The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity




March 24, 2013

LeanPath provides automated food waste tracking systems to help foodservice directors reduce pre-consumer food waste, positively impacting the environment and the bottom line. They provide solutions to the hospitality, foodservice and restaurant industries. We talked to Janet Haugan, Marketing Manager for LeanPath, Inc., about the importance of setting measurable goals for food waste reduction.

What was the inspiration for creating Lean Path and how does it work?

The founders of LeanPath discovered that there was a significant void in the foodservice market when it came to technology and tools to reduce food waste. Food waste is a worldwide crisis and within the foodservice industry, LeanPath found that 4-10% of food purchases were being thrown out before they even reached a plate. This pre-consumer food waste (overproduction, spoiled and expired items, trimmings, etc.) seemed like a good first place to focus since it is within the operator’s control and can be prevented. So LeanPath founders invented the industry’s only fully automated food waste prevention system. It consists of a food waste tracking station (scale connected to a touch-screen terminal), a reporting dashboard and professional support services. Customers use the tracking station to weigh and record all pre-consumer food waste before it’s discarded and this information gets uploaded to a reporting dashboard where an executive chef or manager can evaluate what is being wasted and why. From there, we help them identify changes to production, purchasing, menus, and so on to drive down the food waste and run a more sustainable and profitable operation.

How have you been able to merge commerce with sustainable business practices?

There is often a belief that sustainability and profitability are mutually exclusive. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Sustainability is about being more efficient, and when you are more efficient you save money. Our clients reduce food waste to be more sustainable, while at the same time reducing their food costs, disposal costs, labor costs and energy costs. It’s a win-win.

Why target food service instead of consumers?

At its start, LeanPath evaluated where we thought our technology and tools would have the biggest impact, and that was foodservice. The amount of food generated in foodservice operations, and the potential to reduce that waste, is a huge opportunity. However, we have found that our methodology at its essence can also translate to consumers: if you track what foods you are wasting, you can reduce your waste. At home, you can do this by simply writing things down. Within foodservice, the challenges are much more complex, so there is a need for automated systems and technology.

What is the connection between measuring food waste and reducing it?

We have found that the conventional wisdom is definitely true: you manage what you measure. When chefs and managers have access to accurate, detailed information about which foods are being wasted, they can use that data to target where to focus. We suggest to our clients that they don’t try and tackle everything at once. Start with one high-waste item, get your entire team focused on it, and set a measurable goal for reduction. If you are focused and everyone knows what the goal is, chances are you will dramatically reduce it. The other aspect of measuring food waste that’s extremely important is that it increases employee awareness and engagement. Our system lets employees know the estimated value of the food that’s being discarded, which can be very eye-opening for staff members.

What's the future of the company? Where do you think you'll have the biggest impact?

LeanPath is very encouraged by the awakening that is occurring on a global basis around food waste issues. In the future, we see ourselves partnering with the many people that care about this issue to fulfill our mission, which is to “take a bite out of global food waste.” We will continue to focus on foodservice/food retail sectors and over time hope to do so on a global basis.