The restaurant industry has a large environmental footprint, being a large consumer of electricity, water, and food and producing significant amounts of waste and emissions. Finding more environmentally sustainable methods of doing business will help restaurants meet consumer demand for more eco-friendly dining options and also help cut costs. Smart solutions including reducing food waste, limiting energy consumption and water use, and purchasing environmentally friendly wait staff and cleaning uniforms all can contribute to greener restaurants.
The Bottom Line
There is a powerful economic incentive to go green. According to National Restaurant Association research, 46 percent of consumers would prefer to dine at restaurants offering sustainable or organic food. The research also found that more than 50 percent of consumers in the 18-24 demographic want to dine at restaurants that practice sustainability.
Going green won’t only draw more customers to restaurants, it may also help them reduce costs. For example, reducing food waste can greatly improve a restaurant’s profits. Restaurants account for 37 percent of the 80 billion pounds of food that are dumped in landfills each year. Reducing the amount of food wasted in restaurants can result in fewer losses and increased profits.
On a macro level, climate change will increase food costs, so anything restaurants can do to reduce their contribution to this global trend will have an impact on their economic viability. Droughts, floods, and other problems caused by climate change will drive food costs upward, so reducing carbon emissions is a smart long-term strategy for the industry.
More sustainable energy initiatives can also help restaurants improve their bottom line. Per square foot, the average restaurant consumes three times more energy than the average commercial building of a similar size. Reducing energy use can greatly impact a restaurant’s profits. According to Sustainablefoodservice.com, a one dollar reduction in energy costs equates to about $12.50 in sales at an 8 percent profit margin.
The evidence is clear. Going green will not only reduce restaurants’ environmental impact, it will also yield dividends in reduced costs and improved customer loyalty. Restaurants large and small need to get on the sustainability bandwagon to protect their profit margins in an increasingly competitive market.
There are countless opportunities for restaurants to make their operations more environmentally sustainable. Some are simple and will require little more than a few extra steps by restaurant staff or a smarter allocation of resources. Others are more labor and capital intensive, but will yield long-term gains in terms of reduced costs and environmental gains.
- Implementing An Energy Management Plan – Restaurants use an incredible amount of energy in cooking, preparing, and refrigerating food. On top of that, they must also provide lights, climate control, and, in some facilities, electronic entertainment like television and games. Efforts to reduce energy consumption will save restaurants money and reduce their environmental impact.
Measuring and recording energy use and then implementing policies to reduce are important first steps. Training staff in energy efficient practices such as cutting power to non-essential operations during certain “down” periods can help. Restaurants should implement energy efficiency checklists that provide a visual reminder to employees of how they can reduce electricity consumption.
- Sustainable products – Restaurants can reduce their cumulative environmental footprint by purchasing equipment from sustainable sources. By being smart about where they are purchasing cleaning supplies, equipment, cleaning uniforms and more, restaurants can ensure that their supply chain has a minimal impact on the environment. Restaurants can also reduce their environmental impact by eliminating plastic bags and Styrofoam containers and using more environmentally friendly packaging.
- Recycling – Restaurants use a variety of materials that are very recyclable. By separating trash and placing recyclables in a bin designated to be picked up by a recycling firm, restaurants can greatly reduce their environmental impact. Restaurants with the space to start a compost pile should do this, as it can help reduce the environmental impact of food waste.
- Water conservation – Restaurants use quite a bit of water. Flow restriction devices on faucets and toilets in guest bathrooms can reduce water use, as can smart policies about water use in the kitchen. Replacing outdated sinks, faucets, and dish-washing equipment can also help restaurants reduce their water usage.
- Reduce paperwork – Use of electronics in the front office to reduce paper memos, printouts, and other documents can help reduce a restaurant’s environmental impact. Smart restaurants are also equipping servers with mobile technology to make payment and other functions less paper-dependent.
- Preventative maintenance – Restaurants have a bad reputation for taking a lackadaisical approach to equipment maintenance. While managers think they’re saving money by putting off upgrades and repairs, they’re actually losing money on increased energy costs. For example, a refrigerator with dirty coils uses 23 percent more energy than one that has been properly maintained. By implementing a preventative maintenance schedule, restaurants can reduce power consumption.
- Green lighting – Lighting, on average, takes up about 11 percent of a restaurant’s energy consumption. Replacing old, outdated lighting systems with new energy-efficient lighting can improve restaurant’s energy consumption. Ditching incandescent bulbs for more energy-efficient light bulbs, alone, will yield significant energy savings for restaurants.
- Use local products – By buying produce grown by local farmers, restaurants can reduce the amount of trucking needed to bring goods to their facilities, thus reducing their environmental footprint. Local products also are likely to be less exposed to chemicals than those from overseas.
- Paperless advertising – By using social media and the Internet to advertise and offer coupons, restaurants can reduce their environmental impact by reducing paper consumption. Mobile coupons are an increasingly popular marketing tool among younger diners.
Prudential Overall Supply can help restaurants in their efforts to become more sustainable by providing eco-friendly wait staff and cleaning uniforms. Prudential uses green, reusable textiles, and the company is Clean Green Certified through TRSA. In business since 1932, Prudential is a reliable supplier of high quality textiles, related supplies, and much more. Contact Prudential today to learn more about how the company can help your restaurant reduce its environmental footprint.