Sustainability – More Than Just the Kitchen

It’s important we reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible during our time here on Earth.

Whether it’s in the kitchen or the restrooms, in your takeout packaging or cutlery. Sustainability can and should be implemented in ALL areas of your operation.

From reducing food waste to buying locally—every small step you take towards a more sustainable restaurant is a step towards bettering the environment and your staff and guests’ health.

Let’s look at different areas of your operation where you can accomplish sustainability.

In the Kitchen

Sustainability can be implemented in a variety of areas in the kitchen—starting from the source of your ingredients to how you use them. There are more ways than one to run a more environmentally friendly kitchen.

Did you know that according to the 2019 State of the Restaurant Industry research, half of consumers now say the availability of environmentally friendly food makes them more likely to choose one restaurant over another?

According to experts at OpenTable, one way to run a sustainable operation is by implementing a seasonal menu. This allows you to serve specific produce items at their peak to ensure utmost freshness. Even protein and seafood can be swapped out seasonally, giving you flexibility with your dishes.

Buying local is another way to ensure sustainability in your kitchen. When you buy locally, you have enough time to find different ways to use the items, which is all manageable because you’re sourcing from close by. Your items will remain fresh by the time they arrive to your operation.

Aside from buying locally, buying from brands that are better for both the environment and our bodies is another great way to accomplish sustainability in the kitchen.

52% of Americans say they are trying to eat more plant-based meals which opens doors for restaurant operators like you. Meatless proteins are packed with nutrients and are better for the environment.  Adding options like PAOW or Impossible onto your menus is guaranteed to satisfy guests and increase your bottom line.

Besides plant-based meat, plant-based cheese is also trending! Adding ingredients like 100% vegan cheese from Violife onto your meals is a great way to attract customers. They’re free from top allergens including dairy and gluten and they have a longer shelf life which means less waste.

While plant-based foods are incredible for the environment, it’s also important to make sure the rest of the items on your menu are also sustainability sourced. Top brands like McCain, Smithfield, and Nestle take pride in their sustainable solutions. As a Dining Alliance member, you can save on these top products and much more.

Another way, and if not, one of the most important ways of staying sustainable in the kitchen is managing and reducing waste as much as possible. There are various ways to accomplish this:

You can start by weighing and measuring your food—that way you’re using the exact amount needed without having to waste the rest.

Experts at OpenTable encourage restaurant operators like you to freeze produce as another way to reduce waste. When you freeze your produce, you retain its vitamins and minerals and preserve the nutrients.

You can even manage food waste by engineering your menu. According to the National Restaurant Association, you can implement these practical methods to not only reduce waste, but to benefit your bottom line:

  1. Adopting full and half portioned meals (use smaller plates for half portions).
  2. Allow customers to split entrees and/or sides.
  3. Allow customers to choose sides they prefer and train staff to ask for preferences as well.
  4. Provide customers with the option to wrap half their meal before it is served (GENIUS!)

For most, if not all restaurant operators, it’s heartbreaking having to toss out uneaten food at the end of the night. One last way to resolve the core issue of food waste is by donating food.

According to National Restaurant Association, an estimated 1/3 of all produced food in the world is wasted. Do your part by teaming up with a donation program. This will help boost your brand and increase repeat customers. It’s a win-win!

Takeout and Disposables

The kitchen isn’t the only place you can be sustainable. Think about the amount of takeout and disposable products you go through each week. Now imagine switching out just one of those products to a more environmentally friendly alternative. You’d be doing yourself and the planet a favor!

Remember those takeout menus customers would look at for 30 seconds and throw away? What a waste of money! Ditch them, well, maybe not all of them, keep a few for your not-so mobile friendly customers. But it is 2022 and online menus are the new thing, especially post-pandemic, so it’s important to embrace technology.

Most of the time, if a customer is ordering takeout for dinner, chances are they’re taking the food to their house. More than likely, they will opt to using their own utensils over the disposable ones you have provided, thus resulting in unused plastic in the trash. Instead, you can simply ask your customers ahead of time if they need utensils. By giving them the option to decline the disposables, you are not only being sustainable, but also saving your operation some money.

Customers are demanding less packaging material. Many Millennials and Gen Z’ers are doing everything they can to reduce their carbon footprint. This means you must go above and beyond to ensure you are satisfying your guests. This brings us to our next sustainable idea.

Although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, some delivery services offer reusable containers for takeout/delivery. Customers would return the containers to the delivery driver on their next order or schedule a drop-off with a partner restaurant. You’d have to check your local health codes before implementing this idea, but, you can even add a “BYOTC” (Bring Your Own Takeout Containers) option, and as an incentive, add a small discount for those who bring their own containers!

Whether you go with reusable containers or biodegradable ones, be sure to print storage and re-heating instructions on them so that the food maintains its quality when it reaches its destination.

Use recyclable napkins, plates, utensils, and get rid of those plastic straws, or at least limit the use of them! There’s a plethora of options you can use that aren’t plastic. Paper, cardboard, birch, bamboo. These are just a few of the best materials to use for takeout packaging.

Partner with green suppliers like Georgia Pacific who can provide you with better takeout and to-go options. With responsibly sourced, recyclable materials, these products are a great alternative to your usual Styrofoam and plastic takeout containers!

Switching to sustainable products is a lot easier and more cost-effective than you’d think! When you show guests that you are an ethical brand who follows sustainable practices, they will always come back for more, trust us.

In the Restrooms

Sustainability doesn’t stop at your kitchen and disposable packaging. Your restrooms are a great area to take action too if you want to better the environment and save money.

Reducing the amount of product used is one way to be more sustainable. With Georgia Pacific’s controlled dispensing systems, you can minimize the amount of material used, thus saving you money and unnecessary product ending up in a landfill.

What goes hand in hand with a controlled dispensing system? Recycled products that go into it! Georgia Pacific’s recycled brown paper towels are another great way to stay sustainable in your restrooms.

Even switching to products that use the right-size packaging thus eliminating unnecessary plastic and cardboard materials is another way to be sustainable. When you use 95% less packaging than usual, you reduce the amount of waste to a landfill.

Your cleaning solutions can and should also be sustainable! By partnering up with Dining Alliance, you’ll have access to savings and discounts on products like Seventh Generation. By using plant-based ingredients, you’ll show that your operation cares about the well-being of others as well as that health of our planet.

Savings on Sustainable Solutions!

As a Dining Alliance member, you have access to thousands of dollars’ worth of savings and discounts from sustainable brands for all your operational needs.

From the items on your menus to the products you use to keep your operation clean, every step towards a more sustainable operation is a step towards a healthier planet.

Go Green and join Dining Alliance today to start building a more sustainable future!