Running a modern and forward-thinking restaurant is more than sprinkling the menu with eclectic dishes and craft cocktails. Impressing critics and guests is no longer solely about offering a unique dining experience and impeccable decor. As our world becomes more environmentally conscious, sustainability is now a necessity in the restaurant business.
If you thought the phrases “farm to table” and “seasonal menu” were just a passing trend, you may be surprised to hear that they are here to stay. The recent movement in the restaurant industry has been a shift toward awareness and responsibility by being intentional about serving the freshest and most local foods and eliminating unnecessary waste.
There are some key practices restaurants can enforce to lower their carbon footprint. To guarantee success, it’s important any businesses working to become more sustainable create a cohesive plan with their entire team. To get started, keep reading for changes that can be made for a greener restaurant.
1. Source Locally
One of the biggest ways that restaurants can become more sustainable is to source food and drinks locally. While this may cost a little more money than ordering everything through a distributor, it is more ethical and will help build relationships with local businesses who, in turn, will promote the restaurant.
Some of the best foods to source locally are vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy. It’s also wise to source drinks locally. Team up with a local brewery, organic winery, or coffeehouse. Again, this will help build local relationships and it will also appeal to customers.
2. Cook What’s in Season
Here’s where the term “seasonal menu” comes in. Rather than having a fixed menu year-round, embrace a rotating menu with dishes with ingredients that are in season. Not only will this keep customers interested, it will be less expensive to source the ingredients and they are guaranteed to be fresher and pack more flavor.
To have a successful seasonal menu, it’s not necessary to change the entire menu every season. Offer some staple items along with a rotating menu so you appeal to those who enjoy a more predictable experience along with those who are always seeking to try something new.
3. Overhaul Your Decor/Appliances
Running a sustainable restaurant extends far beyond what food is being served and where it’s sourced from. It’s also important to use sustainable building materials and conserve energy wherever possible.
Here’s a few ideas: Print your menus on recycled paper, install electric hand dryers, opt for energy efficient light bulbs and invest in energy efficient appliances. While some of these changes may be costlier upfront, they will end up saving money down the road.
4. Reduce Food Waste
From food that’s past its expiration date to excessive ordering, restaurants are often guilty of creating unnecessary waste. To maintain a sustainable restaurant, it’s crucial to enforce a system that reduces the amount of food waste.
There are several ways to do this. Foremost, it’s important to compost all organic waste and consider hiring a local company to pick up your used cooking oil so that they can recycle it for biofuel. This can be donated to local farms or used in a restaurant garden. Keep track of everything in the kitchen by enforcing a detailed inventory and be sure to pay close attention to expiration dates. If the restaurant has a food surplus, donate before it goes bad.
5. Start a Garden
Along with sourcing ingredients from local producers, restaurants can take their sustainability one step further by maintaining their own garden. Growing fruits and vegetables is guaranteed to cut down on costs and appeal to customers.
Integrate fruit and vegetables from the garden into the seasonal menu created by the chefs. This will encourage a sense of pride in the cooking and guarantee fresh and delicious food.
6. Reduce Water Usage
Another area where a lot of restaurants are wasteful is with their water usage. To reduce the amount of water used, it’s important the entire staff participates. Make sure all taps are turned off when not in use. Only run dishwashers when they are full. In the customer bathrooms, install automatic taps and regulated flushing systems.
7. Non-Toxic Cleaning Products
Along with thoughtfully sourcing all food ingredients, reducing waste, and cutting electric and water usage, sustainable restaurants are intentional about using non-toxic cleaning products. Many cleaners contain harmful chemicals that are not only bad for the environment, they are bad for restaurant staff and customers.
Utilizing the above techniques will lead to a sustainable restaurant respected by staff and customers alike. By enforcing these practices, restaurants can feel proud of their impact on the environment, the food they serve, and the experience their customers will have each time they visit.