Restaurant Sustainability Practices & Trends

/ Foodservice Tips, Restaurant Tips / May 20

Restaurant Sustainability Practices and Trends - Eco-Friendly

Making your restaurant more sustainable would be good for business. 72% of consumers consider a brand’s sustainability “very” or “somewhat” important, so being more eco-friendly will make your establishment more attractive in the eyes of potential customers.

If you want to go green, this list of restaurant sustainability practices and trends will help. Although making your restaurant more sustainable requires time and money, it’ll be worth it in the end.

Minimize Single-Use Items

Even though most restaurants use disposable utensils and napkins, some estimates suggest that 40 billion plastic utensils are thrown out in the United States every year. To cut down on waste, consider:


  • Cloth Napkins – Make sure to wash the napkins thoroughly so that they remain safe and sanitary.

  • Digital Menus – Printing menus can be costly, so it makes sense to go digital. You can either provide tablets or direct customers to your restaurant’s website to view the menu on their own devices.

  • Branded Cups and Mugs – Offering a slight discount if guests use their own cups for drinks like water or coffee is a great idea. Additionally, selling branded cups would be another way for your restaurant to increase profits.


More Biodegradable Options

Unfortunately, restaurants use styrofoam containers and plastic utensils that don’t break down. If you want to switch to biodegradable options, try:


  • Compostable utensils – Often made with cornstarch or potato starch, these bioplastics break down over time. Wooden or bamboo cutlery is available, too.

  • Eco-friendly takeout containers – Almost indistinguishable from the styrofoam version, these containers made of sugarcane fiber and recycled paper are microwave-safe.

  • Biodegradable straws – According to the World Wildlife Fund, about 90% of all seabirds and sea turtles have plastic in their stomachs. If this figure is alarming to you, switch to straws that can be broken down by microorganisms. 


Restaurant Sustainability Practices and Trends - Vegetarian and Vegan Menu Options

Serving more vegetarian and vegan menu options is a good way to reduce your restaurant’s environmental impact.


More Sustainable Menu

Your menu is the main reason why people come to your restaurant. So, sourcing and serving food in a more eco-friendly way makes sense. A few ways to make a big impact are:


  • Seasonal ingredients – Fresh berries at a Chicago restaurant in January traveled thousands of miles to get there. It takes a lot of fuel to transport out-of-season produce, so stick to what’s in season.

  • Local ingredients – Although a Chicago restaurant could use apples from Washington state, sourcing Michigan-grown apples is better. Not only does local produce have a smaller carbon footprint, it also tastes fresher.

  • Vegan and vegetarian options – Raising animals for meat consumption accounts for 60% of all greenhouse gasses that come from food production. That’s why offering more vegetarian or vegan restaurant menu options reduces your environmental impact.


Reduce Food Waste

Using food more efficiently lowers both your carbon footprint and food costs. They are many ways to reduce food waste at your restaurant, such as:


  • Smaller portions – If you notice that most people don’t clean their plate, you might consider serving slightly smaller portions. Not only will you waste less food, but you will also streamline food costs, too.

  • Composting scraps – Instead of sending peels, pits and cores to the landfill, why not turn them into compost? If your restaurant grows herbs or produce on-site, adding compost to the soil will make the plants strong and healthy without chemical fertilizers. 

  • Leftover specials – Instead of throwing away chicken and vegetables that didn’t sell, try making soup. Many people support sustainability, so you could hold a “no waste leftovers night” event at your restaurant to encourage loyal patrons to come back and spend money.


Restaurant Sustainability Practices and Trends - Energy-Efficient Light Bulbs

Installing energy-efficient light bulbs is a good way to reduce energy usage.


Reduce Utility Usage

Just like food waste, reducing utility usage will save both money and the environment. If you’re not sure where to start, good ideas include:


  • Energy-efficient light bulbs – Swapping out incandescent bulbs for Compact Fluorescent Lights can save about $30 over the life of the bulb. Likewise, switching to Light Emitting Diodes can reduce energy use by up to 90%.

  • Low-flow fixtures – Installing faucets, toilets, dishwashers and even urinals that use less water can lead to a dramatic reduction in the water bill.

  • Maintain appliances – Even though it’s easy to overlook, something simple like cleaning a refrigerator condenser can make it more efficient and reduce its energy needs.


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