We heard of JA Resorts and Hotels when during Ramadan it announced the rollout of cutting-edge food wastage technology across 7 of its hotels, across Dubai and Maldives by the end of June 2019.
“During a pilot programme in the award-winning JA Beach Hotel, the hotel team have managed to reduce food waste by 81%, which is the equivalent of almost 35,000 meals in less than a year. This was achieved through a successful partnership with Winnow, a tech company which launched in the UAE in 2016, specializing in food waste management, using simple and intuitive tools like a digital scale and a connected tablet,” it said.
Impressed, AMEinfo had a conversation with Rob Cunningham, VP Food & Beverage JA Resorts and Hotels where it was revealed that while environmental concerns prompted the company’s green initiatives in the UAE, they also made financial sense.
Cutting Food waste
“It started with us identifying how much food costs here at our resorts in Dubai. We were introduced to Winnow technology by a friend who worked with OzHarvest, Winnow’s Australian counterpart, and the kitchen took the leadership of understanding food waste, starting with clearing the buffet, then weighing each item as it comes back, identifying it on the keypad, and these quantities are sent to the cloud system and a report comes back on what was wasted for that day and what is the total outcome on cost and portions,” explained Cunningham.
As the chef gets a regular report daily, weekly, and monthly, Winnow provides a quick response system.
“If I find that I have thrown away 40 kilos of food including perhaps eggs, hash browns, seafood and/or rice, then you can identify each of those products and the chef would know what items to push or create smaller quantities of at a regular basis. We are now able to think more responsibly,” added Cunningham.
Food waste awareness and backing
The initiative goes along a more aware, environmentally conscious consumer, and having the backing of the UAE focused on reducing food waste.
It is widely known that 1/3rd of all food produced ends up being wasted – the equivalent of 1.3 billion tons per year. JA Resorts & Hotels said that food waste costs the UAE an average of AED13bn ($3.54bn) per year and that restaurants are the main source of food waste in the UAE.
“The UAE has taken a leadership position in the global fight against food waste and the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) has committed to saving 3 Million meals yearly by 2020,” said JA Resorts.
Food tech investments and savings
Cunningham said the investment in Winnow totalled AED104,000 including the cost to implement and train staff.
“We have an annual savings of AED224,000 not to mention saved 35,000 meals a year,” begins Cunningham, adding “Any leftover waste will be added to a UAE system that turns food, cardboard and other landfill-bound items into compost for gardens or material that companies can take back to recycle into their systems and sell it as compost.”
This compost can be used internally such as in the JA The Resort Bio-Garden, where the team grow fruit, vegetables and herbs for farm-to-table use across any of its 23 restaurants.
JA Resorts & Hotels food wastage initiative comes hot on the heels of another pledge to drastically reduce plastic waste by September 2019, through the installation of new on-site water treatment, cleaning and glass bottling systems.
JA Resorts & Hotels engage its clientele using its menus as interactive green awareness information especially when it comes to water consumption.
“There is nothing wrong with Dubai’s water. We are however putting it through an additional filtration system and letting customers know we are removing plastic bottles, and replacing them with glass,” said Cunningham.
“The water filtration system is being ordered from Italy and will be installing one in JA Hatta Fort Hotel and one in JA Ocean View Hotel in JBR, allowing us to bottle water using glass containers to be used and reused again.”
Water investments and savings
Cunningham said over AED1 million (Around AED1.2 million or $327k) were invested on the bottling/filtration systems across the group, while glass bottles by themselves cost around AED400,000 ($109k).
“The (filtration) system has been tested and we are not charging for water, and the UAE is aware of our systems but since we don’t engage in selling and mass distribution, we don’t need special certification and monitoring,” explained Cunningham.
JA Resorts & Hotels are happy to share information about their efforts info with anyone or hospitality group interested in helping save food and reduce waste.
“We are ecologically conscious as a company and while it makes for good marketing, we felt immediate savings on food costs and in 3 years’ time, we will recoup our investments in water because we won’t be purchasing plastic bottles any longer,” said Cunningham.
“It’s a positive reflection on the ecology and our PNL. Win-win”