August 8, 2017

How Temperature Monitoring Enabled Starbucks to Reduce Food Waste

Written by SmartSense

In our previous post, we discussed the driving factors behind food waste within the restaurant industry, and we debunked the misconception that restaurants are exposed to liability risk if they donate their leftover food.

In this post, we take a look at FoodShare, a Food Donation Program implemented by Starbucks in 2016. This case study, which was recently presented at the 2017 Food Safety Summit, demonstrates how strong food safety programs with temperature monitoring enable food rescue programs and reduce food waste.

FoodShare: A Partnership of Starbucks and Feeding America

In 2016, Starbucks established a partnership with Feeding America, the largest not-for-profit organization in the U.S. devoted to hunger relief and food rescue. The mission of “FoodShare” is to rescue 100% of all food available for donation from all Starbucks locations in the U.S. That works out to about 50 million meals annually.

One of FoodShare’s major goals is to offer its blueprint to other companies to create a coalition of restaurants and food service chains helping to solve the problem of hunger and food insecurity. That blueprint includes a detailed food safety management system—including temperature monitoring during transport. 

The FoodShare Safety Management Plan







Since 2010, Starbucks has been donating its pastries that can no longer be sold to customers due to freshness. This food rescue program has been very successful, in large part because baked goods are not required to be refrigerated and are usually not perishable within 72 hours of delivery to food banks.

But Starbucks serves much more than just pastries. They offer perishable goods such as sandwiches, salads, fruit, and yogurt, which all require refrigeration. To reach their goal of 100% food rescue, Starbucks had to find a way to preserve the food’s freshness, texture, flavor, and most importantly, safety during transportation to the food bank.

Starbucks worked with the Food Donation Connection (FDC) to create an 8-step program ensuring minimum food safety requirements.

Step 1: Temperature Control and Handling in Receiving, Transport, and Distribution

Step 2: Probe Thermometer Accuracy and Temperature Logging

Step 3: Cleaning/Sanitizing Equipment Procedures and Chemical Storage

Step 4: Product Withdrawals, Recalls, and Traceability

Step 5: Food Safety Training

Step 6: Employee Hygiene and Handwashing

Step 7: Food Defense

Step 8: Agency and Food Safety Management System Audits

How Starbucks Donates Perishable Foods

As you can see, the first two steps in the FoodShare Safety Management Plan involve temperature control and monitoring: 1) when handling in receiving, transport, and distribution using refrigerated trucks, and 2) when using a probe to make sure accurate temperatures are maintained and logged.


Starbucks’ donation process begins with their baristas. The baristas pack up the ready-to-eat food that no longer meets their peak freshness standards and as a result can no longer be sold in the store. Using a digital temperature probe, Starbucks baristas confirm that perishables packaged for donation begin their journey at 41ºF/5ºC or below.

Feeding America receives the ready-to-eat surplus food from Starbucks and transports it in a temperature-controlled truck to the local food bank. It’s important that the temperature of the truck is monitored throughout the transportation of goods. Cooling systems can fail, and the food donations could be unintentionally exposed to undesirable temperatures. Without continuous monitoring and real-time alerts of the conditions of the truck, Feeding America might not know that the product was spoiled until it was too late. 

Upon arriving at the food bank, using a temperature probe again, Feeding America confirms that the perishable food delivered is received at or below 41ºF/5ºC. 

The plan requires that all rescued foods must be donated within 72 hours of being received at the food bank, chilled food displayed out of refrigeration for 2 hours cannot be re-refrigerated and, if not distributed, must be discarded. The food bank must also maintain product receiving and refrigeration storage logs as proof of quality assurance. This is something that could be digitally maintained using a continuous temperature monitoring system in conjunction with a digital checklist.


How Can Your Restaurant Make a Difference?

As you can see from the graphic above, the FoodShare plan can be adopted by any large-scale restaurant chain to divert perishable food items to food banks for donation. Having a secure food safety plan in place can allow your restaurant to donate nearly all of your unused foods. Starbucks is committed to helping other companies achieve the same success in helping feed the hungry. For a closer look at the program, check out this 5-minute video overview on the CBS website.

Subscribe to Our Blog!

Subscribe to our blog to get weekly email updates about quality and safety issues important to the restaurant and foodservice industry.

Topics: Food Safety

Subscribe to the SmartSense Blog

Stay up-to-date with the latest news in food and pharmacy safety, facilities monitoring, and supply chain visibility.