It’s no secret that consumers are becoming more eco-conscious. They want green products, sustainable manufacturing and ethically sourced products.
And restaurants can benefit from this push for sustainability. Many modern-day consumers are willing to pay more for ethically sourced, sustainably manufactured goods and services. And that means diners are often willing to pay more to eat at restaurants that practice environmentalism.
Implementing good, eco-conscious practices can help give you an edge over your local competition. It can also help you build a positive rapport with your local community, especially those who strive to reduce their impact in their own lives.
No matter what changes you make to your restaurant to make it more sustainable and environmentally friendly, be sure to let your local community know about them. Advertise on your website or social media. Tell your diners when they come to your restaurant. Word will spread, and it’ll bring more and more eco-conscious diners to your door.
But first, you have to make some changes. Here’s a step-by-step guide to running an ecologically conscious restaurant.
The first step is to reduce. There are a ton of usage numbers you can reduce, and each will reduce your overall footprint.
First, reduce your energy usage. One of the easiest ways to do this is to install energy efficient lighting. There’s a cost requirement upfront, but that can be offset in many places by government initiatives that incentivize businesses to install LEDs or other footprint-reducing lighting.
If you’re opening a new restaurant, try to choose a space that has large windows. This allows you to use natural light in lieu of electricity during the day. And opening the windows on warm days to let in a breeze can help you keep air conditioner use down.
If you happen to be renovating or making kitchen upgrades, go for Energy Star appliances. And perform routine maintenance on all appliances to make sure they’re in good shape and running efficiently. Energy Star also certifies roofing materials and window sealant, and using compliant products will help you regulate your indoor temperature through outdoor weather extremes.
You can also install a high-efficiency water heater in order to use less energy as you heat water for kitchen use. If possible, install energy efficient insulation, duct sealing and weatherstripping to cut down on heating and cooling consumption. And plan on keeping your indoor temperature moderate and using a programmable thermostat, so heating and cooling can be reduced during off hours.
Reduce water usage by using low-flow faucets and toilets and installing a water filtration system in house. Some restaurants even use rain barrels to catch water to reuse.
And reduce waste by carefully highlighting expirations dates, using digital inventory management tools, donating leftover food or ingredients and repurposing tonight’s leftovers and tomorrow night’s special. Additionally, join the wave of restaurants pledging to cut down on plastic straw pollution in oceans by joining The Last Plastic Straw — and encourage your customers to take the pledge, too.
The second step is to reuse as many resources as possible in your day-to-day operations. Consider using cloth tablecloths and napkins that can be washed and reused over and over. Purchase pre-owned kitchen appliances and furniture instead of buying brand new ones — you can even reupholster or refinish an old dining set to make it look brand new. And if you’re replacing any appliances or furniture in your restaurant, consider donating your old equipment for another kitchen to use.
Additionally, make sure you are carefully managing your inventory to ensure you’re using all of your products and ingredients before they spoil.
An inventory management program can really help with this, and periodic menu and inventory audits will ensure you’re making inventory changes to keep your supplies as efficient as possible. And find creative ways to reuse scraps and leftovers, like by starting a composting program to support a restaurant garden.
Maybe you saw step three coming: Recycle. Recycling has never been easier, and your restaurant can take full advantage of the ample opportunities that exist to cut down on your ecological footprint this way.
Start by purchasing 100 percent recycled products whenever possible, including kitchen and bar mats that are made out of 100 percent recycled materials. You can also make the switch to recycled paper towels and toilet paper if you aren’t using them already — just make sure they’re chlorine free and made from kraft paper.
Commit to recycling all your boxes and bottles, and sign up for a bottle return program if one is available in your area. If your restaurant serves fast food or fast-casual fare, add recycling stations to give your diners more options than just dumping their leftover tray contents into the trash. Given the option, many customers will choose to recycle, and they’ll appreciate that they can at your restaurant.
For takeout and delivery, use compostable, recyclable or biodegradable containers that are made from recycled kraft paper, bamboo, corn or banana leaves — yes, banana leaf boxes exist! And only include condiments and cutlery with takeout orders if the customer requests them. Since most takeout customers just eat the food at home, they probably already have utensils and don’t need a plastic set.
Step four? Clean up your cleaning practices. Cleaning supplies, sadly, tend to be harsh on the environment, often even containing non-biodegradable materials, and when used on an industrial scale, those products can have a hugely negative impact on the planet. But there are sustainable options out there if you look for them.
When sourcing your cleaning products, look for cleaners that are environmentally friendly and biodegradable, like all of the products that are green seal certified. And a quick pro-tip: The green seal covers way more than just cleaning supplies. You can also look there for paper products, takeout containers, paint, building supplies and more.
In addition to looking for the green seal on cleaning products, you can swap out harsh chemicals for natural cleaners like vinegar, borax and baking soda. Not sure where to start? Check out these chemical-free cleansers.
Keep food practices sustainable.
Ready for the final step? It’s one of the biggest trends in restaurants this year. It’s time to make sure your food practices are sustainable.
You can do this by buying local, in-season produce from nearby producers, or even growing your own in a restaurant garden, if space and time allow. Aim to buy organic ingredients whenever possible.
If you serve seafood, making sure you’re sustainable gets a little trickier, since seafood can’t be certified organic. Overfishing is a huge problem worldwide, so make use of a service like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, which can help you make sure you’re getting sustainable seafood from the right places.
While you're at it, rethink your supply chain.
Having a supply chain that’s bringing in food from far away isn’t great for the environment, either. While you’re working to make your restaurant as sustainable as possible, maybe it’s time to reexamine your supply chain as well.
notch makes it easy to secure local, sustainable ingredients, all while eliminating supply chain hassle and saving you money.
If you’re ready to switch up your supply game and strive for sustainability with every aspect of running your restaurant, we can help you do it. Request a demo today.