Non-commercial foodservice operators spend lots of time anticipating and analyzing food and dining trends. They consider whether the “next best thing” has a place in their operation and if so, where and how does it best fit?
Many trends find their way to operations in all segments of noncommercial foodservice—especially colleges. Food trucks, small plates, sustainability, freshness and local cuisine have all changed the landscape for the better. But each has had a measurable effect on the back of house.
As the industry continues to evolve, and new trends replace old trends, it’s critical to not only consider the impact on back of house efficiencies, but also to plan for and leverage strategies and equipment in ways that will reduce waste and improve operations.
Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta offers a perfect example of an operation that leverages waste management initiatives for a front of house impact. As an almost $30 million operation run by Sodexo, serving nearly 4,600 students on a meal plan, the school provides a distinctive culinary experience concentrating on fresh, local, and sustainable dining.
“The three pillars of our culinary program each incorporate a distinct, important piece of our value proposition,” says Staci Flores, Resident District Manager, who works directly with campus partners to ensure standards and expectations are not only met but often exceeded. “Our food is fresh, from the salsa, pico de gallo, guacamole, and salad dressings across campus, to our newly established fresh pastry and dessert program inspired by our Campus Pastry Chef. Our ingredients are local, from the hydroponic Bibb lettuce sourced from the Georgia Tech Dining Services greenhouse at R&G Farm in Dublin, Ga. to the grass-fed Angus Beef burgers that we serve from Cox Family Farms from Florence, Ala. And our program is sustainable, from our locally sourced produce to our responsibly sourced cage-free eggs.”
There are three all you care to eat community restaurants, one training table geared toward athletes and 19 retail locations throughout campus. Georgia Tech Dining Services is also responsible for the athletic suites and concessions at Georgia Tech.
“We are constantly trying to be better stewards of resources,” says Flores. “We strive to send less product to landfills and instead repurpose and reuse whenever and wherever we can.”
Here are seven of the schools most important waste initiatives:
- Repurpose Edible Food. If there is food waste and it meets certain requirements, the school is able to donate it via two food donation programs: The Campus Kitchen at Georgia Tech and The Klemis Kitchen. The Campus Kitchen at Georgia Tech is a student-run organization that takes excess food provided by Georgia Tech Dining Services and donates it to local partners including the Atlanta Community Food Bank and With These Hands. The Klemis Kitchen is a separate wing of the Campus Kitchen at Georgia Tech aimed at ending hunger for food insecure students at the institute. Named for Tommy Klemis, the renowned owner of Junior's Grill, the Klemis Kitchen provides access to free meals donated by Georgia Tech Dining Services for those in need.
- Install a Biodigester. Food that cannot be reclaimed for consumption is run through a biodigester where it is converted into waste water that can be reclaimed into usable water at a treatment facility.
- Label Everything. “Labels specifically identify products,” says Flores. “They inform us of the production date and list a specific use-by date for each item ensuring that we utilize all products prior to the use-by date.”
In particular, many operators find that automating the food rotation labeling process produces additional benefits. Whereas sometimes illegible and confusing handwritten labels can be counterproductive and lead to increased waste and cost, the use of food labeling terminals creates an environment where accuracy and efficiency are front and center.
But not all labelers are created equal. Some are far more capable than others. The DayMark PRO label terminal, for example, offers multimedia capabilities that can enhance training opportunities, recipe viewing, and plate presentation.
“One key benefit that customers share is that they are using the DayMark PRO label terminal to replace printed materials and documents,” says Bill Curtis, Vice President of Sales for DayMark North America, adding that this not only helps to reduce food waste but also paper waste. “It’s leveraged for recipe card management and training videos, as it can reduce the cost of managing those things.”
- Recycle: All cans and cardboard are collected for recycling.
- Leverage Reusable dishware: By using reusable dishware, the school has reduced the amount of items being placed in dumpsters.
- Look to Green Cleaning Products: By switching to chemicals that are safer for the environment, the school uses less water and reduces landfill product through packaging.
- Remove Service Trays from Community Restaurants. By doing this the school removed the need for washing with energy, water, and chemical consumption.
The impact of these initiatives is shared with the campus population so that everyone can see the big picture and help contribute to the school’s efforts going forward.
“Weigh the Waste” events are held twice a semester at each of the schools’ Community Restaurants. During the event, all of the uneaten food from guests’ plates is weighed and the findings are consolidated and reported back to the community. The events are tied into an awareness campaign that informs guests about food waste and its impact to the environment and community.
The hope is that by holding frequent campaigns in which results are compared waste will decline.
“Protecting and restoring the environment is one of four priorities in Sodexo’s Better Tomorrow global strategy for a better future,” says Flores. “Georgia Tech Dining Services shows its commitment to the Better Tomorrow strategy by determining methods to improve solid waste disposal and sustainability efforts. As a modern and responsive company, we have an obligation to provide services that protect the environment and prepare it for a healthy future.”