From restaurant advertising to consumer reviews, focusing on turning your establishment into one that impacts the environment less is more important than ever. Besides tech innovations, one of the industry’s biggest shifts in recent years has been toward green practices and sustainability.
Oftentimes and in general, people are confused about going green and sustainability. It is important to remember that sustainability is about specific issues. On the other hand, going green is about “…activities that provide a more efficient use of resources and minimize the harmful impact on the environment when compared to similar products…” as defined by World Atlas.
Why Going Green Matters
Of course, the biggest and most obvious reason for going green is that we need to take care of our planet. According to Michael Oshman, CEO and founder of the Green Restaurant Association, the restaurant industry is “the largest consumer of electricity in the retail sector…” and “…consumes one-third of all US energy used by the retail sector.” The Green Restaurant Association is a nonprofit organization that has helped thousands of restaurants become more environmentally conscientious. But there are also practical, everyday reasons to go green in the restaurant industry including cost-effectiveness.
Green practices, simply put, are cost-effective. “Restaurants … could save anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000-plus [dollars] a year,” Oshman says. Just as one example, “There are certain retrofits that you can put on your faucets that can save thousands of dollars. Between waste and water and energy, there is a great opportunity to save money.”
Why Going Green Matters
Enough time has passed that in cities and larger metropolitan areas being green is a norm. It is quite rare to find no green practices in place; at minimum, recycling of glass, paper, and cardboard. It would simply be strange to have no eco-friendly practices, and it would be greatly frowned upon by customers. In a 2018 National Restaurant Association survey, “about half of consumers say that a restaurant’s efforts to recycle, donate food or reduce food waste can be factors in where they choose to dine.”
Being environmentally friendly also improves morale among staff, especially with the younger generations. Pride in where you work leads to pride in what you do, and in turn that leads to excellent work practices.
Ways to Reduce Your Restaurant’s Ecological Footprints
Among the countless number of ways to be greener and reduce your restaurant’s environmental impact, try implementing one or more of the following:
The Basic of Going Green: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Recycling is typical everywhere, and more recently has become mandatory is some large metros. A successful recycling effort can drastically reduce your waste, but it needs to be constantly monitored and wholeheartedly supported. All that is needed for this is a recycling program through your local rubbish collector or a place to recycle items. Simply purchase several bins, mark them (if not already), and make every effort to fill them. Since most recycling programs are free, your restaurant will save money in cutting rubbish bills.
Use recycled-content paper products and commit to buying products in returnable, reusable, or recyclable containers. This should include hand towels, napkins, take-out containers, and single-use cutlery. Some restaurants are now only purchasing multiple-use cutlery made from sustainable and environmentally friendly sugar cane and other compostable components.
Additionally, consider implementing a point-of-sale system with the ability to text/email receipts and a digital kitchen display system. This not only cuts down on the amount of paper that is used in your operation but, as stated by Management of Village Cafe, “Our cooks are able to deliver correct items in record time. We have also seen revenue increase from nothing more than being able to charge for add-ons (modifiers).”
One of the many sustainability initiatives practiced by companies is the use of biodegradable cleaning products and unbleached recycled-paper paper products. The best news here is that some brands of products are 100% wind-energy dependent, and they divert about 80% of their waste through composting and recycling.
Secondary Considerations: Conserving Energy and Water
An analysis by the Department of Energy shows that restaurants are the most energy-intensive businesses in the commercial sector—meaning most energy per square foot. Picture a restaurant kitchen. With ovens, broilers, fryers, stovetops, grills, ice machines, beverage machines, walk-in refrigerators and dishwashers, you’d be hard-pressed to find another type of business with comparable energy needs. Instead of replacing every component of your restaurant, start with what you can afford.
Start with tracking your restaurant