Environmentally Friendly Restaurant: 10 Ways to Go Green

Running a green operation can impress potential consumers and it can also create an edge over nearby competitors. Here's how…

Going green benefits not only the environment but also the bottom line of restaurant businesses, since usually, it means improving efficiency. Restaurants can see savings in energy, water, and food costs among other savings while doing their part for the environment.

Many consumers even consider a company’s environmental impact when making purchase decisions. Running a green operation can impress potential consumers and it can also create an edge over nearby competitors.. Many diners are willing to pay more to eat at eco-friendly restaurants.

Here are 10 good ways to move toward operating an environmentally friendly restaurant.

1. Recycle and Reuse

For dine-in patrons, provide reusable, washable utensils and dishes. Unlike disposables, these will require washing, but you will save money and greatly reduce the amount of waste you create.

Reusables cost more per item to buy, but they are designed for thousands of uses. A report by the Clean Water Fund found that replacing disposable with reusable wares can dramatically reduce your cost of doing business.

2. Use Less Water

According to the American Water Works Association Research Foundation, water used in hospitality and foodservice accounts for about 15 percent of the total water use in commercial and institutional facilities in the United States.

FSR magazine offers a smart list of ways to lower restaurant water usage here, including not running water to thaw frozen food; using Energy Star equipment in the kitchen and WaterSense toilets, faucets, and urinals in restrooms; washing full racks only in dishwashers; washing all fruits and vegetables at the same time; inspecting and repairing bathroom sinks, faucets, and toilets; not washing dishes with running water, and serving water to guests only upon request.

3. Reduce Food Waste

Food waste is one of the top concerns right now in the foodservice industry, because it not only makes good financial sense, it’s the right thing to do.

One of the best operational ways to reduce food waste is through better purchasing. Buy only what you need, rather than buying too much of a given item because of a supplier special when you won’t be able to use it all before it spoils.

Plan your menu more efficiently to cross-utilize as many ingredients as possible.

Closely inspect food deliveries, such as produce, to make sure they are fresh. Reject anything that isn’t. Don’t leave this job to untrained, low-level employees. Make sure you as the owner or manager is watching deliveries with a keen eye.

Use state-of-the-art inventory management software to limit opportunity for waste.

Major restaurant franchise brands are on top of food waste and continually improve systems and efficiencies. Technology is transforming this aspect of operation, with digital tools now available to connect commercial kitchens to cloud kitchens, to analyze how much food is wasted every day.

4. Use Efficient Equipment

Energy Star appliances and other equipment can cost more on the front end but show substantial savings in use.

The commercial food industry uses $10 billion worth of energy a year, with up to 80 percent of that energy wasted through excess heat and noise by inefficient kitchen appliances.

Any new restaurateur who has been to the NRA (National Restaurant Association) Show is familiar with the Energy Star badge on equipment. Energy Star is a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency program for certifying energy-efficient products.

Every type of foodservice equipment category has Energy Star-rated options, including dishwashers, coolers, fryers, stove ranges, and ovens.

On top of the energy savings benefits, a number of states have programs to give rebates to restaurants that purchase Energy Star equipment.

5. Maintain and Use Equipment Wisely

Commercial kitchen equipment is expensive and works hard. Maintain it for longer life and more efficient operation.

Tips Energy Star offers include: check for leaky walk-in refrigerator gaskets, freezer doors that don’t shut, and cooking appliances with lost knobs; reduce time the equipment is turned on but sitting idle; and recalibrating equipment regularly.

6. Use Eco-Friendly Disposables

We mentioned using washable wares for dine-in customers, but for the many restaurants whose business thrives on takeout or quick service, the use of disposables is unavoidable.

In those cases, make sure you’re using cutlery that’s environmentally friendly. This means buying wares that are certified organic, recyclable, compostable, or otherwise sustainable.

7. Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Products

Commercial kitchens get dirty and greasy in a hurry, but you don’t need harsh, caustic, dangerous chemicals to clean them.

The market has plenty of green alternative cleaning products that can tackle hard surfaces; deodorizing kitchens and other areas; cleaning stoves, ovens, grills, and ducts; cleaning freezers; unclogging drains, and more.

For any cleaning job, a green alternative exists. Look for products that are Green Seal-certified.

8. Optimize the Front-of-House

According to Energy Star, restaurants use about five to seven times more energy per square than other types of businesses. Specifically, high-volume quick-service restaurants (QSRs) may even use up to 10 times more energy per square foot than a typical commercial building.

The biggest energy-burner in restaurants is refrigeration, followed by lighting and air-conditioning. So, after getting energy-efficient refrigerators and freezers, restaurateurs can improve efficiency in front-of-house to see more savings.

Energy Star states that lighting averages 13 percent of the total energy used in a restaurant. Using lighting products certified by Energy Star is a wise route, in addition to using bi-level switching (to control a lighting system by groups of fixtures) and using dimmers and daylight sensors.

Change air filters regularly in heating and cooling systems and have your system tuned up yearly. Use a programmable thermostat, especially for spaces not in use during certain times of the week.

9. Always Ask

Little things add up. Don’t assume every guest wants a glass of water. Ask if they do and bring water only to those who want it, so staff isn’t dumping full glasses of water out after turning a table.

The same goes for straws and other “extras” that so often end up just left on the table and then thrown away.

10. Source Locally

This one is a no-brainer. The farther your food travels, the bigger its carbon footprint.

Check with your broadline distributor/supplier and ask what local and regional farms they use. Try to order as much as possible from those vendors.

Remember, guests appreciate knowing that you care about the environment, so let them know.

Communicate it to them on menus by pointing out items that are locally sourced and make a note on table tents or menus that you in the interest of reducing waste, you do not put out water automatically but are happy to provide water or other items upon request.

If you use green-certified wares, napkins, or other items, say so on table tents or other signage. People want to know about your restaurant innovations.

An environmentally-friendly restaurant is also an owner-friendly and customer-friendly business. By moving your restaurant’s operation more and more toward green practices, you’ll help the environment, make more money, and increase goodwill with your guests.

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