Environmental awareness has been growing over the past few years, slowly becoming a common trait in modern consumers’ way of thinking. Retail has felt the impact: from solar-powered items to low-carbon, organic, green-packaged or recycled, eco-friendly products have been booming in the past few years. Not only: consumers have even shown willingness to spend more for products with lower environmental impact.
Although the trend has been a long time coming, many restaurants have not yet gone through transforming their practices to cater for environmentally conscious diners.
Fortunately, going green is not an all-or-nothing proposition. Even if you can’t afford to install solar panels on the roof or to re-floor your restaurant with chemical-free, recycled wood overnight, there are still many steps you can take to make your restaurant more sustainable – and more attractive to environmentally-inclined customers.
Here are our tips:
Revamp the menu
Is your menu attractive to green consumers, or does it need a revamp? Some small changes to your dishes may be enough to decrease the amount of waste and pollution you cause – and to attract more diners.
- Think origin. Why buy produce that travels many (perhaps thousands of) miles to reach you? Source your materials from local farms and producers: you won’t just have fresher ingredients – you will also be able to advertise your ingredients’ provenance on your menu.
- Focus on the extra attributes. If you buy organic vegetables, fair trade coffee, or meat from farms with high animal welfare standards – state it in your menu. If you don’t yet buy any ingredients with green credentials, this may be the time to look into it.
Cut the waste
Food waste is a big problem in the restaurant industry. According to a study by the Green Restaurant Association, a single restaurant can produce between 11 and 34 tons of food waste in one year. That’s a lot of money that ends up in the garbage can!
Here are some green ideas to cut the waste:
- Keep an eye on your inventory count daily to find correct par stock levels. By ordering the right quantities, you will be able to reduce excess inventory and food spoilage.
- Use the food root to stem. Why discard parts of your produce, such as leaves, when you can use them in novel ways? Think potato peel fries, or pesto made with carrot tops. Forbes believes that root-to-stem cooking will be one of the top food trends in the next few months – which means you will be both green and on trend.
- The best management systems enable restaurant managers to track what they throw away – food, but also plastics, boxes, etc. – so that they can not only calculate the green footprint of their operations, but also identify patterns of waste, and make changes. For example, a good system will let you see if your staff is frying more chicken wings than are sold on specific days – and enable you to take actions to rectify this.
Do you still have leftover food that will end up in the trash at the end of the day? Why not donate it to a food bank or other charity. You will help reduce your food waste – and hunger.
Focus on efficiency
Energy-efficient appliances can really help cut the monthly bill. Although not all categories of equipment will deliver a quick enough ROI to justify early replacement, this is an important factor to consider when opening a new location, or when it’s time to substitute end-of-life equipment.
- Are your refrigerators and freezers performing correctly? Just a few degrees off can mean a lot of wasted energy – and lower food quality, too. Conduct regular temperature checks, or invest in Bluetooth-connected thermometers that send an alert if temperatures get too high.
- Restaurants are very heavy users of electricity. Substitute traditional incandescent lightbulbs with LED lights: they are more energy-efficient and have a longer life span. Tiny Boxwoods, a café in Houston, Texas, implemented energy-efficient lighting after an energy audit had shown possible savings. The result? A 23 percent decrease in energy use, which translates into savings of almost $8,000 per year!
- According to data from the National Restaurant Association, quick-service restaurants consume between 2,000 and 5,700 liters of water a day. Full-service restaurants can use up to 19,000 liters! “Restaurants in general are some of the biggest users of water next to car washes and laundromats,” says Michael Topper, president of Aqua Audit, a water cost management firm in New York City. There are big potential savings in increasing water efficiency. Some simple and effective measures include training employees to save water, regularly checking for leaks, and ensuring that the water bill accurately reflects usage. By taking simple measures like these, Henderson’s Restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland, managed to cut water use by 33 percent – the estimated savings are €5,000 per year.
Personalized, unique items have been a strong trend for the past few years in multiple industries – and food service is no exception. House-made items such as jams, pickles, mayonnaise, dressings, snack mixes, etc. enable you to use “ugly” or leftover ingredients, at the same time producing one-of-a-kind flavors that strengthen your brand.
And if an item becomes popular with customers, why not make more to sell? A “Mama’s restaurant” jar of spicy chutney is a great way to stay top of mind with customers even when they are having a cosy meal at home.
Give up paper
All the paper your business wastes daily is not just polluting – it’s also costly. Here are some ideas to cut the waste:
- Write the daily specials on a blackboard, instead of printing them out every day.
- Offer to e-mail receipts. As a bonus, you’ll be able to collect your customers’ email addresses – valuable information which you can then use for your marketing.
- Choose a Point of Sale system that provides you with an instant overview of reservations. This will save you the need to print out a list for the host every time.
- If you need to use paper, make sure you select recycled and FSC-certified (sourced from responsibly managed forests) paper. Why not print your menus on recycled paper, too? It will show that you care, and give a special touch.
Don’t forget about the takeout
If you offer takeout, make sure that your packaging underlines your commitment to the environment. Scrap all polystyrene foam and plastic containers, which are non-biodegradable and will make you look like a dinosaur. Instead, go for biodegradable packaging and utensils (for example, why not give paper straws, instead of the super-polluting plastic ones?), and don’t overdo it with the paper napkins.
With two thirds of consumers being willing to pay more to dine at restaurants that follow green practices, being green is not just an ethical choice for restaurants – it is a business choice, too.
If you need help figuring out how the right management software solution can help you in the path to becoming greener, don’t hesitate to contact our experts.