With the pandemic still raging, restaurants are struggling to stay in business. One way restaurants can help stave off permanent closure is to make sure whatever money they have now is being spent properly and not going to waste. One way to do that is to measure the food being used in meals… and the food going to waste.
Phood is a company that uses a combination of scales, computer vision and artificial intelligence (AI) to help restaurants, cafeterias and other eateries better understand and optimize how their food inventory is being used.
There are three parts to the Phood system: a scale, a camera and a software backend. Food is placed on the scale either before going into a dish (to see how much is being used to make meals) or afterwards (to see how much waste is being generated). There’s a camera mounted above the scale that uses AI to automatically identify what each food item is.
Phood’s system also integrates with a restaurant’s existing POS and inventory management software to track how much of a particular item is being used and who supplied it. Based on that information, restaurants can then realign both production and ordering to reduce waste. So if a cafeteria or restaurant winds up with too many leftover mixed vegetables, that point is highlighted in a Phood dashboard so the manager can take appropriate action (make less or order more).
On its website, Phood claims that its solution can help reduce food waste by 42 percent. I spoke with Phood Founder, Luc Dang, by phone this week and he said Phood can provide a cost savings of 8 – 10 percent. In the thin margin world of restaurants, those savings can go a long way.
Phood, which began using computer vision and AI in its product last year and has raised $100,000 in seed funding, isn’t the only company fighting food waste in this manner. Winnow, which raised $12 million last year, uses a similar scale, computer vision and AI approach. LeanPath does much the same thing to help change behavior in the kitchen (e.g., less wasteful chopping of veggies or trimming of meat).
During these unpredictable times when the future of just about every eatery hangs in the balance, using a tool like Phood could not only help close down food waste, but also play its part in helping keep restaurants open.