5 Step Guide: How to Use the Green Approach to Make Your Restaurant Sustainable and Grow Your Profits
You know that implementing green practices at your restaurant is good for the earth, but did you know that going green can boost your restaurant’s profitability, as well?
Customers like sustainable foods and restaurants that support the planet. In fact, studies from The Nielsen Company and CONE/Porter-Novelli found that customers (especially Millennials and Gen Zers) are increasingly patronizing eco-friendly establishments and are willing to pay more for locally sourced food. They’re eager to support establishments that engage in green practices, which show they share the same core values.
Establishing more sustainable practices can increase profitability by saving you money, as well. For example, a recent Fast Company study analyzed the finances of 114 restaurants across 12 countries. They found that each dollar invested in food waste reduction led to cost savings of $7.
There are plenty of eco-friendly ways for you to slash your restaurant expenses. Let’s explore some of them.
Step #1: Reduce Food Waste
A great place to start to reduce food waste is with the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy. It guides restaurants by prioritizing actions restaurants can take to reduce food waste, including reducing the amount of food you buy, and donating food to local food banks.
If your establishment is still tossing a substantial amount of unusable food, it’s time to take a closer look at your inventory processes. This helps you analyze every ingredient you purchase—and track how often each ingredient is used.
Explore the amount of food customers are leaving on their plates and how much uneaten food is returned to the kitchen. To save money and waste, reduce portion sizes by using smaller plates or smaller meals, and then count the returned plates.
Consider using a digital cookbook to manage portioning. BOH staff can access recipes via mobile to make sure they are using the exact amount of each ingredient, wasting as little as possible as they prepare orders.
Finally, establish a food waste log to track every ingredient that doesn’t make it to the plate. That includes spills, misfires, burnt or ruined food, and spoiled or expired ingredients.
Step #2: Reconsider Your Vendors
To tap into your green mission, aim to work with vendors that strive to minimize waste. Look for vendors who sell in bulk, which minimizes unnecessary packaging and reduces ingredient costs.
Look at where your supplies are shipped from. If you’re in New York but most of your items ship from California, consider going local. By buying your restaurant supplies locally, you’re supporting neighbors and possibly smaller businesses, and you don’t pay a premium for shipping across the country. You will also cut your carbon footprint by reducing the amount of carbon emissions it takes to get your orders to you.
Step #3: Adjust Your Utilities
Reduce expenses even further by scrutinizing your utility bills. Where are you spending money and how can you reduce those payments?
Even small fixes such as fixing dripping water faucets and only bringing customers water when requested can add up. Not only are you saving on water bills, but on water in general.
Additionally, by adjusting the thermostat just a few degrees, you can shave money off your next electric bill. Switch to low-energy smart bulbs that you can set on timers, or use motion sensors for areas such as bathrooms and storage rooms, where the lights don’t always have to be on.
If you’re in the market for new appliances, consider those approved by ENERGY STAR. Energy Star points out that the more updated your appliances—especially from their own brand—the more you save. In fact, Energy Star products have a tool that shows you exactly how much you can save over time by upgrading your old fridge or freezer, based on the model you currently have and your state’s energy prices.
Step #4 : Buy Planet-Friendly Supplies
It’s time to eliminate harsh plastics and styrofoam, especially in to-go bags. Consider compostable utensils and plastic delivery bags, and recycled napkins and take-out containers. Replace plastic straws with paper ones.
In your dining room, consider switching to cloth napkins. Get rid of paper placemats and replace paper cups with reusable ones.
While some of those options may seem costlier in the short-term, consider the impact it will have on your customer base. By making your new policies known, you may pull in more customers who are looking to support restaurants with sustainability in mind.
Step #5: Turn Up Your Sales Volume
Now that you’ve gone greener and are making changes, it’s time to shout it from the rooftops. Customers like to see you’re eliminating your carbon footprint. Inform guests on the menu that your produce comes from sustainable local growers. You can also rename some of your dishes to clarify they’re locally harvested. As an example, change Vegetarian Pot Pie to Sunrise Farms Vegetarian Pot Pie, which tells customers that the vegetables used came from a neighborhood farm.
Put yourself out there, as well. Get involved with the community sustainability efforts through recycling programs, park and beach cleanups, or cycling programs. You’ll be helping the environment and getting your restaurant's name out in the community.
Once you’ve implemented sustainability practices, reap the financial rewards. According to ReFED, restaurants that adopt sustainable measures could see an additional $620 million in profit potential on an annual basis. So, what are you waiting for? Go green and grow your finances.