The current restaurant scene is changing dramatically, with guests more conscious than ever before of where their food comes from. New research shows that about three in four Millennials and Generation Z consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and services. This increased awareness of socially conscious young people comes hand in hand with more responsibility for restaurants.
Sustainability for restaurants means operating in a way that protects, preserves or restores the natural environment, promotes social equity, enhances the lives of people and communities and contributes to overall economic success. Changing restaurant operations to be more sustainable is a process and an evolution, and your whole team must be committed to make it work.
Here are 10 things you can do to get started.
1.Cook what’s in seasonThe number one thing you can do make your restaurant more sustainable is to keep your menu seasonal. Many restaurants nowadays change the menu seasonally and rotate two new dishes every six weeks. This is done to accommodate ingredients with short growing seasons, such as asparagus.
2. Join forces with like-minded peopleMany restaurants now use family-oriented business to cater for their suppliers, using ethical methods of production. It is not unusual for restaurateurs to make regular visits to farms to understand ingredients better. Consumers now like to know the source of their meat and vegetables and being able to identify specific farms that grow your produce is very beneficial.
3. Grow your ownGrowing your own ingredients has huge benefits. As well as the obvious cost savings, it is also an opportunity for Chefs to learn more about the process of how these ingredients grow and should be tended to, as well as giving them a new appreciation of these items. This can also be used in a cycle, with any food waste being used to replenish current growth as compost.
4. Buy in bulk from local suppliersBuying locally in bulk is a cost- effective way to increase sustainability. Good chefs will find creative ways to use products, such as drying, freezing and preserving. Buying in bulk is more eco-friendly – less individual packaging means least waste overall.
7. Manage all your wasteFind every opportunity to reduce waste. Rather than general waste going into a landfill (which is the most expensive waste for restaurants), why don’t you try utilizing it elsewhere such as making compost? Recycle glass and cardboard and return packaging to your suppliers to be reused. Most suppliers nowadays have moved on from (or are in the process of moving from) un-environmentally friendly packaging, such as styrofoam boxes. If you don’t have to get rid of the packaging, you’ll reduce your carbon footprint and your recycling bill.
5. It’s more than just foodIt is important to remember that sustainability doesn’t stop with your menu. Energy-efficient equipment can be used to decrease costs of lighting and heating. Even simple things like your dishwasher can have a massive impact on energy sustainability levels and it is more beneficial in the long run to invest in something with a high energy rating. Training staff on simple things, like turning the tap off after use to reduce water wastage can even make a difference.
6. Start SmallA way to start the path to sustainability is to do simple tasks like printing menus of recycled paper or using reusable linen napkins. Research creative ways to reduce your waste (there are plenty of restaurants currently doing some fantastic things that you can get ideas from and embrace). Getting staff on board is an integral part of this, and make sure you create and share your ethos with them.
8. ResearchSustainable, ethical business operations require a significant amount of research when it comes to sourcing food, materials and equipment and dealing with waste — especially when you do it in a cost-effective manner. The best way to start this is by asking for as much information as possible about the products you buy and the producers who make them. Researching a few different waste companies before settling on one is also essential, as the one the local government recommends is not always the best option.
9. Train your staff to be passionate about the causeThe hardest challenge in the aim to becoming more sustainable is getting your staff onboard. Many chefs are stuck in their old habits, and it can prove difficult to try and change these ways. Be aware it is not something that will happen overnight, and for them to do so, they must really believe in the cause. Educate your staff to make it work – whether that is taking them out on excursions to learn about the products they are working with, or conducting weekly staff trainings, explaining the ingredients being used (with the idea that they will then repeat this to customers).
10. Remember to put customer satisfaction above everything elseWhile it’s important for your staff to be able to communicate your restaurant’s mission and vision, your priority as a restaurateur should always be delivering an exceptional guest experience. Offer enough information — through staff education, your website, and even menus — so that guests can ask for more details about sourcing and sustainability if they want them.
The sustainability journey is never over – there is no end point. The goal is to continually improve your practices over time and continue to reduce costs. Look at The Sustainable Restaurant Organisation’s website for more tips on how you can contribute to a better world for everyone - https://thesra.org/
Enrico Sorbello - Operations Manager
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