Episode 156: Reducing Food Waste with Technology & Forecasting

Listen to this week’s NothingWasted! episode with Matt Wampler, founder & CEO of ClearCOGS. We spoke with Wampler about the power of data analytics in addressing food waste, his advice for fellow entrepreneurs and more.

Listen to this week’s NothingWasted! episode with Matt Wampler, founder & CEO of ClearCOGS. We spoke with Wampler about the power of data analytics in addressing 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 runouts. The company does this by combining POS data and proprietary machine learning models to predict “what's needed and when.”

Here is a glimpse into the discussion:

Waste360: How did you end up starting ClearCOGS?

Wampler: ClearCOGS helps restaurants reduce food waste. I started out actually in restaurants, taking over my first one when I was 22 and growing that. Ended up somehow falling into data analytics later on in life, and it just struck me, wow, what a disparity between what restaurants have in terms of technological tools, and what can be done. So we really got into restaurants, and how can we help them with technological tools. We found that food waste is a far bigger problem than we ever imagined. Machine learning, AI, Big Data, cloud, all that kind of stuff has made it a solvable problem now.                                                                                                

Waste360: I know ClearCOGS focuses 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 them and say they’re opposite things. We don’t look at it that way. In the restaurant world, being more efficient makes you more profitable; you’re wasting less food, and you’re more sustainable. So, how can we leverage data to make your restaurant more efficient?

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

Wampler: It’s all of the machine learning stuff that’s out there right now. We basically take in transaction data, every button you push on your POS system, and we’re looking at your recipes and breaking everything down into individual ingredients, then building proprietary machine learning models around those to forecast exactly what a restaurant is going to need 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 that this [problem] hasn’t been addressed. Every restaurant is different. They have different problems, different waste streams… And so it’s really hard to say. We see the stuff that has really short shelf lives, like a soft pretzel. Or, think of the big make lines where you go in and make your own burrito. At the end of the night, how much of that is getting thrown away, and how can that be managed?

Waste360: Are you able to quantify the amount of food waste you are helping to divert from landfills?

Wampler: In the restaurant world, nobody knows how much they are wasting. But, we focus on the very end of the supply chain—the over-prepped waste. And in that area, we can statistically reduce waste by up to like 85%. Now, that doesn’t ever really work out—with operations, and people, it’s chaos—but we see over 50%.

Listen to the full episode above.

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TAGS: Food Waste
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