Your Detailed Guide to Sustainability in Fast Casual

Compiled from Industry Leaders & Research

It's Not Easy to Be Sustainable but it's Impactful 

Here's why it's important to make strides in sustainability 

Not only do sustainable pratices improve the bottom line, it dramatically reduces operating costs when done right. Reducing a business's impact on the environment means reducing waste, and reducing waste means saving money. 

What to Expect: 

How to Run an Environmentally Friendly Restaurant


1. Reduce Food Waste

The first step to becoming an environmentally friendly restaurant is the most important – for the planet, and for your bottom line. Get a handle on food waste.

According to the Green Restaurant Association, the average restaurant wastes between 25,000 and 75,000 pounds of food every year. What’s an environmentally friendly restaurant to do?

  • Use a Digital Inventory Management Tool: To reduce food waste, most environmentally friendly restaurant managers rely on the latest tech. They use a digital inventory tool – like PeachWorks or BevSpot. This software sends alerts to your smartphone when inventory is nearing expiration. You also get a real-time look at inventory so you don’t over order.
  • Highlight Expiration Dates: When your prep chefs grab ingredients, ensure they select those closest to expiring. Put stickers with a “use by” date on all ingredients.
  • Donate Surplus Food: Every environmentally friendly restaurant has a food pantry on speed dial. Even after putting food waste controls in place, you’ll still end up with surplus inventory on occasion. Donating usable food ensures none of it goes to waste. It’s also a great way to gain positive press for your restaurant.

2. Invest in Energy Efficient Appliances

Part of becoming an environmentally friendly restaurant means reducing energy consumption. And there’s a lot of room for improvement: the foodservice industry uses $10 billion in energy each year. Yikes.

Use these 12 tips to reduce the energy usage in your environmentally friendly restaurant. One of the best ways is to opt for energy efficient appliances. When it’s time to replace or upgrade equipment, look for the Energy Star logo. These appliances use less energy without impacting performance.

3. Using Green Cleaning Products

Let’s face it. Conventional cleaning products are bad for the environment. The harsh chemicals in industrial cleaners don’t break down and pollute the air and water table. Plus, guests aren’t exactly fans of that just-bleached smell…

To be an environmentally friendly restaurant, swap out conventional cleaners with eco-friendly brands. Ask your distributor to supply products that contain Design for the Environment (DfE) or Green Seal certified cleaning chemicals.

4. Going Local with your Produce

One of the best environmentally friendly restaurant tips can be found in your own backyard. Start buying a few ingredients from local farms.

Since items travel across the city – instead of across the country – you’re reducing carbon emissions from that long haul (the planet thanks you in advance). When produce is in season locally, it’s often cheaper than the same product shipped in from your distributor.

On the road to becoming an environmentally friendly restaurant, there’s no need to ditch your distributor. Start small by bringing in just a few local products using this list of 11 best sources for local ingredients.

You can also flex your green thumb. Grow your own produce or herbs! As an environmentally friendly restaurant, turn your roof or patio into a mini-garden. Build your own raised garden or use an Earthbox to get your grow on.

5. Reduce

The “3 R’s” are a mantra for the environmentally friendly restaurant manager. By reducing waste, reusing containers, and recycling materials, your business can make huge strides when it comes to sustainability. To get started, here are some ideas:

  • Swap your regular toilet paper and paper towels with chlorine-free, recycled paper
  • Buy kitchen and bar mats made from 100% recycled materials
  • Recycle wood boxes, glass bottles, and cardboard
  • Exchange plastic and styrofoam materials for reusable cups and recyclable containers
  • Join thousands of environmentally friendly restaurant managers who have signed the Last Straw Pledge (reducing or eliminating plastic straws)

6. Consider Organic Wine

If your environmentally friendly restaurant already serves organic food, going organic at the bar is the next step. Start by adding a few organic wines to your drink list.

Most wine is made using chemicals and farming practices that are harmful to the environment. Some wineries even inject pesticides and other chemicals directly into the soil, contaminating the surrounding area – and even the vino itself.

Begin with this list of 85 organic wines. Also, talk to wineries in your region: many smaller vintners use sustainable practices.

7. Be strategic about shipping

Most vendors and distributors are willing to work with an environmentally friendly restaurant. Ask about ways to reduce shipments to once per week (to cut down on fuel emissions). Request that the vendor uses biodegradable materials and less packaging for your orders.

Once you let them know about your environmentally friendly restaurant goals, vendors and distributors may suggest more ways to help reduce your restaurant’s environmental impact.

8. Get smart about water

Conserving water is critical in becoming an environmentally friendly restaurant. Again, it’s also a way to reduce those energy bills! Here’s how to do it:

  • Replace your facilities with water-saving toilets to reduce the amount of water used with every flush.
  • Consider switching from bottled water to an in-house filtration system.
  • Install solar thermal panels to heat water for your environmentally friendly restaurant. Many state and municipal governments are offering grants and rebates for solar panels.

9. Build a sustainable dining space

Yes, there are even ways to make your dining room sustainable! Start with the furniture. Purchase locally-built tables and chairs for your dining area. Most local woodworkers may strike a deal with an environmentally friendly restaurant – especially if you promote their work.

The next step is reducing the use of cloth tablecloths and napkins. Wait, what? Linens seem like the more eco-friendly option. But to keep those clothes looking great, you use unnecessary chemical cleaners, bleaches and starches. Not to mention, water is wasted with every wash.

Instead, opt for paper materials that can be recycled. If linens are needed for your ambience, opt for softer, cloth materials over the traditional, starchy variety.

10. Consider Composting 

Composting is one of the best steps your environmentally friendly restaurant can take to reduce greenhouse gases and food waste. And it’s easy! Just keep a separate can in your kitchen for staff to dispose of food-based waste. At the end of each day, dump it into an outdoor compost bin. Use this guide to restaurant composting to get started.

The best part? You have free compost to fertilize your restaurant’s garden. If you don’t have room for your own garden, donate the nutrient-rich compost to a community garden.

11. Make it official and become certified sustainable 

These tips are a great starting point to become an environmentally friendly restaurant. But don’t stop there. Consider becoming an official green business through the Green Restaurant Association certification process.

Going green is a smart move. Becoming an environmentally friendly restaurant can satisfy current guests, attract new customers, and improve your bottom line. Most importantly, you’re doing your part to protect our planet.

5 Fast Casual Restaurants Leading the Way


 

Today’s diners want to eat at restaurants that cook with organic ingredients and operate with ethical standards. Today, any business owners should consider implementing sustainable business practices to their organization.

Early movers on sustainability. Register for more information on how they made it happen. 

  • Shake Shack (unlock case study below)
  • Panera (unlock case study below)
  • Chipotle (unlock case study below)

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