With more consumers looking to embrace green practices, many restaurants are asking themselves how they can be sustainable. If you’re looking for ways to make your restaurant or kitchen more environmentally friendly, here are some easy and simple changes you can make. From menu creation to take out, these changes offer practical and proven ways to positively impact our planet.
A survey carried out on behalf of the Sustainable Restaurant Association revealed that over 80% of respondents said that sustainability had been a deciding factor when choosing where to eat. About three in four Millennials (74 percent) and Generation Z consumers (72 percent) are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services, according to The Nielsen Company. And another survey found that 83% of respondents expect hospitality brands to take part in sustainable practices. With Millennials and Gen Z becoming a larger part of the consumer dynamic, the expectation for brands and businesses to shift to more sustainable practices will continue to grow.
When it comes to sustainability in the restaurant and food service industry, there are a few things to focus on. Here are 10 easy changes you can make to minimize your impact on the planet.
1. Start Small
The saying “you have to learn to walk before you can run” applies to sustainability too! Consumers are looking to support restaurants that minimize their impact on the planet, specifically by addressing issues like sustainable farming, their carbon footprint, shortening their supply chain, food wastage, packaging, water and energy consumption, recycling, and more.
You can start having conversations with your suppliers and vendors about cutting back on some of the packaging they use when sending produce. Ask them what they are doing to be sustainable and start the conversation.
2. Upgrade to eco-friendly options when you need to replace equipment
As your equipment ages out and needs to be replaced, look to replace these items with eco-friendly alternatives. While a new piece of equipment might be more expensive, you’d be surprised at how much you can save in the long run on your energy bill! And make sure you look for EnergyStar ratings as well as rebates.
3. Embrace seasonal menus
One of the biggest sustainable changes you can make in your restaurant is to keep your menu seasonal. Sustainable food sourcing and offerings can lead to a much more refined, varied, and high-quality menu.
With seasonal menu offerings not only are you getting produce when it is in its prime, but you are also able to offer your customers changing menus that will get them excited. If you can’t embrace a fully seasonal menu, consider incorporating seasonal produce in daily specials, appetizers, and cocktails.
4. Go beyond the kitchen
Sustainability goes beyond the menu at your restaurant. Consider using motion-sensitive lighting to reduce power use, training staff to turn off water when not in use, and having menus or specials printed on recycled paper. You can also see if your POS system allows for digital receipts. If it does, you can ask customers if they’d prefer their receipt emailed rather than printed to cut back on paper use.
5. Tackle Take Out
Take out containers and single use plastic are a huge issue when talking about sustainability in foodservice. Look to replace foam clamshells with takeout containers that are locally recyclable. There are quite a few options for disposable packaging made from biodegradable or renewable resources like sugar cane, corn, bamboo, and palm leaf.
Another way to make your takeout eco-friendlier is to ask takeout meal guests if they need napkins, utensils, or condiments. An “ask first” policy with takeout orders will ensure that only those who need the items get them ensuring that nothing ends up in the landfill unnecessarily.
In a perfect world, we would all be recycling everything that could be diverted from the landfills. If you already recycle, make sure you have enough bins to actively recycle. If you’re going to implement recycling at your business, talk with your waste management team to see what can and can’t be recycled in your area. And make sure you properly train your staff on how and what to recycle.
7. Minimize Food Waste and Initiate Composting
Food waste is a huge issue both at home and across the food service industry. While no one wants to waste food which correlates to losses in revenue or avoidable expenses, there are a few things you can do to minimize your food waste. Left over ingredients can often be donated to organizations that help battle food insecurity. You can also use food scraps like vegetable trimmings from prep to add to stocks. If you really want to kick start your sustainability, consider composting any food waste. A quick google search and a phone call or two should help you find a local commercial composting option.
If you’re considering some of these changes, you’re already on your sustainability journey. And while it might seem daunting to make your restaurant or kitchen more environmentally friendly, keep in mind that changing your operation to be more sustainable doesn’t have to happen overnight – you can start small!