduce errors to a bare minimum.
Run promos to shift stock
When restaurants are on top of their ordering data, they will know their peak times and slower periods. They can use this information to create promotions which encourage people to order outside peak times. This will help avoid mistakes at peak times and reduce waste through stock going out of date at slower times.
With real-time menu management tools, restaurants can even run promotions at the drop of a hat to shift items that need to be sold that day.
Reducing food waste at home
While reducing food waste in the restaurant has multiple business benefits, there’s also a huge problem with food waste at home.
There are measures restaurants can take to decrease the likelihood their food will end up in the trash. And while these won’t improve business directly, there is an argument that customers who order the right amount of food, receive accurate orders, and don’t end up throwing any away, are more likely to post positive reviews and become regulars. After all, no one wants to throw away good food.
Here’s how restaurants can use their delivery insights to reduce food waste in the home.
Control portion size
It’s difficult to calculate how much food customers throw away without running a survey. But restaurants can find out the average order size and frequency from their delivery data.
Keeping portions under control will help customers not over-order and reduce waste at home. It also benefits the business because food costs will be reduced when portions are controlled.
Clear menu descriptions
Restaurants can help their customers order the right amount of food by making portion sizes appropriate and making the size of each dish clear on the menu. Images and descriptions that show a customer what to expect from a dish will help them order the right amount of food.
Simple descriptions and serving guidance can help customers order the right amount of food. Again, delivery data can help restaurants determine the average order size and the trends. For example, do customers who order more food tend to order regularly? Or do the regulars order small orders more frequently?
Analysing trends like these can help restaurants tailor their menu to their customers while helping them order the appropriate amount of food for them.
Keep up with key metrics for future success
Food waste from food delivery is a huge problem. But as we have seen, there are many ways to tackle it, both in the restaurant and after the food has left the kitchen.
For restaurants, getting on top of their food delivery metrics can help them reduce food waste. It can also benefit your business in many other ways, from better inventory a