Sustainability In Restaurants: How to Make your Restaurant More Sustainable

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5 min read

Aug 18, 2022

Sustainability In Restaurants: How to Make your Restaurant More Sustainable

Sustainability in restaurants is a hot topic – literally. With temperatures rising and food systems contributing 34% of global greenhouse gas emissions, there’s no time like the present to make a positive impact on the environment by making changes in your restaurant.

Running a more sustainable restaurant doesn’t mean you have to completely overhaul how you do things. Small changes can scale and make a world of difference when it comes to the climate crisis. Start by implementing just one of the restaurant sustainability practices below. Over time, you can introduce other measures and watch your impact grow.

Below are ten easy-to-implement restaurant sustainability strategies.

1. Reduce Food Waste

The agriculture industry is one of the leading contributors to the climate crisis. By using less food inventory at your restaurant, you can reduce your contribution to emissions. We’re not suggesting paring down your menu. 

Instead, you can purchase less food overall by using all of your inventory instead of letting some of it go to waste. Poor inventory management is often to blame for food waste. When you don’t know what you already have, it’s easy to overbuy ingredients. Inventory management software helps you know what you have in stock so that you only reorder what you need.

In addition to being good for the environment, reducing food waste can lower your inventory costs.

2. Use Less Water

With parts of the world experiencing unprecedented droughts and fires, it’s more important now than ever to conserve water. Make your restaurant more sustainable by using less water. 

The easiest way to use less water is to turn off the taps when you’re not using them in the kitchen. There are plenty of appliances that make this easy, such as touch faucets or motion-activated faucets.

Your cooks aren’t the only ones using water, though. Reduce customer water use by installing low-flow faucets and low-flush toilets in guest bathrooms. 

Round out your water conservation efforts by having a plumber evaluate your pipes to make sure there are no leaks.

3. Implement Energy-Efficient Appliances

Energy production is the second-greatest contributor to United States greenhouse gas emissions after the transportation industry, according to the EPA. By investing in energy-efficient commercial appliances, like those from ENERGY STAR, your restaurant can use less energy and reduce emissions.

Not only does switching to low-energy appliances help the environment, but it also cuts down your utility bill. According to ENERGY STAR, outfitting your kitchen with their appliances can save your restaurant up to $5,300 on bills annually.

4. Turn Off the Lights

Turning off lights when you’re not using them can also reduce your energy consumption, making your restaurant more sustainable and helping you save on utilities. Put up signs to remind staff to turn the lights off in rooms that aren’t constantly in use, like a storage closet or back office. You can also consider installing motion-sensor-activated light switches in these areas and in bathrooms.

While it may be tempting to keep your lights on overnight to draw attention to your restaurant, doing so will run up your bills and compound your carbon footprint. Keep your lights off overnight, and instead, consider just keeping on an illuminated sign to advertise your restaurant to passersby.

5. Use a Smart Thermostat

Keep temperatures comfortable for guests and staff while conserving resources with a smart thermostat that learns your habits and optimizes temperatures for efficiency. Most commercial smart thermostats can be controlled remotely by app, letting you adjust temperatures on-the-go if you forget to update settings before you leave the restaurant.

6. Use Sustainable Takeout Packaging

Swap out difficult-to-recycle styrofoam takeout containers for packaging made of more sustainable materials, such as those that can be recycled or composted, or are made of post-consumer materials. Here’s an overview of more sustainable alternatives to styrofoam takeout packaging:

Plastic: Look for plastic containers that can be recycled and are made of post-consumer materials to reduce your impact on the planet. Plastics with resin codes 1, 2, and 5 are widely recycled, so opt for containers with these labels.
Aluminum: Aluminum is recyclable in most areas, making it a good option for takeout containers.
Paper: Unsoiled paper and cardboard is widely recycled and can be composted if it’s not lined with plastic.
Compostable takeout packaging: When disposed of properly, compostable packaging stays out of landfills and reduces carbon emissions.
Post-consumer packaging: When possible, look for packaging that’s made of recycled materials.

Boost your impact by including a simple guide to recycling, composting, or properly disposing of your restaurant’s packaging in every takeout bag. For example, you could note that plastics and metals need to be rinsed before recycling, and that paper typically can’t be recycled if it’s soiled. 

An even better solution is to send customers home with reusable takeout containers. Have regulars opt in and pay a deposit that they’ll get back when they bring the containers back. Need inspiration? Check out how Philly-based Indian chain Tiffin runs its Return2Tiffin program.

7. Compost

Keep landfills from growing and turn trash into treasure – or food waste into natural fertilizers – by composting. Place a compost bin outside of your restaurant, or partner with a local food scrap collection organization for your composting efforts. 

Composting isn’t just something your employees should be doing. If you run a quick-service restaurant, offer compostable packing and place compost bins next to trash cans and recycling bins. Encourage customers to throw out their food scraps in the compost bins.

Make sure your staff and customers are familiar with what can and can’t be composted. For example, produce, coffee grounds, and tea bags are safe for composting, while meat and dairy products are not.

8. Make Deliveries More Sustainable

The COVID-19 pandemic has made delivery an essential revenue stream for the restaurant industry. However, emissions from delivery vehicles negatively impact the environment. Reduce your carbon footprint while making deliveries by opting for eco-friendly modes of transportation, like bicycles, scooters, or electric vehicles.

You should also optimize routes to prioritize deliveries based on proximity to each other, rather than the order in which you received orders, so that your drivers travel shorter distances and use less gas.

9. Source Ingredients Locally

We are living in an increasingly connected world. Fast shipping and easy trade make it more affordable for us to import blueberries from South America than to buy them from a local farm. However, when we choose lower prices and year-round produce availability, our planet is paying the price. 

When possible, use foods grown locally that produce as few emissions as possible to reach your restaurant. Not sure where to start? Prioritize buying seasonal ingredients locally.

10. Focus Less on Meat

Did you know that 60% of emissions generated by the agriculture industry come from meat production? Reduce your impact by prioritizing plant-based menu items. Offer vegan menu options and consider participating in movements like Meatless Monday.

If cutting out meat entirely is impossible, be selective with the types you offer. If you can remove even just one type of meat, make it beef. Beef produces about 3.5 times more emissions than the second-worst meat for the environment: pork.

Make an Impact with Restaurant Sustainability Practices

As part of the food system, the restaurant industry contributes emissions to the climate crisis. However, there’s so much that the restaurant industry can do to be more sustainable. By using tools that reduce energy use, making deliveries more sustainable, using ingredients that create fewer emissions, and turning food waste into compost, restaurants can make a positive difference. Be part of the movement to make the restaurant industry more sustainable.

SevenRooms can help you run your sustainable restaurant more efficiently. Watch a demo today.

FAQs about Sustainability in Restaurants

1. What Is Restaurant Sustainability?

Restaurant sustainability refers to food service businesses minimizing their impact on the planet. Restaurants can become more sustainable by using tools that reduce energy use, making deliveries more sustainable, using ingredients that create fewer emissions, and turning food waste into compost, and more.

2. Why Is it Important for Restaurants to Be Sustainable?

Sustainability for restaurants means operating in ways that protect (which includes preserving or restoring) the natural environment, promote social equity, enhance the lives of people and communities, and contribute to economic prosperity for shareholders and stakeholders.

3. How Do Restaurants Measure Sustainability?

Restaurants measure sustainability by monitoring water usage, energy usage, food waste, and non-food waste. Reducing all of these will help a restaurant be more sustainable. Sourcing foods locally and serving plant-based dishes can also contribute to a restaurant’s sustainability. 

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