The goal of creating a sustainable restaurant goes beyond good corporate citizenship. In today’s world, sustainability is a necessary part of any long-term business strategy. Employees want to be part of something important and customers want to support organizations that serve a greater purpose. People are paying attention, and if given a choice between doing business with a company that’s sustainable or one that’s not, they’ll choose the sustainable option every time. With that in mind, here are five ideas on how to improve restaurant sustainability:
5 Easy Steps to Improved Restaurant Sustainability
Most restaurants have plenty of room for improvement when it comes to sustainability. The key is to identify areas of waste and inefficiency, and create a program that makes sense for your business.
- Reduce, reuse, recycle: Reduce paper and cardboard waste by having it picked up for recycling, and have properly labeled receptacles available. Source food responsibly to avoid waste and use equipment that maintains proper temperature to avoid spoiled food.
- Invest in the right equipment: Replace older equipment with Energy Star-qualified models to cut down on energy use. Scrapping systems help with pre-rinsing and handling of food waste. Pulpers turn food scraps into compost without sending wastewater into sewers. Compactors can also cut the footprint of kitchen waste by as much as 70%, minimizing the space that would be occupied in landfills. Automated, end-to-end oil management systems eliminate manual oil handling, use less oil, eliminate packaging, and recycle used cooking oil into biodiesel.
- Watch your water usage: There are a number of measures you can take to reduce your water use and the amount of energy it takes to heat water. Restaurants can use low-flow aerators in sinks or low-flow spray nozzles in dish rooms. Some Energy Star-qualified dishwashing systems can save up to three gallons of water per rack or capture hot-water vapor to heat the rinse water.
- Find the right partners who can help you: Some restaurants bring their compost to local farms; others partner with companies that can handle their recycling. There are many nonprofits willing to accept donated food. Forming partnerships with organizations in the community can be beneficial for all involved.
- Tell your story: You’ve put effort and resources into creating a sustainability program. Spread the word! This will give new customers a reason to try you out and existing customers another reason to come back. Increased sales allow you to reinvest back into more sustainability measures.
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How Much Does Sustainability Cost?
There’s a perception that sustainable, environmentally-friendly standard operating procedures (SOPs) are more expensive than the alternative, but that’s not necessarily true. Improper waste management practices can easily cost more — both environmentally and financially. From an environmental standpoint, trash takes more space in landfills, and restaurants have to pay additional trash-hauling fees when they are throwing away extra packaging, unused or spoiled food, or other items that could be recycled. When cooking oil or food waste is managed improperly, you can end up with slippery floors and an increase in workers’ compensation claims.
Some restaurants have a difficult time dedicating resources and employee time to effectively manage food waste or recycling programs. However, when such jobs are ignored, excess waste and poorly enforced SOPs result in an unsightly restaurant appearance, unwanted pests, and other health concerns – which has a substantial cost in terms of damage to your reputation and customer loyalty. Eco-friendly waste management SOPs are important not only for improving your bottom line but also for engaging employees who value corporate social responsibility.
Restaurant Sustainability Takes a Team Effort
Following SOPs improves back-of-house performance, so it’s important to have everyone on board and familiar with protocols, especially as new employees are hired. Don’t forget that proper training is necessary to clearly communicate SOPs. Repetition of policies and procedures is key. It also helps to conduct daily protocols for early detection of anything that could prompt maintenance. Include employees in sustainability initiatives and share goals and results. Creating a team environment can improve employee morale and increase participation.
If there is someone with a passion for a certain sustainability effort, let them spearhead it. Encouraging friendly competition can be fun and boost results. Offering rewards and other incentives as appreciation can encourage the work to get done. No matter how it’s done, implementing a waste management program that engages employees can help restaurants boost their bottom line, be a model of sustainability, and attract and retain a talented team.