Episode 156: Reducing Food Waste with Technology and Forecasting

Listen to this week’s song Nothing wasted! episode of Matt Wampler, Founder and CEO of ClearCOGS. We spoke to Wampler about the power of data analytics in tackling food waste, his advice for fellow entrepreneurs and more.

ClearCOGS provides restaurants with “easy and accurate daily food prep forecasts” to help them save money by reducing food waste and avoiding shortages. The company does this by combining POS data and proprietary machine learning models to predict “what will be needed and when”.

Here’s a sampling of the discussion:

Waste360: How did you end up getting started with ClearCOGS?

Wampler: ClearCOGS helps restaurants reduce food waste. I actually started out in restaurants, took my first one when I was 22 and grew that. I ended up somehow getting into data analytics later in life, and it just struck me, wow, what a difference between what restaurants have in terms of technology tools and what can be done. So we really got into restaurants, and how can we help them with technology tools. We discovered that food waste is a much bigger problem than we ever imagined. Machine learning, AI, Big Data, cloud, all that sort of thing have now turned it into a solvable problem.

Waste360: I know ClearCOGS is focused on building a more sustainable and profitable ecosystem. Can you tell us more about what that means?

Wampler: Profitability and sustainability — I think most people look at it and say it’s the opposite. That’s not how we look at it. In the restaurant world, being more efficient makes you more profitable; you waste less food and you are more sustainable. So, how can we use data to make your restaurant more efficient?

Waste360: Can you tell us a bit about the technology behind ClearCOGS?

Wampler: It’s all the machine learning stuff out there right now. We basically record transaction data, every button you press on your POS system, and we look at your recipes and break everything down into individual ingredients, then build our own machine learning models to predict exactly what a restaurant needs in the future; we call it ‘making crystal balls’. We give those crystal balls to the restaurants and say, like, “What are the problems you have, and how can we use our crystal ball to solve them?”

Waste360: What is the place in a restaurant where the most food is wasted?

Wampler: I think that’s one of the reasons this [problem] has not been discussed. Every restaurant is different. They have different problems, different waste streams… And so it’s really hard to say. We see things that have a very short shelf life, such as a soft pretzel. Or think about the big making lines where you go in and make your own burrito. How much is thrown away at the end of the night and how can it be managed?

Waste360: Are you able to quantify the amount of food waste helping you get rid of the landfills?

Wampler: In the restaurant world, no one knows how much they waste. But we focus on the very end of the supply chain: the over-prepared waste. And in that area we can statistically reduce waste by up to 85%. Now, that never really works – with operations and people it’s chaos – but we’re seeing over 50%.

Listen to the full episode above


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