Looking for advice on how to make your restaurant, coffee shop or pub more sustainable?
Here’s our comprehensive guide to becoming a more environmentally friendly establishment, featuring low-cost and easy-to-implement tips for different areas of your business.
Why is restaurant sustainability so important?
Now more than ever, businesses are expected to rethink and transform their practices to ensure they’re operating in a sustainable, environmentally friendly way. The hospitality industry is no exception.
UKHospitality Chief Executive Kate Nicholls sees sustainability as “arguably the key issue of our time” and believes “It will become more important and hospitality needs to lead efforts to promote sustainability yet further”.*
Furthermore, according to a 2021 survey from Deloitte, 32% of consumers are highly engaged in adopting a more sustainable lifestyle.
When it comes to restaurants and takeaways, Deloitte reports that 13% of consumers are actively opting for establishments that embrace sustainability values and practices.
Therefore, food establishments need to plan, strategise and implement green practices to help reduce their carbon footprint as well as meeting the demands of increasingly eco-conscious consumers.
How to become a more eco-friendly restaurant
You want to make your restaurant more sustainable. Your customers are starting to ask about where you source ingredients and how you’re managing food waste. You feel you have a social responsibility to rethink your business practices and finally implement change but you’re unsure where to start.
We’ve put together 15 practical tips to help you adopt more eco-friendly practices. From reducing the usage of plastic to switching to digital food safety solutions, here’s how you can embrace sustainability:
1. Check your carbon footprint
Knowledge is power. You can find out your estimated carbon footprint (and personalised steps to reduce it) on a science-based carbon calculator like Giki Zero.
You can even scale your impact by encouraging your team to join - and promote their engagement with fun features like leaderboards. This can be a great way of reducing water and plastic usage, minimising your carbon footprint, and more.
2. Offer more vegetarian & vegan options
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, global livestock production makes up 14.5% of all human-caused emissions. Reducing the consumption of meat and dairy products, and replacing them with plant-based options, is considered to be one of the best ways to reduce an individual’s carbon footprint.
What you can do:
See if you can replace some of your meat dishes with plant-based alternatives. Discuss your menu with your chefs to check how this can be actioned. You could start by replacing your less popular or profitable dishes, for instance.
Many world-renowned restaurants have already started implementing menu changes to support more climate-friendly eating habits.
3. Say goodbye to single-use plastic
According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, single-use plastics have become a worldwide sustainability issue.
It’s common for restaurants to utilise single-use plastics, which contributes to an increase in pollution and negatively impacts wildlife. This is why it’s so important to reduce their usage as much as possible.
What you can do:
Review the usage of water bottles, straws, cutlery, and other disposable items that could be replaced with more environmentally friendly alternatives.
Work closely with your suppliers to see if they can provide food and ingredients without single-use plastic.
4. Switch from paper diaries to digital food safety
Most restaurants, coffee shops and bars still use paper diaries for their food safety checks. But gone are the days where you needed to rely on traditional, paper-based (and time-consuming) methods.
Make the switch to digital with a food hygiene app. This will save you time, cut costs, and, of course, reduce your carbon footprint.
CEO of Farm Girl, Anthony Hood, says that ““Hubl [a compliance app] being completely paperless is brilliant, it makes things much easier” and that it “has been super beneficial in helping us keep on top of things”.
This one may seem obvious, but making sure you always recycle is critical in ensuring that your operations are more sustainable. Recycling helps reduce pollution and means that less natural resources are used.
Make sure you’ve got all the necessary bins to recycle cardboard, glass and aluminium. You should also have a food waste bin and a general waste bin.
6. Reduce restaurant food waste
According to Business Waste, almost 50% of all food waste takes place in the hospitality industry. What’s more, according to Deloitte, 44% of consumers value waste reduction as a sustainable practice.
Let’s start with prevention. Make sure you don’t buy excess food and ingredients - purchase only what you need given your restaurant’s demand. Speak with your team so they can help track if you are buying more raw materials than needed.
It’s a good idea to re-evaluate food portions and organise your stock in an effective manner so that no food is wasted.
Remember: You should dispose of food waste properly in dedicated food waste bins.
If you do end up with a food surplus, you may want to consider using a food waste app, for instance.
7. Train your team
Providing adequate training can engage and encourage your team to help you in transforming your restaurant practices.
You can organise a meeting about sustainability and invite your team to share their own ideas and share any advice that they may have.
There are many sustainability courses available which could be beneficial for both your team, your business - and the planet.
8. Reduce water consumption
Reducing water consumption in your restaurant can help reduce carbon emissions.
From cooking to cleaning, a lot of water is used in food establishments.
What you can do:
Check toilets, pipes and sinks for leaks regularly & repair them straight away
Upgrade your dishwasher to a more eco-friendly, water-efficient model
Install motion-sensor taps for smarter water consumption
Make sure the dishwasher is always full
9. Choose eco-friendly appliances
Restaurant kitchens boast a myriad of appliances which use both water and energy.
When choosing a new appliance, look for those that will have a smaller environmental impact. Opt for more energy-efficient appliances with an A rating, and always read through product information before making a decision.
It’s also important to maintain your existing equipment to ensure it runs efficiently.
10. Avoid using disposable menus
Reduce paper waste by opting for more durable menu designs that ensure greater longevity.
You could consider laminating the menu design (and cleaning it on a regular basis), or even opting for a digital solution.
11. Evaluate your cleaning practices
Cleaning products can contain a lot of chemicals that are harmful to the planet. Take this into consideration when buying new products, and make sure to read all the labels.
There is an increasing number of eco-friendly alternatives that you can choose from to help minimise pollution.
12. Partner with green suppliers
Choose your suppliers carefully and ask them about their sustainability practices. You can discuss deliveries, materials, and their compliance with environmental legislation.
Evaluate your supplier’s sustainability efforts before awarding a contract for their products or services.
This way, you can encourage your suppliers to rethink their processes, and influence the sustainability of your supply chain - not just of your restaurant.
13. Opt for seasonal foods and ingredients
Purchasing seasonal ingredients can help minimise the environmental impact associated with your dishes.
This is not to say you should change your menu every season. Simply start by trying to incorporate more seasonal options as these are usually grown closer to where they are sold.
14. Get your customers involved
Make sure that your customers know of all your sustainability initiatives - and encourage them to share advice and renew their efforts too. The more people involved in the process, the bigger the impact.
Tip: If customers don’t finish their food, you can encourage them to take their leftovers to minimise waste.
15. Stay informed and do your research
A vital step in making your restaurant more sustainable is keeping informed of the latest research and advice. This way, you can quickly update your practices accordingly.
There’s always room for improvement. Being more environmentally friendly is not a static event, but a continuous process.
Restaurant sustainability practices
There are many steps you can take to ensure your restaurant is more environmentally friendly. Start with smaller changes that are easier to implement and go from there.
Here at Hubl, we love talking about all-things hospitality. Whether you’re wondering whether you should go digital with your food hygiene records, or researching the latest coffee shop trends, we’ve got you covered.
*Sustainability key to hospitality’s prosperity, UKHospitality, Published 2020, Accessed December 2021