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Evolution of technology in product standardisation, quality check, procurement & delivery, waste management
Tuesday, 14 September, 2021, 14 : 00 PM [IST]
DRE Reddy
In the post pandemic era, cafeterias and food services providers are seeing a lot of digitalisation and automation in various areas. Technology has evolved as part of the new normal, playing a prominent role in digitising the process starting from food production to consumption while also enforcing social distancing norms. We see that the cafeterias are also evidencing a lot of digitalisation and automation, in the areas of payment and order processing through digital solutions.

The reason being that there is a wider requirement of bringing down contact points in food service delivery. The automation areas will be limited to a few production and dispensation points because essentially the key area of improvement in QHSE is around limiting the contact points between the cooking of the food and its consumption.

On the production front, we have adopted technology for various areas such as i) reducing the amount of contact that goes into food production, ii) on how we procure and manage our inventory, iii) on managing waste, iv) and how we work with ingredients that are fresh and locally sourced as far as possible.  Every food dispatched is weighed, and at the end of the meal also wastage is weighed at the sites to ensure food wastage is within the permissible limits. Wherever we have the facility, we have composting machines to convert food waste which can be used as manure for the green cover. Soon, we look forward to use AI enabled tech solutions to efficiently track, reduce, and eliminate our bin and pan waste.

Our client partners, especially those with in-house kitchens, are also equally supportive in exploring investments in backend automation, making their kitchen sustainable, automated and energy efficient with relevant infrastructure development to enhance their food at work programme. At central kitchens there is a need for more automation so that there is higher production efficiency and output and lower space utilization, so effective use of the right machinery and tools such as use of combi-ovens, automatic chapatti making machines, can enhance the productivity ratio and yield better results.

After production we could also see automation in the post consumption processes which are largely manual. We are going to see increased solutions for these process in those cafeterias which has large footfalls. This would involve automation in the movement of used plate, automation in the washing process and automation in the stacking, post washing.

So, if we were to break down the automation process into four distinct parts: first is Storage where we put raw material and there we see that there is limited opportunity, second is Production where there is significant opportunity both in terms of how we chop to how we mix, leaving of course how you actually cook, the third being how food is dispensed which is in terms of post-production where we can look at solutions for reduction contact points in dispensing food, and last but not the least is post consumption which is the removal of used trays and its washing.

Technology driven solutions are increasingly used to enhance the nutritive value of the food and to monitor calorific intake of employees. Digital platforms will help track consumption behaviours at an individual level and therefore provide granular data to organisations on food consumption trends at the workplace. This will help in recipe development for boosting immunity through natural means, as also enhancing the sensitivity of employees towards consuming healthy food. Another major change that we have brought in is to fine tune our menu and recipes to break monotony, kill food fatigue and in the process use this opportunity to deliver nutritious food with the motto of health first, taste next.

When it comes to the supply chain and quality, there is going to be an increasing need for traceability to ensure that food that is cooked is done so with ingredients that are safe. The products used are fresh and as per FSSAI standards, the food that is cooked and delivered hold the right temperature till the time it is cooked to the time it is consumed, the vehicles that are used to transport the cooked food are FSSAI compliant. We exceed the standards needed to meet what is prescribed by FSSAI and for our backend production which is already an ISO 22000 certified organisation.

(The author is CEO and managing partner at CRCL LLP)
 
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