An initiative launched by Ikea to halve food waste across its 400 restaurants worldwide has already prevented more than 1.4 million kilos of food from being wasted, it can be revealed.
The huge saving has been made in just two years following a pledge by the Swedish furniture giant to cut waste in its food operations by 50% before the end of 2020.
Ikea serves 690 million people every year and claims its achievements so far are the equivalent of saving more than three million meals worth of food.
“These figures confirm what we have seen at Ikea – reducing food waste goes hand in hand with reducing costs,” said Michael La Cour, managing director at Ikea Food Services. “We view fighting food waste not only as an opportunity to create a better world, but also a great business opportunity.”
The company has adopted a smart scale solution that measures wasted food and its sources, enabling its workers to find clever ways of preventing food waste.
The system comprises a touchscreen connected to a floor scale that carries a waste bin to measure food waste. The data collected from its restaurants, bistros and Swedish Food Markets helps identify ways to prevent food being thrown away.
Mr La Cour said the real secret to significantly reducing food waste in its restaurants and kitchens has been setting short-term, actionable goals.
“It’s a strategy everyone can do, and if more food businesses take on the challenge, they can see similar results,” he insisted.
Back in March last year, Ikea said that the solution had been rolled out and implemented in 35% of its stores. It is not clear what percentage it is now up to, but Mr La Cour said that all stores which have introduced it have shown a significant decrease in food waste after “only a few months”.
Ikea’s progress on the food waste front comes as a new report claims that restaurants save $7 (£5) for every $1 (75p) they invest in initiatives to reduce food waste.
In a first-of-its kind analysis for the industry, ‘The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste: Restaurants’ report evaluated financial cost and benefit data for 114 restaurants across 12 countries, finding that nearly every site realised a positive return on its investment to reduce food waste.
Within just one year, the restaurants had reduced food waste from their kitchens by 26% on average, and over 75% had recouped their investment.
The types of investments restaurants made included measuring and monitoring the amount of food wasted, training staff on new food handling and storage procedures, and redesigning menus. Every site was able to keep their total investment below £15,000.
The return on investment comes from buying less food and thereby reducing purchase costs, increasing revenue from new menu items developed from leftovers or foods previously considered “scraps,” and lower waste management costs.
Globally, one-third of all food produced is never eaten, which has tremendous economic, social and environmental consequences. Food loss and waste is responsible for more than £700m in economic losses and 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions annually.
The report recommends restaurant owners and managers take a “target, measure, act” approach to reduce the amount of food wasted from their kitchens.