Sustainability is an increasingly important topic. Scientists are warning about the dangers of irresponsible business practices and careless human activities, and consumers are becoming increasingly conscientious of the decisions they make. In line with this, more than 80 percent of top companies now publish annual sustainability reports, proving their commitment to sustainable practices.
As a restaurant owner (or prospective restauranteur), you should understand that making your business sustainable is hugely advantageous. Not only will you have a better impact on the environment and your local economy, but you’ll also look better in the eyes of patrons – meaning you’ll see more business and have a competitive advantage.
The question is, how can your restaurant become more sustainable?
What Is Sustainability?
First, we need to answer a big question: what is sustainability? Sustainability can be defined in a few different ways, but in business, sustainability is the ability to pursue a given practice indefinitely, without worry of long-term negative consequences. It often means relying on renewable resources, minimizing waste, improving consumption habits, and benefitting the local environment and economy.
Let’s take a look at the actionable steps a restaurant can take to become more sustainable.
Product and Ingredient Sustainability
One of your best options is to focus on product and ingredient sustainability. If you’re buying ingredients that are sustainable in every dimension, you’ll be halfway to a sustainable restaurant overall. The easiest way to accomplish this is to work with a sustainable partner; Griffith Foods, for example, is an innovator in the food ingredient sustainability space. You can work with them to secure sustainable ingredients, audit your practices, and eventually build out an entirely sustainable menu.
In addition, you can work to:
- Cook what’s in season. Focus on ingredients that are in season. These days, it’s easy to get almost any kind of food from around the world, so you don’t have to worry about what’s in season and what isn’t. But getting foods from distant areas will increase fuel costs and waste. Instead, focus on local shopping and seasonal ingredients; consider rotating your menu seasonally if you have to.
- Grow your own food. It’s also a good idea to grow your own food onsite. This way, you can verify that your crops are being grown in a perfectly sustainable way, and you’ll know exactly what went into them. Plus, you’ll have a convenient and inexpensive supply of ingredients – and you’ll get to market your foods as “home grown.”
- Buy locally. If you can’t grow your own food, at least consider buying locally. See if there’s a local farmer’s market you can visit for some home-grown foods.
- Buy in bulk. Buy food ingredients in bulk when you can. It will save you money, save you some traveling, and provide you with ingredients you can use indefinitely.
Energy and Waste Sustainability
It’s also important for your restaurant to focus on energy and waste sustainability. Minimizing wasted food and wasted energy will reduce your consumption habits, putting less of a burden on the environment.
Here are some ways to do it:
- Track your food waste. Everything starts with awareness. It’s important to have some kind of tracking system in place, allowing you to keep tabs on the food you’re wasting. Once you’re aware of how, when, and why you’re wasting food, you can impose new practices and policies to reduce that waste.
- Buy energy efficient appliances. Purchasing energy efficient appliances will require an upfront investment, but they’ll pay for themselves in the long run. Investing in smart ovens, refrigerators, freezers, air conditioning, and other systems will reduce the amount of energy you need to operate the restaurant.
- Watch your on/off hours. All your appliances and lights should be turned off promptly at the end of each shift. There’s no reason to continue consuming energy when you don’t need to.
- Hire passionate employees (and encourage them). Finally, consider hiring employees who are passionate about sustainability – and/or training your current employees to take sustainability more seriously. When all your employees are working as hard as you are to keep your practices sustainable, you’ll be able to improve your efforts considerably.
It’s also important to think about human sustainability in the way you hire and employ people. Make sure you pay fair wages, provide employees with reasonable working conditions, and afford them time off so they can rest, relax, and recover. They’ll be much happier and much more productive this way.
Your restaurant doesn’t have to completely transform into a perfectly sustainable organization overnight. In fact, even the smallest changes can have a positive impact. Focus on making improvements one at a time, taking baby steps to upgrade your restaurant. The more consistently you follow these practices and recommendations, the easier it’s going to get.