On the up Rebecca Smith · 22 July 2015
Winnow: The tech startup helping hotels and restaurants tackle food waste
The issue of food waste has been an ongoing and systemic problem within the hospitality industry for many years, which is how Marc Zornes’ idea for Winnow came about. The business created a system which weighs food waste bins and records what is binned and why that is, in order to help hotels and restaurants order and prepare more effectively. Since being thought up by Zornes and co-founder Kevin Duffy in 2013, the startup’s technology is now used in over 100 kitchens and is targeting a runrate of 1m in revenues per year by the end of 2015. (1) Who are you and what’s your business? My name is Marc Zornes and I am the founder and CEO of Winnow Solutions. I started Winnow because I saw a massive opportunity in solving the problem of food waste. I started my career at a large wholesale grocers, and food and sustainability have been my passion ever since. Before Winnow I co-authored the Global Institute report called Resource Revolution: Meeting the World’s Energy, Materials, Food, and Water Needs, whilst working as a consultant at McKinsey.It was here that I discovered that there were very few companies working to solve the problem of food waste. The problem we address is huge every year the global industrialised hospitality sector wastes around 50bn worth of food. The modern commercial kitchen is an inefficient factory which is uneconomical and can waste as much as it generates in profit. Winnow gives chefs the information they need to optimise their operations and drive down food waste. Our first product, the Winnow system, is a smart meter which connects commercial kitchens to cloud software allowing us to record and analyse exactly what is put in the bin. This gives chefs the information necessary to drive improvements in their production processes to cut food waste in half, saving money and reducing their environmental footprint at the same time. ?(2) How long have you been around for? Just over two years. We launched in 2013 with a single Winnow system in a staff restaurant. Since then weve been deployed in over 150 kitchens and have saved our customers close to 2m in reduced annual food costs by reducing their food waste. (3) How do you make money? We operate a software as a service (SAAS) business model and our customers pay recurring license fee to access our cloud analytics and reporting platform. Investing in cutting waste is one of the most profitable areas for the hospitality sector and 95 per cent of our customers see payback within the first 12 months. On average, customers using the Winnow system see an increased food gross margin of between two to sixpercentage points, equivalent to around 40 per cent in pre-tax profits. (4) What makes you different and why should people take notice? Although we are a technology company, it is the chefs and their teams who act upon the information to drive down waste. Being able to easily measure usage rates across kitchens is critical to the product’s success. The Winnow system records everything thrown in the bin, and is unique in recording waste automatically as disposed. This gives users the visibility to measure the proportion of waste that has been allocated a value which is an important benchmark to ensure teams are actively using the product. By keeping teams actively involved we are able to cut food waste in half, on average, in the kitchens we work with. ?(5) What was key in terms of getting started? At the beginning we were keen to test out different hypotheses and understand where we added the most value for our customers. Being close to our first customers and users was critical, helping us gather valuable feedback about how to evolve the product in a time efficient and cost effective way. (6) What’s your biggest achievement to date? We are just about to reach 2m in annual savings delivered to our customers which will be a huge milestone for us. This is validation for our overall proposition showing the market that we have a replicable and scalable product which has application across the hospitality sector. In parallel, we are also proud of the environmental impact and reduction in CO2 emissions that we have prevented so far.
ABOUT THE EXPERTRebecca Smith
Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.