Going back 20-25 years, most chefs wrote menus according to what they preferred to cook and what they knew their customers wanted to eat. Only a few considered the environmental consequences of importing ingredients from across the world and put seasonal options on the menu.
Since then, everything has changed. The health of the environment is one of the main concerns for all of humanity, and guests are becoming more conscious of what they eat and where the ingredients come from. This leads to an increase in responsibility for restaurants – to be more careful when selecting producers and suppliers, how they operate their business, as well as how they update and adjust the menu throughout the year.
Today, we must think further than what’s on the menu. Here are a few tips to get you started.
What is a sustainable restaurant?
There are several key features that need to be applied to a restaurant in order to call it sustainable such as the use of organic produce, local consumption and the restaurant’s carbon footprint. The philosophy is simple: maintain the balance between the access of products and the health of mother Earth.
In order to be a sustainable restaurant, you need to focus on things such as carbon footprint and waste management rather than staff, customer service and efficiency.
They have several key features such as the use of organic produce, local consumption and, in short, a sustainable process from contracting staff to the establishment's carbon footprint. Their philosophy? Maintaining a balance so that resources do not run out and using products and processes that do not harm the environment. In order to be a sustainable restaurant, we need to take into account several factors: that run from the social (linked to contracting staff and customer service), and the economic (local suppliers and efficiency) to those linked to the environment (carbon footprint, waste management, etc.).
Offer a seasonal menu
You’ve heard it before, but the number one thing you can do make your restaurant more sustainable is to keep your menu seasonal. By implementing and providing seasonal menus that offer dishes containing seasonal ingredients, your restaurant can help cut down the production of growing out-of-season crops that may require harmful chemicals to grow where they should not be able to.
Go (loco) local
When buying produce, choose to support farms that practice sustainability by organic farming. Farms that try to reduce their own pollution and food waste will mean your supply chain is eco-friendlier.
But before you enter any partnerships with local producers and suppliers - make sure to do your research! Get to know the process in order to create solid partnerships with local producers and suppliers in order to be a sustainable restaurant. Support the sustainable producers in your area by purchasing local produce and other necessities.
In most cases, it’s profitable for both you and the producer if you buy in bulk. Make sure to think beyond the food – interior decorations, even lighting (electricity) and wines make a difference, too.
Grow it yourself
I believe this one speaks for itself. Can it possibly get more sustainable than growing your own vegetables? You can grow different produce for different seasons. However, make sure you cultivate the soil in an eco-friendly, sustainable matter.
Do your sustainability homework
Becoming a sustainable business won’t happen overnight, and there are many different aspects to consider. In fact, sustainable, eco-friendly and ethical business operations require a lot of research. Looking closer at food, materials and equipment as well as waste management. And accomplishing everything in a cost-effective way. It’s tough.
Awareness is the very first step. Trying to make the right choices is the next step. Look for opportunities that will increase the level of sustainability as it minimizes any cost that the sustainable practices may cause. As mentioned earlier: look beyond the menu!
Rome was not built in one day, and neither will your sustainability plan be. Long-term goals are great, but make sure to break them down into smaller tasks in order to achieve them in a timely manner. What could be achieved now, and what can wait until the future? Be aware that changes could take years, but don’t lose your hope. Instead, start small and go from there.
For example, start printing your menu on recycled paper and use linen napkins rather than paper ones. Conduct some research to find creative alternatives.
Consider the products you use in your restaurant such as silverware, chairs, even lightbulbs and which detergent you use for the dishwasher. Can any changes be made?
Set long-term goals
Buying energy-efficient equipment may be a higher cost today, but you need to think long-term to see the full value of your investment. Cheaper equipment will need to be replaced sooner and may end up costing you more money in the end. A better product may have warranty, and even though you pay more when purchasing – it may last you 10 extra years.
Therefore, you need to think long-term when you make sustainable decisions.
Sustainability is a hot topic today, and something that should be kept top of mind for all restaurants – especially when it’s only a matter of simple changes that make dramatic difference in waste production. By making the small changes, it’s truly remarkable how much product and money restaurants can save while saving the planet.