Franchises are looking for ways to save, and one many restaurants are finding is mitigating food waste. Mooyah Burgers Fries & Shakes’ VP of Operations Beth Stockmoe is making the reduction of food waste one of her priorities for 2023. And it starts with potatoes.
Stockmoe was senior director of operations for Mooyah before taking her new position in November 2022. In the restaurant industry for 20 years, she’s seen restaurants trying to mitigate costs in difficult economic climates.
“The prime focus is improving margins as a whole with food costs being a big piece of that,” said Stockmoe.
Typically, food waste can eat up to one percent of restaurant sales. In a million-dollar industry, that adds up. For Stockmoe, the focus is on fries. A key factor was a partnership with Sun-Glo of Idaho, a potato grower, instead of getting the potatoes delivered via third party.
“Cooking potatoes is an art,” said Stockmoe. “Depending on what farm you go to, what time of year it is when the potatoes are picked, there’s different cook times for them.”
The partnership means Mooyah knows exactly where and when the taters are picked, leading to fewer burned or undercooked fries. Not only is this a consistent product for the customer, but also locations won’t need to use trial and error when it comes to cooking fries.
Previously, feedback from franchisees was all they could use to know cook times. Now, they have it down to a science.
It’s not the only science they’re up to. Mooyah previously “used a cup and dumped fries into a bag." Stockmoe is now looking to utilize a new scoop, which she called a “boat," with a visual cue for the serving. This means there’s no overfilling on the employee’s part, and therefore not as much waste.
“We’re trying to think outside of the box and think about what we can do to make a big impact as quickly as possible to profitability,” said Stockmoe.
Looking at the numbers
According to FoodPrint’s March 2022 article, U.S. restaurants alone generate anywhere between 22 and 33 billion pounds of food waste per year. Additionally, schools, hospitals, and hotels contribute a further seven to 11 billion pounds per year, making the number at least 29 billion pounds.
Anywhere between four and 100 percent of that food is wasted before even reaching the consumer. Once it’s at the restaurant, there are multiple factors contributing to waste. Portion size, management, and large menus all contribute. The Cornell University Food and Brand Lab found that customers leave 17 percent of the food uneaten on average. That’s nearly a fifth of your plate to be thrown away.
Compounding the issue, not everyone brings home their leftovers. In the same study, Cornell found an average of 55 percent of consumers leave edible leftovers at the restaurant to throw away.
In response, restaurants are looking for ways to keep reducing food waste, and therefore costs. Restaurant 365 suggests 15 different methods, including analyzing theoretical and actual food use, giving spare food to staff, modifying the menu for “optimal food usage" and utilizing scraps to create new dishes.
Filta franchisees offer more solutions
Stockmoe of Mooyah isn’t alone in her focus. For over 20 years, Filta Environmental Kitchen Solutions has been helping restaurants and grocery stores manage their food waste in unexpected ways, including FiltaFry and FiltaCool. Their first was FiltaFry, and they’ve only expanded options for the food industry as they’ve found new solutions to a common problem.
FiltaFry filters particulate out of frying oil in order for it to be reused. As with many products, oil is not immune to inflation, so this can translate to savings over time.
“When we started, oil was $20 a box,” said Ethan Cohen, Filta franchise owner for the San Diego area. “Those boxes of oil are $50 these days.”
Starting back in 2011, Cohen has seen the industry change. Demand for the service has gone up, not just for the environment, but also as a marketing strategy and cost savings. The goal is to “at least double the life” of the oil, if not triple it or longer. On average, according to Cohen, fry oil can last about three days, so filtering it can double that lifespan.
Filta also cleans fryers, which can be a grueling and potentially dangerous job. Oil burns are no joke, so owners don’t just save on labor and food costs, but also on liability. They also provide reusable jugs for the oil.
On the other side is FiltaCool, which focuses on keeping food in commercial coolers fresher for longer. Adel Moradi, Filta franchise owner in the San Fransisco area, has been part of the journey since 2012, and has seen the effect FiltaCool has had more than once.
“There’s so many things that come from this little bag called FiltaCool that are not known for so many people,” Moradi said.
Essentially, FiltaCool is a bag with various minerals. Those absorb moisture and gas including ethylene in about 150 cubic feet. This prevents the ethylene from affecting other foods negatively in the cooler, and even prevents certain smells from permeating the space. The removal of moisture reduces rust and mold in the cooler.
FiltaCool also allows some products to last longer, allowing bulk-buying to lower costs.
“When we’re talking about the savings, it’s not just about rotten fruit,” Moradi said. “It’s saving in maintenance for the cooler. It is really hard to put a number on it."