Across every industry, sustainable business practices are fast becoming non-negotiable, and hospitality is no exception. Bord Bia’s 2021 research into consumer dietary preferences found that 65% of consumers are making more of an effort to be more aware of the environment around them, while 57% are making more of an effort to reduce their carbon footprint. It’s now more important than ever for restaurants to be selective in their sourcing, responsible in how they operate and communicative about these efforts. Here are 10 straightforward practices you can implement in order to make your restaurant more sustainable and give your customers what they want.
1. Use food that's local and in season
Food that has travelled long distances to reach your kitchen has a much larger carbon footprint, with considerable amounts of energy needed to transport, store and often refrigerate it; furthermore, chemical pesticides and additional packaging may be needed to keep it fresh. Plus, the longer food spends in storage and transit, the higher the chance of it spoiling — more than half of all food waste occurs along the supply chain. All of this combined means that one of the best ways to make your restaurant more sustainable is to base your menu around local, seasonal food. Luckily, there are plenty of benefits to buying locally.
2. Grow your own, if possible
Nothing cuts down on food miles like growing your own produce. While your restaurant may not be privileged enough to have land, recent years have seen many creative forays into urban growing on every scale, from rooftop gardens to windowsill herb pots. Consider what may be possible within the space you have available. Alternatively, why not form a partnership with a local farm, asking them to dedicate a certain amount of land to growing for your restaurant? It’s a win-win situation: you can guarantee them a regular income, while in return you’ll have access to the freshest local produce.
3. Audit your supply chain
It’s not all about fresh produce, meat and fish. Examine your supply chain for every type of order you make, including non-perishables and non-food items from delph to takeaway containers, even cleaning supplies. Consider the distance your orders are travelling, as well as the sustainability efforts of your supplier companies themselves. It may well be possible to source similar products closer to home, or provided by companies who care as much about the environment as you do.
4. Create compelling plant-based options
Reducing consumption of meat and dairy is one of the most significant ways in which individuals can minimise their own personal carbon footprint, and demand for plant-based options is increasing every year in most Western countries. Meet this demand while also reducing your restaurant’s own environmental impact by offering numerous meat-free options on your menu. Ensure these dishes are more than an afterthought; whether vegan, vegetarian or flexitarian, today’s consumer expects plant-based dishes to be crafted with creativity and care. Gone are the days when a lacklustre goat’s cheese salad and some pasta in tomato sauce were thought to suffice.
5. Stop food waste
Food waste is the dirty secret of the hospitality industry. The United Nations Environment Programme's 2021 Food Waste Index reports an estimated 931 million tonnes of food going to waste every year, 26% of which comes from foodservice. Growing, producing and transporting food use huge amounts of water, fossil fuel and energy in themselves; when that food is wasted, so are these resources. Furthermore, the disposal of food waste to landfill is one of the biggest contributors of methane to our atmosphere. Be part of the solution, not the problem: audit your kitchen to find where most waste is happening, then put a plan in place for waste reduction.
6. Use every part
One step you can take to reduce food waste that will also encourage greater creativity from chefs is to adopt a ‘nose-to-tail’ attitude, meaning that you use every part of whatever ingredient you’re working with. While the term ‘nose-to-tail’ originates from the practice of using every part of an animal, this way of thinking can also apply to fish (fin-to-gill) and produce (root-to-shoot). Not only does this way of cooking help to reduce your environmental impact, but it’s cost efficient, too. Buying a whole chicken or salmon and breaking them down yourself is cheaper per kilo than those pre-cut options. Plus, with little or none going to waste, you’ll save money on disposal.
7. Invest in your appliances
New, energy-efficient appliances do cost more upfront than cheap, older or secondhand models. However, since they are more energy efficient, you’ll save money on your electricity bills, paying back this additional investment over time. New models are also easier to repair if they break down, meaning they won’t need to be replaced any time soon.
8. Reduce water and electricity use
Cutting down on water and energy consumption is an easy way to make your restaurant more sustainable. Invest in water-efficient devices and appliances, install timers on lights and train your staff to be considered and vigilant when it comes to using water and energy. Not only will you be reducing your carbon footprint, but your electricity bills will take a dive, too.
9. Ditch single-use plastics wherever possible
We all know plastic straws are passé, but check where else you might be able to wave goodbye to single-use plastic. Choose compostable takeaway containers, napkins, coffee cups and disposable cutlery. Don’t forget the packaging used in your orders, both food and non-food; look for suppliers who are equally dedicated to sustainable packaging.
10. Go paperless
Give serious consideration to every point in your business where paper is used. Is it really necessary? Even a small step, such as not printing receipts unless requested, can make a big difference. Consider switching to digital menus, especially if you’ve decided to focus on seasonal ingredients — you can save a lot of trees if you don’t need to print new menus every few weeks.
From comprehensive digital menu management and ordering systems to a revolutionary new carbon footprint management tool, Nutritics has a wide range of products designed to help you transition your food business to a more sustainable model. To find out more, get in touch today.