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Sustainable Restaurants: The How and Why of Running a More Eco-Friendly Business

Sustainable Restaurants: The How and Why of Running a More Eco-Friendly Business

Sustainable practices aren’t just a trend, they’re a movement that’s transforming the hospitality industry. Consumers are speaking with their wallets and supporting businesses that use locally-sourced ingredients and other sustainable practices to minimize their environmental footprint. In fact, 88% of consumers are more loyal to a business with sustainable practices.

An overwhelming majority of consumers are ready for and actively supporting restaurants that prioritize sustainability. Recent studies found that:

  • 84% of consumers said sustainability and ethics was a determining factor in where they chose to dine.
  • Around two-thirds of diners would actually pay more for businesses that demonstrate environmentally friendly practices.

This an act of commodity activism, which the International Journal of Communication defines as when consumers act politically through their purchasing decisions. And by actively supporting restaurants with sustainable practices, consumers are committing a political actone that says the time for change is now.

The hospitality industry has a problem

Did you know commercial kitchens often use a whopping 10 times the energy of a commercial building?

In the UK alone, 20 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is produced as a result of food waste. That’s equivalent to taking 7,220,2167 flights from London to Sydney. Yeah, restaurants carry a massive carbon footprint.

The effect this has on the environment is unsettling. Sustainability is of such importance that the UK parliament declared a climate emergency as a result of protests across the country.

From food miles to the emission-heavy livestock industry, collectively tackling restaurant sustainability is vital to meeting the United Nations’ target of limiting temperature changes resulting from global warming by 1.5 degrees Celsius.  

Becoming sustainable is no longer an option, but a necessitynot only to align with the values of consumers but to stay competitive in an industry that’s under increasing scrutiny.

This blog post list some of the ways that you can start running a more sustainable restaurant, and join the collective effort to forge a better future.

Look to local suppliers

According to a 2020 survey by Paymentsense, 36% of British diners see sourcing locally as a key consideration when choosing where to eat out.

Locally sourced ingredients create stronger connections between your restaurants and the local economy. It also reduced CO2 emissions that comes from transporting food from far-flung destinations.

Wherever you’ve set up shop, seek sustainable supply options in the local area. A fully traceable food supply chain gives ethical consumers peace of mind that the food they’re eating isn’t exploitative or damaging to the environment.  

Proximity to your supply chain allows you to tell stories behind your ingredients, and forge personal connections between your diners and your dishes. Moreover, sourcing from local suppliers can also contribute to higher restaurant profit margins.

A 2013 study found a correlation between the distance food has travelled and consumer’s willingness to pay. It’s clear that consumers have preference for locally sourced food, perceiving it as fresher and higher in quality.

And they’re right: food harvested within a 100 mile radius of the restaurant it’s eaten is more likely to be fresher and more nutritious than food transported from halfway around the world.

Whereas globally sourced food is picked with shelf-life in mind, and not nutrition, locally sourced ingredients are given time to fully ripen, so they often taste better and are more nutritious.This is just one of the ways a more sustainable restaurant is actually more profitable.

Cut down on food waste

Food waste is a pressing environmental and social issue that extends far beyond the hospitality industry. Almost 50% of all food produced for human consumption is wasted somewhere along the supply chain.

Wasted food comprises around 25% of all water used in agriculture, contributes to 8% of greenhouse gas emission globally and requires a land area equivalent to that of China. So pressing is this issue that the UN has set out a plan to half food waste per capita by 2030.

Such an ambitious goal will take efforts from all sectors to achieve—hospitality included. UK restaurants produce 500,000 tonnes of waste, costing them up to £683 million, each year.

Cutting down on food waste is not only good for the planet, it makes good business sense. A 2019 Study followed 114 restaurants, across 12 countries, from small establishments to multi- location franchises, who were investing in waste management solutions.

Each restaurant was found to make an average saving on $7 per $1 spent on better food waste management. The restaurants in the study were able to reduce food waste by 26% on average, 78% were able to cover their initial costs in food waste management solutions.

How to reduce food waste through inventory management.

One way to reduce both food waste and business costs is through proper restaurant stock control.

Track ingredient loss each service

Keeping track of every spill and mistake may be a little extra work, but it’s important to get your staff into the habit of recording them, whether it’s a spillage or a miscommunicated order.

Without a certain degree of diligence, you won’t have an accurate picture of where your inventory is going, and you can’t make informed efforts to protect your profit margins and reduce food wastage as much as possible.

Use stock control software

Technology can facilitate accurate stock control and minimise avoidable errors. A good restaurant ePOS system will often have built-in stock control features that help restaurateurs accurately order, count, manage and sell your inventory.

Having a system that monitors which ingredient goes in which dishes (and how many of those dishes you sell) helps you accurately gauge how much stock you need to buy to fulfill demand without wasting leftover ingredients.

Portion control

34% of restaurant food waste can be traced back to food left on customers plates. Practicing portion control can reduce food waste, keep food costs down and even increase profits. Using standardised recipes for dishes that can be cooked in bulk takes a lot of the guesswork out of portioning.

By using the same recipe each time, you can get an idea of exactly how much of each ingredient you need for a particular dish, as well as how many people it will need to feed in order to turn a profit.

Keeping up a system of portion control will help you maximise the value of your stock. Plus, customers appreciate a sense of continuity in their dishes, so good portion control can actually make customers happier and drive higher retention and repeat business.

Reinvent your business for short and long-term success

Hospitality owners and operators face a whole new set of challenges. Download our free playbook and learn how to build a more resilient business post-pandemic.

Join Carbon Free Dining

By encouraging consumers to opt in and contribute to your sustainability efforts, you can demonstrate your corporate social responsibility while giving customers the satisfaction of making a difference by dining with you.

Carbon Free Dining is a shining example of this. As part of the Green Earth Appeal, the scheme empowers restaurant diners to contribute to healthier soils, increased food security and sustainable livelihoods of small scale farmers in the third world, simply by eating at participating restaurants.

It starts with a small donation attached to diners’ bills. For every 99p in donations that a participating restaurant makes, a tree gets planted in the developing world.

Planting fruit trees helps poor smallholder farmers achieve food security and gain a sustainable income through agroforestry. The trees planted through diners’ donations provide a sustainable food source for families, and a surplus that they can sell.

Moreover, the trees return nutrients to soils degraded from cash crops like tobacco, that rely heavily on chemical fertilisers. This leads to higher yields of more diverse crops, increased food security and healthier soils that can support future harvests.

The Green Earth Appeal helps these farmers design and maintain their food forests, populated with trees planted with the help of restaurant diners’ donations.

Agroforestry helps promote carbon sequestering plant life, and creates a ‘sponge’ of biomass which helps retain water, therefore preventing flooding, drought, or chemical run of contaminating rivers. 

By joining the Carbon Free Dining scheme, you give diners a further incentive to keep dining with you, not only are they getting delicious meals, but they’re contributing to changing the world while they do it. 

Use more plant-based products

It’s not secret by now that many parts of the modern diet aren’t great for the environment. Take beef as an example, it takes 2,500 gallons of water, 12 pounds of grain and 30 pounds of topsoil to produce just one pound of beef.

Overall, the industrial production of beef contributes more than half of all greenhouse emissions, air pollution and water pollution.

This presents a dilemma for operators who wish to reduce their restaurant’s environmental impact, especially those, such as burger restaurants, who rely on beef as a staple for their menu. 

But you can cut down on beef on your menu without alienating your current clientele. In fact, it could pose an opportunity to expand it.

Brands like Impossible Burger and Beyond Meat have exploded in popularity in recent years. They were borne from a drive to alleviate beef’s pressure on the environment by providing an alternative, similar in look and taste, without the environmental costs.

Beyond Meat’s approach is simple, instead of trying to appeal to an audience of vegans and vegetarians who already abstain from meat, why not appeal to a meat-eating audience who may not have considered a plant-based alternative?

As their Chief Growth Officer, Chuck Muth, told The Grocer. “You don’t change the world by convincing vegetarians and vegans to eat less meat. You do that by convincing meat-eaters to eat less meat.”

Go paperless

When it comes to environmental impact, paper receipts are killer. 93% of paper receipts were found to contain BPA or BPS in a 2018 study⁠—two chemicals that you probably don’t want around in high concentrations.

And even receipts not coated in BPA or BPS are a problem; 6.25 million gallons of water, 1.55 million gallons of oil and 14,500 trees are used to make paper receipts every year in the United Kingdom alone, creating 4.25 million kilograms of non-recyclable waste (that’s right, paper receipts are made from thermal paper which can’t be recycled).

Encouraging an alternative to paper receipts isn’t just good for the environment⁠—it’s more convenient for your customers, too. If they ever need to consult their receipt to communicate with your or for their own bookkeeping, they just need to do a quick search in their email inbox.

To send your customers paperless receipts through Lightspeed, follow these steps:

  1. In Lightspeed Restaurant ePOS go to Clients>Create new record
  2. You will get a pop-up checking that you have asked the customer their consent to use their personal data. If they’ve consented, press ‘Continue’
  3. You’ll then see a form where you can make a new client record by filling in the customer’s personal details
  4. When that customer makes a payment, the receipt will be sent automatically to their email address. 

Use less single-use plastic for delivery

Lightspeed Delivery gives restaurants the tools needed to incorporate a delivery service model into their existing business, opening up a whole new revenue stream, and accessing customers that were out of reach before.

Whether you already have a delivery operation in place, or just getting into it, it’s good to be aware of the potential of waste associated with it, and the impact that this can have on the planet.

The use of single-use plastic used to package take away food has only intensified since the coronavirus pandemic sent the amount of delivery app users through the roof.  So what can you do to reduce the environmental impact of food delivery?

Restaurants can start by cutting down on the unnecessary use of single-use plastic. This usually involves finding alternatives to plastic packaging that keeps take away food warm and intact while in transit.

Another way that food delivery contributes to plastic waste is through single-use sauce sachets and plastic cutlery. It’s normal for operators to include these extras in the delivery, without first consulting whether customers actually need them.

Just like with food packaging, restaurants can reduce waste by replacing plastic sauce sachets and cutlery with sustainable alternatives. Sustainable packaging companies like Vegware supply restaurants with sustainable packaging made from renewable and low carbon materials.

If customers prefer to pick up and take their meals home, restaurants could suggest to customers to bring their own reusable containers.

It may not be a glamorous idea, but it will demonstrate to your eco-conscious clientele that you’re aware of the detrimental effects of plastic packaging used for food delivery and are willing to work with your customers to do something about it.

Tools that make a difference

We hope that after using this, you feel empowered to start running a more sustainable restaurant. It’s no easy feat, but with the right tools you can make your business a model for others to build upon.

Want to know how Lightspeed can help you? Let’s talk.