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6 practices for running a more sustainable restaurant

6 practices for running a more sustainable restaurant

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 minimise their environmental footprint. According to Forbes, 88% of consumers are more loyal to a business with sustainable practices.

This is 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 act—one 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?

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

From food miles to the emission-heavy livestock industry, striving collectively for restaurant sustainability is vital for 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. It’s a necessity. Not 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.

1. 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 restaurant and the local economy. It also reduced CO2 emissions that comes from transporting food from far-flung destinations.

Wherever you’ve set up shop, look sustainable supply options in the local area. A fully traceable food supply chain assures your diners that the food they’re eating isn’t exploitative or damaging to the environment.

Proximity to your supply chain builds a story behind your menu, and helps 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 from the journal Ecological Economics 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 in which 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.

2. Cut down on food waste

Food waste is a pressing environmental and social issue that extends far beyond the hospitality industry. According to Champions 12.3, 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. 

But cutting down on food waste is not only good for the planet, it also 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 fulfil demand without wasting leftover ingredients.

Portion control

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.

3. Join Sustainable Credits

Sustainable Credits is an exclusive Lightspeed Restaurant rewards programme run in partnership with Sustainably Run. The programme helps restaurateurs directly benefit from their own sustainability efforts.

Restaurants who join Sustainably Run’s Carbon Free Dining initiative can offer diners the chance to add an extra fee to their bill, guaranteeing that Sustainably Run will plant at least one life saving fruit tree in the developing world.

For every six trees funded, the restaurant receives one sustainable credit. They can save these credits over time and use them to purchase Lightspeed add-ons and subscriptions.


In most cases, the sustainable credits earned will fund the cost of renewal of a restaurant’s annual Lightspeed subscription—a way to say thank you for collecting contributions that fund the planting of thousands of life saving fruit trees

Planting fruit trees helps communities in the developing world achieve food security and gain a sustainable income through agroforestry. The trees planted through diners’ contributions provide a sustainable food source for families, and a surplus they can sell.

Interested in making a difference?

Talk to an expert about joining Sustainable Credits today

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 to support future harvests.

Sustainably Run helps these farmers design and maintain their garden forests, populated with trees planted with the help of restaurant diners.

Agroforestry helps promote carbon sequestering plant life, and creates a ‘sponge’ of biomass that retains water more effectively, preventing flooding, drought, or chemical run off contaminating rivers. 

By joining Sustainably Run’s 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.

4. Use more plant-based products

It’s no 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.”

5.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. 

6. 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 takeaway food only intensified during the coronavirus pandemic.  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. 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. 

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