People used to choose their favourite restaurants purely on obvious things like the quality of the food, price, atmosphere and service. But these days customers are placing increasing importance on the environmental policies of the venues they visit. Things like waste reduction, sustainable products and water-saving are now front of mind with many consumers.
A 2018 study found that if a customer doesn’t feel that a brand is doing their bit to save the environment, there’s almost a 90% chance the brand won’t see that customer again.
This can be viewed as a challenge, but several venues are treating this as an opportunity. In Melbourne, street food venue Atiyah is tracking all of its waste, water and energy use to calculate its carbon footprint (which is minimal, if not non-existent). With this effort, it can market its food as ‘zero carbon street food’ which sees environmentally conscious diners flocking to its doors in Federation Square.
If you’re looking to achieve something similar with your venue (or perhaps you’re just looking to take some small steps to begin with), here’s where you should start:
Limit Water Usage
Of course, any business serving food and drinks is going to use a lot of water during service. Not only is high water use bad for the environment, it can also affect your bottom line. Water costs can easily add up in a restaurant – think the washing of dishes and tables, then actual consumption of water for staff and patrons as well. Try to ensure there are no leaky taps, run the dishwasher only when it’s full and instruct your team to plan ahead by thawing food in the fridge rather than running it under water. Investing in low-flush toilets is something else that you can consider.
2020 saw a huge number of venues switch to paperless menus as they tried to reduce touch points for customers. This has been a huge step eco-friendly practice. Even if digital menus aren’t your thing, you can still consider things like blackboards. Reducing paper further is easy too – consider offering receipts digitally instead of as print outs.
Invest in Sustainable Equipment
If you’ve got the capital to invest in high-quality energy efficient equipment now, it will certainly pay off in the long run. It’s easy to burn through electricity (and alongside it; cash!) with old or inefficient fridges, dishwashers, fans and walk-ins.
If you don’t have the spare money to invest in better equipment, there are still small things you can do to reduce your energy bill (and therefore your impact on the environment) by ensuring all of your equipment like POS, lights, ovens and air conditioners are turned off at close each day.
Recycle and Compost
Too often we see venues throw everything – food waste, recyclable materials and general rubbish – into one bin. By incorporating some purposeful bins around your kitchen, you can save much of your waste from going to landfill. Food waste is one of the biggest contributors to landfill in Australia and costs the economy around $20 billion each year and there is an easy solution: composting. By adding a compost bin to your recycle and landfill bins you will significantly reduce your waste. You can use this compost to grow your own produce (reducing your environmental impact even more!) or you could reach out to local farmers who are always on the look out for nutrients for their crops or food for their animals.
Ditch the single-use takeaway containers
Look at your rubbish bin. Is it full of takeaway coffee cups and food containers? That means your customers are buying ‘to takeaway’ then eating in anyway. Consider offering a mug library or compostable takeaway containers to reduce the amount of rubbish sent to landfill. Offer a discount when customers bring their own cups for coffee.
Keep an eye on kitchen food waste
Food waste is a big one for restaurants. If you don’t monitor expiry dates and have a system to ensure your kitchen staff are using up all your stock you can soon find yourself throwing food (and profits) in the bin before it even gets to the customer. Consider buying frozen and shelf stable products where you can and consider training front of house staff to promote certain products when their ingredients are nearing use-by.